At right: Oak Creek Tavern - 1940s
Soldiers from Camp Verde were early tourists to Sedona, enjoying the beauty, cooler temperatures and Oak Creek as a break from the camp.
As early as 1895, Lou Thomas turned Bear Howard's cabin into a two-story hunting fishing lodge. It was there that Zane Grey was inspired to write his book Call of the Canyon, which he turned into Sedona's first movie. In 1925, the property was sold to Carl Mayhew who operated it as Mayhew's Lodge. It became a favorite destination for prominent movie stars, politicians, and writers. Guests included Lord Halifax, President Herbert Hoover, Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, and Maureen O'Hara. The U.S. Forest Service acquired the property and made plans to renovate the structure, but tragically the lodge burned to the ground in 1980.
Miners and smelter workers from Jerome and Clarkdale continued to find the area attractive for hunting and fishing. The Hart Store, built in 1924, was a sort of general store and community center that became the nucleus of the growing community. In 1930, the Harts constructed a dairy to supply the store and the needs of Sedona's residents and tourists.
With improved transportation during the 1930s, others discovered the beauty of Sedona. Local residents catered to the tourist trade by building small cabins along the road and creek for overnight stays.
After World War II, increased leisure time and greater mobility led to a boom in the tourism industry. In 1945, the Sunset Court and the Cook Cabins were constructed to meet the residential needs of the traveler. The Oak Creek Tavern and Oak Creek Market were also constructed in 1945.
Also typical of this tourist development was Purtymun's Adventure Motel and "Venture Inn" Café, opened in 1952. Other homesteading families also took advantage of the tourist trade. Frank Pendley built several cabins along Oak Creek. The opening of the Sedona Airport in 1957 brought still more visitors.
Even though improved access opened the Sedona area to greater numbers of visitors, in the early 1960s it was still a location of seclusion and privacy. Some came to the area just to get away from it all and to spend their time in quiet contemplation to work on their writing or art. Sedona residents worked hard to maintain the beauty of their area so that it would remain an attractive destination. In the mid-1960s, the Sedona-Oak Creek Chamber of Commerce began a successful campaign to remove billboards from roads in the area.
The real boom in Sedona tourism came in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Local ranchers and homesteaders sold property to developers. The Doodlebug Ranch and the Jordan orchards were transformed into homes designed for retirees. Shopping centers and resorts were built for a new type of tourist who came as often for shopping as to view the magnificent scenery. The Tlaquepaque complex was built by Abe Miller beginning in 1971.
Today tourism is the largest sector of Sedona's economy. In 1990, researcher Teresa O'Neill estimated that three million tourists visited the town that year. This massive influx changed the character of Sedona, as merchants designed and constructed facilities to cater to the tourist trade. From 1976 to 1986, the number of tourist-oriented enterprises in Sedona grew from 75 to more than 175. The 1997 estimate was more than four million visitors, drawn by the magnificent scenery of Sedona and the outdoor activities available.