by Blake Herzog
Stephen and Rose Newcomer share a last name that makes it sound as if they’re newly arrived. And they are, in fact, moving to Prescott to escape the ever-more oppressive heat of the Phoenix desert.
But they already are investing more deeply into their new community with their purchase of what’s known as the Gage-Murphey Mansion downtown at 105 N. Alarcon St.
Built in about 1895, the 7,300-square-foot home sits just south of Gurley Street and is on the National Register of Historic Places, noted for its Classical Revival architecture. It was later subdivided into apartments.
The Newcomers have begun marketing one of the units in what they call the “Mansion by the Square” as a vacation rental on Airbnb, with more coming soon. They purchased it in mid-December from an agent who’d spent the previous two years restoring it to its past glory.
“It’s just a great opportunity to pick up a gem like that, with all the history behind it and only being a couple blocks away from the square,” Stephen Newcomer says. “It was a really great opportunity, and the seller had done such a great job on the restoration. It was an obvious gem.”
It was built for the family of Tombstone mining tycoon E.B. Gage, who at one point helped to bail Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday out of jail. He later presided over the Congress Mine about 45 miles southeast of town after he was forced to flee Tombstone by a labor dispute.
“That property is just so cool, it’s got 10 separate units and they really tried to keep the integrity of the historic piece of it in the mansion. You walk in and feel like you’re walking into a historic home,” Rose Newcomer says.
The couple turned to Melanie Scott, who manages seven Prescott Airbnb properties through her Gathering Places business, for advice and to manage their listings. She’s excited to have the chance to work with such a prominent property.
Scott says it will be a great addition to a growing part of Greater Prescott’s tourism sector, one she’s been involved with for two years.
There was a drop in her listings in the beginning of the COVID pandemic, but then interest in the properties began to pick up, partly from situations that have been springing up in its wake.
A lot of people who are quarantining from their family still want to work from home, will come or rent for a week or two, in case somebody’s been infected in their household, or they just want some quiet from the kids so they can deal with their boss,” she says.
Aside from that, she says the type of visitors attracted here by Airbnbs come from “across the board.” They include construction workers, people waiting for their new homes to be completed, seniors who stay for a month or two, short-termers who want to spend just a couple days at Courthouse Plaza.
Boon to local business
Scott realizes Airbnbs and other vacation rentals have created an image problem for others but says her own property has the support of all of her neighbors and Prescott, by and large, has escaped those situations.
“I would say that the guests who are coming to Prescott are all very respectful, they just want to visit our beautiful little town. And I think there’s a misconception with homeowners concerned about Airbnb because it seems like a rowdy crowd, they’re not going to respect the property; and that’s really not the case,” she says.
She also puts a priority on driving visitors to other small businesses in the area, grabbing flyers for local restaurants and stores to encourage more visits.
“I can’t stress enough that this is a good thing for the community, it’s not a negative thing. It does bring dollars in to these small businesses that so desperately need them,” she says.
For information on the “Mansion on the Square,” contact Melanie Scott at 480-907-8356 or visit www.gatheringplacesaz.com
Photo courtesy of Stephen Newcomer