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. The tomb stands at a high point in Papago Park, a site selected by the Governor, and offers a grand view of the once empty valley. The National Register of Historic Places states the monument as being twenty feet square and high. It is constructed of concrete and faced with two layers of white ceramic tile, the second is believed to have been added in the 1960s to protect the original surface. A tall wrought iron fence was later added after vandals defaced the tomb. The National Register asserts the monument is an important landmark for commuters, visitors and air travelers.

The pyramid shape of the monument evokes the grandeur of the Western Desert of Egypt, a popular theme in architecture at the time. The 1922 discovery of Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb set off a wave of interest in all things Egypt. This included a celebration of its architecture and symbols. Since the Hunt’s tomb was built in 1932, the design might have resulted from the Egyptomania of the day. The original inspiration for the pyramid design remains a mystery. Many buildings constructed during this period also drew on Egyptian themes. 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.

The grand appearance and elevated location are not the only things that distinguish the tomb, but also Papago Park's central position 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 by 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 central locale, the tomb is nonetheless relatively modest. Hunt’s Tomb is not didactic, unlike many personal monuments seen at this time. It lists none of Hunt’s accomplishments, particularly his long incumbency as governor which lasted for an impressive seven terms.

After the Papago Park lost its National Monument status in 1930 legal proceedings regarding the ownership of the plot on which the tomb would later be built were undertaken by the federal government in 1931. 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. Helen Duett Ellison Hunt, wife of Governor Hunt, had passed away in 1931 and became the first person to be buried in the tomb on April 4, 1933. Governor Hunt joined his wife on December 24, 1934. In total seven people are buried in Hunt’s Tomb; the Governor and Mrs. Hunt, Mrs. Hunt’s sister and their parents, and the Hunts’ daughter and her husband.

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