Cave Creek Museum Honors and Celebrates ‘The Legacy of Gerry Jones’

By Karrie Porter Brace

Gerry Jones at his drawing board.

“Do not seek to dominate nature with your buildings, but cooperate with it to achieve a harmony similar to that of natural creations.” —Gerry Jones

Carefree’s exciting architecture and sweeping vistas draw artists, designers, architects, visitors and residents who appreciate the creative integration of sculptural earth, rock and striking desert terrain. Cave Creek Museum’s 50th anniversary, with the Gerry Jones featured exhibit and a one-day only Home Tour of six unique and stellar residences, celebrates the imagination, aesthetic and resolve that initiated and continues to give the Desert Foothills its wonderful signature character.

Gerry Jones is the Desert Foothills’ distinguished architectural designer and builder who implemented the vision of Carefree’s founders, KT Palmer and Tom Darlington. After serving in the Marines in World War II and Korea, Jones remained in China to study history and philosophy, martial arts and jai alai. There, he observed that ancient Buddhist monasteries were tucked directly into the mountains. The topography had not been altered or leveled. When he began his career in design, he resolved to employ the terrain to its best advantage without destroying the natural mountain contours, just as the Buddhists had done centuries before.

In 1957, on a handshake, Jones helped Palmer and Darlington realize their vision of a planned community in the foothills north of the Valley. A seasoned rock climber, he knew the land well, rough-platting 2,200 acres of Carefree on foot. He laid out roads and lots by leading bulldozers across the land as he wove around native cacti, rocks, outcroppings and trees.

Properties were planned with a mandate that no boulder would be displaced to accommodate a builder’s needs. Furthermore, Jones utilized existing rocks and boulders structurally as supports for the foundations of his buildings and interior features of the spaces he created. Based on his practice of building in harmony with nature, he wrote Carefree’s architectural guidelines. They became the foundation for Maricopa County’s building ordinance, which regulates hillside development, grading and drainage to this day.

His 1974 paper “Must We Destroy in Order to Build?” addressed the issues facing those who loved the natural drama and beauty of their Sonoran homes. House-siting, materials palette, floor-level changes and structural solutions are harmoniously integrated with the rock formations and physical features surrounding a Jones-designed residence. Jones’ own residence is nestled within the northeastern boulders of Black Mountain. For nearly 50 years, he has made Carefree his home. He continues to work from his studio overlooking the broad expanse of this beautiful region. His most recent house, in the Nighthawk subdivision on Black Mountain, was completed in 2018.

Jones perceives how the world around us isn’t separated by interior and exterior dichotomies. He creates timeless architecture with a livable affinity for the extreme terrain in Arizona’s wilderness. He brings bedrock into dwelling spaces and puts homeowners into the living desert.

Experience the innovation and drama of Gerry Jones’ architectural design by touring six of his signature homes on the Cave Creek Museum’s The Gerry Jones Home Tour, March 8. [Read The Gerry Jones Home Tour, page 21.]

Photo: Loralei Lazurek, Images Arizona 

Cave Creek Museum Offers Free ‘Designing in the Desert’ Workshop

Cave Creek Museum with the Stamp Mill in the background.It’s in our DNA to build. From Lego castles to backyard clubhouses or indoor forts of chairs and blankets, the urge to create a space for our physical or imaginative selves is wonderfully strong.

“About 10 years ago, I did an after-school program ‘What is architecture? What isn’t?’ with grade school students that ran for eight weeks,’” said Michael P. Johnson, architect and Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin West faculty. “These kids would jump out of their seats with excitement!”

Johnson will lead an architectural design workshop for kids and their parents Sunday, Jan. 12, from 2pm to 4pm, as part of the free monthly Cave Creek Museum Kiwanis Family Sundays series. The workshop begins with a PowerPoint presentation and a five-piece kit of construction parts, so that each child will be able to make a building of their own design to take home.

Michael P. Johnson

“How is light important to construction?” and “How is it art?” are questions that will engage all ages and generate enjoyable and multi-generational discussions. Building in our unique desert terrain is equal parts art and engineering, with a dash of poetry and history for good measure.

The architectural design workshop is part of the Cave Creek Museum’s 2019–20 Featured Exhibit The Legacy of Gerry Jones, which will be on display through the end of May 2020. Workshops and special events will be held at the Museum and other locations during January, February and March. The Gerry Jones Home Tour is Sunday, March 8. For information and Home Tour tickets, contact the Cave Creek Museum.

