A History of the VVAC
The Verde Valley Chapter of the Arizona Archaeological Society (AAS) was established in 1975. The Chapter held its meetings in Sedona. In the Spring of 2009, archaeologist Stewart Deats of EnviroSystems Management, Inc., Flagstaff, was invited to give a talk on their recent excavation of the Grey Fox Ridge Development in Cottonwood. Stewart described the process and the discovery of one of the oldest pit house villages ever found and dated in the Verde Valley. He recounted the recovery of thousands of artifacts. During the Q&A, he was asked about the disposition of the artifacts. He reported that the artifacts were sent to the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott as the closest accredited repository for such collections.
It was known that artifacts had been sent out of the Verde Valley since the 1860’s, but the fact that artifacts were still being recovered and sent out of the area concerned many. Current and past officers of the Chapter met to discuss this and decided that the development of a local repository should be investigated. After reviewing the by-laws of the AAS, it was decided that only a separate nonprofit organization would be able to meet the requirements of a new repository.
The Center’s Articles of Incorporation were prepared in August 2010 and were approved by the State of Arizona Corporate Commission with a date of incorporation established as September 2, 2010. The organizational meeting of the Center was held by the initial Board of Directors on September 14, 2010, at Yavapai College Camp Verde Campus. Directors present at the meeting were: Dr. James Graceffa, who served as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Kenneth J. Zoll, who served as Secretary of the meeting, Steve Ayers, Linda Buchanan, Sharon Olsen, Richard “Bud” Henderson and Dr. Ronald Krug.
An application for tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service was prepared and submitted after receipt of the approved Articles of Incorporation and minutes of the organizational meeting. Approval of the Center as a Public Charity under Section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) with Federal income tax exemption under 501(c)(3) was approved in an IRS determination letter dated October 28, 2010, with the exemption date of September 2, 2010.
The fledgling organization was offered free meeting space at the Yavapai College Camp Verde Campus (which closed in 2011) for meetings. The offer was accepted and Camp Verde became our “home.” The VVAC held its first Annual Meeting on January 18, 2011, in the auditorium of the Camp Verde Unified School District Multi-Use Complex in Camp Verde.
The Center located space in Camp Verde and signed a month-to-month lease for office space in the Fort Verde Shopping Plaza at 348 S. Main St., Suite 6B, effective April 1, 2011.
In early 2012, the Center was approached by the Town of Camp Verde concerning a town-owned building at 385 S. Main St. On May 2, 2012, the Camp Verde Mayor and Town Council voted unanimously to enter into a 10-year lease with the VVAC for the town-owned building. This vote and lease provided the Center with a much larger facility, a Main Street location, as well as a sense of permanency. It also demonstrated the Center’s commitment to the Town of Camp Verde. The partnership between the Town and the VVAC permitted the Center to work together to not only enhance its mission, but to help expand business and tourism opportunities.
The new building required extensive modifications. The VVAC had to remove four doors and door frames and replace them with steel frames and solid core doors for added security. An alarm system was installed. A second restroom was added. The Children’s Archaeology Discovery Area was built as well as a space for a video presentation. The entire interior was repainted and the carpets cleaned. All of this work was accomplished with volunteer contributions and labor. On November 2, 2012, the VVAC officially opened its new and expanded facility with a members-only preview. The Center opened to the public on November 3 with expanded hours.
Simonton Ranch Property Acquired
EnviroSystems investigated property in Camp Verde known as the Simonton Ranch prior to a planned residential development. During the investigation two prehistoric burial sites were discovered. Both sites were excavated and the remains removed and reburied. In the final report, EnviroSystems noted that within the Whitehawke Parcel, north of the proposed Homestead Parkway, were six relatively undisturbed pit houses and another feature of unknown type that would benefit from additional study.
In early 2013, Scott Simonton, the owner of the property, was contacted to seek permission to excavate the features before any development was undertaken. In October 2013, Mr. Simonton visited the Center and offered to donate “up to six acres” of the property to the Center that contained most of the features but he asked for a “conceptual document” as to what the Center would do with the property. The document was developed with the help of the Design Group Architects of Sedona which had donated their services. A conceptual plan for the six acres, plus the adjoining 9.28 acres to house a future archaeology campus, was developed and submitted to Mr. Simonton. He realized the potential of the plan and negotiations began for the entire 15.28 acres.
As negotiations continued, Mr. Simonton agreed to donate Parcel A (9.28 acres appraised at $800,000) free and clear and to donate/sell Parcel B (6.0 acres appraised at $570,000) for $250,000 with Mr. Simonton carrying the note for this amount for five years. The title transfer papers were prepared and title was received on July 16, 2015.
A more detailed history is available to download. This was an insert to the Fifth Anniversary Special History Edition of the Autumn 2015 Archaeology Quarterly.