Hunt's Tomb

The pyramid-shaped tomb of Arizona Governor George Wiley Paul Hunt stands at the peak of a great butte in the Salt River Valley. On a site selected by the Governor, the monument offers a grand view of the once empty valley. The National Register of Historic Places describes the monument as being "pyramidal in shape, 20 feet by 20 feet at its base and 20 feet high, constructed of concrete and faced with white ceramic tile. The structure commemorates serves as a conspicuous landmark for park visitors, air travelers and commuters in the area." Shaped like a pyramid, the monument evokes the grandeur of the Western Desert of Egypt. The inspiration for the pyramid design remains a mystery. Built in 1832, the design might have resulted from the Egyptomania of the day. In 1922 the discovery of King Tut’s tomb set off a wave of interest in all things Egypt. This included a celebration of its architecture and symbols. That interest was also expressed in four other pyramidal monuments in Arizona, including the tomb of Charles D. Poston, an early representative from the Arizona Territory. Also, many buildings constructed during this period also drew on Egyptian themes. In addition to its grand appearance, the tomb stands at a high point in Papago Park, looking out over the region. It is not just that the tomb is at a high point that distinguishes it, but also Papago Park's central place in the state capital during Hunt's governorship. Identified with National Monument status in 1914, the Papago-Saguaro National Monument was de-listed by Congress in 1930 because tourists had so decimated its ecology through cutting down the many saguaros. During the Great Depression, Hunt commissioned a bass fish hatchery in the park as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project; it was used to stock bass and other fish for Arizona's waterways. Despite its appearance and centrality, the Tomb is nonetheless relatively modest. Unlike many monuments of its day, Hunt’s Tomb is not didactic. It listed none of Hunt’s accomplishments, including his long incumbency as governor, which lasted for an impressive seven terms. A plaque that identified its sole original inhabitant, the governor’s wife, Helen Duett Ellison Hunt, who died in 1931. In the following year, legal proceedings regarding the ownership of the plot on which the tomb would later be built were undertaken by the federal government. After more than a year of waiting, Hunt was granted the burial site on September 28, 1932. Del E. Webb, who would later play a significant role in developing the valley, led the building of the monument which was finished in just over three months, and dedicated in 1933. A wrought iron fence which was added after vandals defaced the tomb. Duett was interred in the tomb on April 14, 1933 and Hunt joined her after his death on December 24, 1934.

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