The Cave Creek Museum is located at 6140 Skyline Drive in Cave Creek, just south of Cave Creek Road as it winds through town. For a map and directions, visit or call 480.488.2764. Cave Creek Museum hours on Sunday are 1–4:30pm. Parking is readily available. General admission: adults $7, seniors $5, students 12 and over $5. Children under 12 are free.

The year 2020 commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Cave Creek Museum, repository of the Cave Creek and Carefree area’s history, culture and artifacts.


Explore Your Desert Home During ‘Discover Day’

Photos by Patrick O’Brien

Join Desert Foothills Land Trust to discover the wonder and beauty of our Sonoran Desert home with a day of outdoor experiences and hands-on education at the Jewel of the Creek Preserve. Desert Discover Day takes place Saturday, Nov. 17, 10am–2pm.

Follow a discovery map for a personal adventure along the Harry Dalton Trail. Explore the desert, learn about all its dwellers, past and present, and interact with native wildlife. This free and fun day is for the whole family.

Other participants include Arizona Archaeological Society, Cave Creek Museum, Desert Awareness Committee, Desert Foothills Family YMCA, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center and Wild At Heart.

Jewel of the Creek Preserve is located in Cave Creek on Spur Cross Road, 4 miles north of Cave Creek Road. Parking is available at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.

For additional information visit or call 480.488.6131.

Carefree Hosts ‘Art In The Garden’ In April

Photo by Vickilyn Hussey

Education and Community Services (ECS), a department of the Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) will host Art in the Garden Saturday, April 8, 8-11am.

The morning of free family art activities, literary and art contest, art exhibitions and entertainment by local school groups, takes place in partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Carefree at Carefree Desert Gardens.

“We love having the opportunity to brag about all of our ECS programs that are offered to our students and community,” says Gina Durbin, ECS director. “Art in the Garden features the amazing art and literary work of our students and community members. Our community partners are fabulous and so supportive that we want to give them the recognition they deserve at this community event.”

Scully Learning Center, Sonoran Arts League, Desert Awareness Committee, Education & Community Services, Cave Creek Museum, Desert Foothills Library, ECS Kid’s Club and Child’s Play Preschool, ECS Enrichment and Summer Programs, ECS Storytellers and Kiwanis Reads will have activities and informational booths.

Black Mountain Elementary drama, dance and chorus students, Desert Sun Academy Chorus, Sonoran Trails Middle School Chorus, Cactus Shadows High School Jazz Band, Cactus Shadows Improv Dance and Improv Drama groups will perform on stage at the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, while the Carefree Kiwanis serve up the “World’s Best” pancakes at their Pancake Breakfast ($5 children; $8 adults).

Arts and crafts, face painting, sand painting, storytelling, live performances by outstanding youth music, dance and theater ensembles, works by Literary and Art Contest Winners, an art exhibition by CCUSD staff and alumni, and local summer program informational displays and sign-up tables are just a few of the many attractions.

“You can participate in art activities with your kids, enjoy breakfast, be entertained with music, dance, theater and storytelling, view award winning artwork, buy artwork by students and local artists to benefit the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center renovation, and learn about summer camps and classes,” according to Elaine Adrian, ECS Art in the Garden Coordinator. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young children and their families.”

Carefree Desert Gardens and Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion are located at 101 Easy Street, Carefree. For more information about ECS Art in the Garden, contact Elaine Adrian at For additional information, visit or

Get Ready To Paint The Town!

TownofCaveCreekCave Creek Special Events Edition in September

By Kathryn M. Miller

The Town of Cave Creek is gearing up for another spectacular season of events!

The 2014-15 Cave Creek season returns in October with its signature event, Taste of Cave Creek. The two-day event will showcase all the best that the town has to offer, including its more than 25 area restaurants, live music, wine tasting, beer garden and some favorite artists and artisan shops and area vendors.

In November, the 11th Annual Wild West Days return to Downtown Cave Creek and Stagecoach Village. The event is Arizona’s largest western celebration and features five days of non-stop family entertainment. With everything from a non-motorized western parade and cattle drive to mutton bustin’, bull riding, bathtub races, live music and plenty of food and drink, it is a party that’s not to be missed.

