Arizona’s first master-planned community was Clarkdale, a mining company town situated in Central Arizona at the foot of the Black Hills in the Verde Valley.
Five miles northeast of Jerome, the town served employees of the United Verde Mine.
The smelter town of Clarkdale was named after United Verde Mine owner William Andrews Clark, a copper magnate from Montana. The town, with a population of 3,200, was established in 1912 because the former smelter located in Jerome could not keep up with the amount of ore from the local mines.
Secondly, the smelter complex sat on the hanging-wall side of the mine atop the large sulfide ore body, requiring a need for the works to be transferred to more solid ground.
Clark anticipated the need to build a new reduction works, and purchased select ranches, including their water rights, in the Verde Valley in 1910 to meet this need.
The new, 3,000-ton smelter was three times the size of its former counterpart in Jerome.
Consisting of four blast furnaces and four stands of converters, the 430-foot-tall smelter stack was built with more than 2 million pounds of brick. At 40 stories high, it was the tallest man-made structure in existence at that time in Arizona.
Its diameter was 44 feet at the base, with 8-foot-thick walls.
Its average recovery of copper dust from smoke was 11,000 pounds a day. The stack’s screen tops also captured flue dust containing high values of gold and silver.
A standard-gauge railroad (the Verde Tunnel and Smelter Railroad) built by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad connected the Clarkdale smelter to the United Verde Mine.
The smelter was blown-in on 1915 and processed three-quarters of a million tons of copper ore the following year.
The site of Jerome’s former smelter became part of the open-pit mine begun in 1919.
At a cost of $1 million, Clarkdale included Spanish-style municipal buildings surrounding a plaza, schools, churches, hotels, golf courses, bowling alleys, the Clark Memorial Club and exceptional landscaping.
By 1930, the United Verde Mining Co. had built 500 houses in Clarkdale.
The Upper Verde Public Utilities Co. was tasked by the mining company to oversee the town’s police force, street maintenance and sanitation operations.
In 1935, Phelps Dodge acquired the United Verde Copper Co. and the Clarkdale smelter for $21 million.
The smelter closed in June 1951. However, the concentrator remained in operation through February 1953 for the purpose of milling copper-zinc ore.
After the mines at Jerome closed, the town was acquired by Erle P. Halliburton, whose estate sold it to the Westfield Corporation for $1 million cash in 1959.
Individual property owners pushed for the town’s incorporation in 1957.
Since then, Clarkdale has proved to be a destination for retirees and tourists.
Aside from smelting, the landmark smelter stack also served as a beacon for pilots in training during World War II.
A 200-foot-long crack in the stack necessitated its demolition with 275 pounds of dynamite in October 1966.
Although the Clarkdale region has commonly been mined for copper, gold and silver, the production of flagstone has been profitable.
Truckloads of limestone from nearby quarries have been shipped for cutting at Drake, and also to rail at Ashfork then shipped to market on the West Coast.
In 1959, the American Cement Corporation, later known as the Phoenix Cement Co., built a plant in Clarkdale after having secured a contract to supply low-heat cement for construction of the Glen Canyon Dam.
Today the Phoenix Cement Co. and Salt River Sand and Rock known as the Salt River Materials Group is a regional supplier of Portland cement, gypsum and fly ash products.