So I was pretty stoked when I was able to tour it with Heidi Erickson, the Park Manager, one day when the crew was there working on the renovations.
This little 3 minute video takes you through most of the rooms. Even though the lighting and focus was bad sometimes, it had me really wondering what it looked like when newly completed and hopeful in imagining what it will be like when the renovations are complete. Very few original photographs exist from the construction period or from when the house was first built. Old photos used in the video and below are from Sedona Legend Helen Frye – 1947. This site provides a lot of history and background on the Fryes and the construction of the house and more info from it is provided below.
12/9/16 correction: I put a caption in my video by a photo of a woman by a vintage car that I identified as Helen Frye. Thanks to Douglas Reynolds commenting below, I checked again on the website he did about Helen Frye and here’s the real deal: The woman posed in front of Jack and Helen’s 1948 Pontiac was actually a relative of the builder. The original photo and this identification is on the Sedona Legend Helen Frye site linked above. Since Douglas did that extensive page, I really appreciate the comments from him below. But due to the trouble it would take to edit the video, take it down from YouTube and upload it again, I’m doing the correction here.
Living Room fireplace
Living Room picture window
Alcove in living room was for Helen’s piano.
The bedroom fireplace was redone by Helen after she was not satisfied with the first version. The two doors here lead into what was two walk-in closets and past that was the master bath.
Here is where the king sized hanging bed was located.
It was hung from the ceiling by chains and supported at the base on log rounds. On hot Sedona nights, summer breezes would sweep up the canyon walls and into the large suite, making it one of the most refreshing areas of the ranch house villa. Sedona Legend Helen Frye – 1947
View from the room to become Jack’s office. Looking down on Oak Creek, can’t you just imagine the Apache fires glowing in the evenings from here?
The Fryes liked to entertain guests frequently, so the kitchen was completely finished by the Fryes early on and equipped with both a gas and wood commercial cook stove. The gas range came from a nearby restaurant which had gone out of business. When Helen was asked how they would ever be able to repair the stove as it was mortared in place, she replied in her cheerful way, “Well, I guess they will have to blast it out!” Sadly, neither stove is with the property now.
The exterior fireplace also had a built in BBQ pit and it’s said the Fryes and their guests spent a lot of time here.
Most of the pictures on the Sedona Legend Helen Frye – 1947 site came from a worker at the house, Rosie Targhetta. Here she is relaxing on the “Studio Terrace.”
It was my favorite part, too. The views of famous Cathedral Rock and other formations from this section are so spectacular.
I’m so interested in what the park will end up doing with this property. There had been talk of turning it into a conference center, but road access is not good enough for that at this point. Some sort of museum is more likely, but in any case, I hope to visit it again next time I’m in Sedona.
More Details and History:
According to the sign at the front, construction on the house began in 1947 as a get-away for newlyweds Helen and Jack Frye. Jack was then president of Trans World Airlines.
Helen’s intent was for it to resemble a Hopi Indian pueblo. Thin flat red rocks quarried nearby for the exterior walls and timbers taken west of Flagstaff were used as beams and structural support.
Before the house was completed, the Fryes divorced and construction stopped even though Helen moved into the second floor and lived there for some time.
The house totals 3,000 square feet containing a large master bedroom, office for Jack, living room, dining room, kitchen and two guest quarters, with the upper story being Helen’s studio.
According to the leaflets I got at the park visitor center that was put out by the Benefactors of Red Rock State Park, too many changes have been made to the house for it to be registered as an historic dwelling, but they believe it is still worth saving. There has been extensive roof and rooms damage, and they’ve been working on restoring it as funding allows. It sure would have been great to see it in its hey-day given this description:
“The Fryes put in vigas (beams) using wood from Flagstaff. Ceilings were fashioned from reeds and saguaro spines placed across the vigas. Floors were crafted of flagstone from Cottonwood; the walls, of Hopi Plaster. The master bedroom had a hanging bed and a fireplace that could be converted to a water reflecting pool in summer. The kitchen had a commercial range and a color combination of copper, pink and turquoise, with cupboards painted in a Zuni design. Helen designed all of the fireplaces, creating unique patterns of stone running in diagonal slants.”
Helen was an artist and it was her idea to have the house resemble a Hopi Indian pueblo building. The house was two stories high and nearly every room was on a different level. The upper story was designed to be an art studio for Helen.
Before the home was completed, the Fryes were divorced in 1950. Although Helen lived there for a number of years, at some point the house stood empty for some time. In 1967, a heavy snowstorm collapsed the roof over much of the structure. Extensive remodeling was begun, but never completed. Title to this 286 acre property, which included the House of Apache Fire, was acquired by the state in the early 1980s and Red Rock State Park opened to the public in 1991.
From the 2016 Annual Report: (I got a printed copy from the visitor center, but couldn’t find one online, so I’ll include the parts I found interesting here)
From Views from the Chair: A complete restoration of the House of Apache Fires is still a long way into the future…maybe a dream…but Park Management meanwhile has committed to a plan for a major reconstruction of the rotting roof, which if not accomplished in the very near future, will risk collapse of the house as a whole from exposure to the elements. The project will enlist expertise and time from regional ranger staff and volunteers but will also require fairly significant funds for contractors and materials.
From Helpful Outlook for House of Apache Fires: The beautiful pueblo-style home built by Jack and Helen Frye in the late 1940s is a part of Red Rock State Park. It sits atop a knoll overlooking the creek, the fields and mountains. Over time, due to water leaks in the second floor wing, the roof deteriorated to the point that the building became unsafe for the public to enter and about 10 years ago, visitor tours were discontinued. [It was] determined that damage to the roof was so extensive that it became obvious that a new roof and its structural support will require a building contractor to do the work. In order to deliver building materials to the site and take rotted timber away, it is necessary to restore and reinforce the law-water crossing across Oak Creek. An agency of AZ State Park has agreed to provide for the repairs to the crossing.
So it’s obviously a more complicated issue than it would first appear, but I hope that at some point when I return, I will be able to report on the progress made.
History from Red Rock State Park: The property had been part of the Smoke Trail Ranch located along lower Oak Creek southwest of Sedona. Helen and Jack Frye had purchased the Ranch in 1941. Jack Frye was the president of Trans World Airlines and he and his wife used the site as a retreat from the East Coast where they lived. The property has a variety of panoramic views of the Sedona red rock formations. The land is divided by a meandering 1.4 miles of Oak Creek that is lined with lush green riparian habitat.