Also in November, experience the Hidden in the Hills 18th Annual Studio Tour and Sale, as well as the Stagecoach Village Art Festival.

December will bring the 12th Annual Luminaria Run and the Fifth Annual Cruise & Car Show.

Always a family favorite, the annual Cave Creek Balloon Festival will once again soar over Rancho Mañana in January. The Annual Indian Market also returns in January.

The Fiesta Days and Cave Creek Pro Rodeo hits the Memorial Arena in March. Soak up a true cowboy rodeo experience with three days of pro rodeo events, a parade and dances.

And if that all isn’t enough, the Town will host the Cactus Shadows Homecoming Parade, Biketoberfest, Stagecoach Fine Art & Wine Festival, Wicked, Triple R fundraiser, Cave Creek Museum events, the Cactus Classic, Hideaway Custom Builders Showcase, Bike Week, Spring Classic & Collector Car Auction, Trail Run, Independence Day celebrations and so much more.

Whew! That’s a whole lot of events! But never fear, the Town ( and CITYSunTimes is here to help residents and visitors alike plan for all of the festivities. Check out our September Cave Creek Special Events Edition. With a pullout calendar section and handy-dandy map, we’ve got you covered for the year. Now all you have to do is pull on those boots and get ready to paint the Town!

Salt River Indian Community Partners With Cave Creek Museum To Celebrate Museum Day On September 29

– By Lyn Hitchon

On Saturday, September 29, thousands of Museums will participate in the free national Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, but for Cave Creek Museum, the day will stand out as more than a chance for the public to preview exhibits prior to its official season opening on October 3. That’s because this year’s event will feature revered guests from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community who will conduct demonstrations and help the Museum educate guests about their rich culture and history which dates back to the ancient Hohokam as part of the Museum’s new Archaeology exhibit. The first 100 visitors to the Museum will receive a special gift to celebrate the event.

“We are deeply honored to host this special event and to receive the support of the Salt River Indian Community,” says Evelyn Johnson, Cave Creek Museum’s executive director. “Our team of Archaeology volunteers has been working to create a new exhibit ever since they visited the Huhugam Ki Museum at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in 2011.”

Cave Creek Museum credits tribal members for helping them conceptualize and build the new Archaeology exhibit, which consists of an introductory panel, a time line, and sections devoted to traditional structures (including models), food processing and preparation, and clothing. Included in the clothing is a beautiful hand beaded Maricopa cape.

“Several people were instrumental in guiding us, including Huhugam Ki Museum director Gary Owens and Steve Hoza who loaned us pottery from his personal collection,” says Sue Mueller, committee member and Museum Board member. “It has been a true collaborative effort and we’re very excited to unveil the exhibit to the public.”

Along with Mueller, the team of Museum Archaeology volunteers includes board member Mary Kearney, Alan Troxel and Nancy Zeno.

The celebration takes place from 1-4:30pm followed by a special pre-season member’s reception from 4:30-7pm. During the Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, guests can view Cave Creek Museum’s new and permanent indoor and outdoor exhibits, including an historic Stamp Mill dating back to 1880. The afternoon will be filled with basketry, pottery, beadwork, shell etching and traditional food cooking demonstrations. In addition, an official ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place with Museum staff and members of the Salt River Indian Community.

Cave Creek Museum is located at 6140 Skyline Drive, in Cave Creek. To download free tickets to the September 29 Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, visit For more information or to become a member of the Museum, call 480.488.2764 or visit

Busy Spring For Desert Committee

Cave Creek metal artist Paul Dief’s artist rendering of the new monument sign for the Gateway Desert Awareness Park.

By Curtis Riggs – Cave Creek’s Desert Awareness Committee is hard at work this season educating the public about the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. It’s reprinting an environmental book, continuing education in Cave Creek Schools as well as maintaining and promoting the 26 acre Gateway Desert Awareness Park in East Cave Creek.

The committee, which joined up with the Foothills Community Foundation in 2010, is updating and reprinting the Fragile Desert, which was first published in 1989. The book is available on the committee’s website, and at the Holland Community Center and the Cave Creek Museum. The committee is also installing new signage at Desert Awareness Park. Cave Creek metal artist Paul Dief has created a new monument sign for the park. The committee is also continuing with its Desert Reach education program in the fourth grades of the Cave Creek Unified School District. The committee has been conducting the outreach sessions since 2004.

%d bloggers like this: