Thank You For Visiting Sedona Legend-
The Jack And Helen Frye Story!
Sedona's Celebrity Love Story!
This is the official, not to mention only, web portal in the world
dedicated exclusively to the legacy of Jack and Helen Frye!
The Frye Legacy-
a Lifetime of Accomplishment!
By Randall Reynolds
The Sedona Legend Web Site is a copyrighted historical photo enhanced narrative presented for
educational and entertainment purposes. Some materials may be displayed in regard to the
United States Fair Use Act. This web portal is totally non-profit and generates no income nor
does it seek or has it ever accepted a single donation. It is an independent venture.
Sedona Legend was envisioned and created to provide Red Rock State Park visitors a
comprehensive historic overview for Jack and Helen Frye and their Deer-Lick and Smoke Trail
Ranches. This effort is now officially cited by R.R.S.P. as an indepth historical venue
representing Jack and Helen Frye.
Sedona Legend is encouraged by the many friends of Jack and Helen Frye. A gracious thank
you to the Frye and Varner families for invaluable support and Red Rock State Park staff and
volunteers for their enthusiasm.
Sedona Legend Helen Frye a.k.a. the Jack and Helen Frye Story
A Decade of Research and Presentation- Created By Randall D. Reynolds
Copyright © 2003 All Rights Reserved
The House of Apache Fires @ Sedona
A Hidden History- Progression of a Dream
What is the House of Apache Fires and the Truth of its Origins?
The House of Apache Fires is Sedona’s most beloved and notable historic home. This, because of
the design of the structure, its age, and who it belonged to. Common Sedona lore states the
house was built by Helen Frye in 1947, who drew out the perimeters in the red dirt as she
instructed a local builder to construct the house- all without an architect, mind you! This story,
as so many tales 'oft told about Sedona’s history is pure rubbish! No doubt, Jack and Helen Frye
did occasionally draw out the perimeters of their dream home in the dirt, sharing their beloved
vision with friends, but, there was much more involved in the home's construction than the
wave of a stick! For 10-years I have methodically traced the threads of Jack and Helen Frye's
imprint on Sedona, uncovering the truth of this house, from whence all rumors have sprung. A
truth which was buried for over 70-years. The foundation of a dream and a vision which became
the Apache Fires house!
On this page you will discover the roots, the foundation of what became in the end the
regionally famous House of Apache Fires! A project which was known to the Fryes and their
architect as the "Deer Lick Ranch House". (Deer-Lick was the original, and first name of the
Frye Ranch in Sedona, from 1941 to 1947.) A dream-retirement home which was conceived out
of love and desire by two newlywed celebrities. A masterpiece of design that was to blend in and
conform to the natural outcroppings of the Sedona building site. Created jointly, between the
Fryes, and one of the most renowned architects in the Southwest, this incredible saga is
extracted from 175-pages of lost letters and telegrams spanning a period from 1941 to 1947. The
papers unravel the design process of a 11,610 ft. Mansion- a 1940's Sedona Red Rock Palace!
This is the true story of the House of Apache Fires, not the ruins as seen today, not what you
have heard, but what Jack and Helen Frye truly desired! You won't find this story from the
locals in Sedona because they are not privy to the hidden history of this house. It's truly a
mystery! From a dusty old archive of files, locked away for over 60-years, this story was truly
lost to time. On this page you will discover the current House of Apache Fires is a mirage, a
shell of what was originally envisioned, and a hodgepodge of original design. Within the empty
shell of the House of Apache Fires is hidden the foundation of a much grander and more
elaborate red rock palace, a Sedona showplace which was redesigned into what we see today.
I knew from the beginning of my work in regard to the 'Jack and Helen Frye Story', that the
Fryes, who were Sedona's 1st millionaires and 'jet-sttters', with several beautiful homes and 4
ranches would most definitely have used a prominent architect to design their Sedona 'dream
home' at a locale where they eventually desired to retire. The Fryes were just too sophisticated
to have not proceeded in any other way. This 'modus operandi' was substantiated with their 5-
acre Tudor-style Château in Merriam Kansas, which in 1938, Jack Frye hired the famous
Midwest architect Edward Buehler Delk (who at a one time worked with Frank Lloyd Wright) to
enlarge and renovate. And then, there was the historic 30-room Doubleday Mansion in
Washington D.C., extensively renovated by the Fryes in 1944. These renovations included the
addition of an Olympic sized pool for the Fryes who loved to swim. This construction was
executed with great care to the home's local historic standing. As well, in regard to the Sedona
ranch, the Fryes extensively remodeled the now historic Armijo Ranch House and completely
renovated a nearby red rock bunkhouse into a beautiful new guest cottage. At another part of
the ranch they enlarged the Willow House adding a large red rock fireplace and sun porch etc.
Nearby, they built a 1-room guest cottage and a new bunkhouse. So you see, building projects
were a never-ending endeavor for Fryes in the 1940’s, and many contractors and architects were
involved. My only question with the Apache Fires house was, 'Who' was the architect, and 'Why'
was it such a mystery? The answer turned out to be a elusive but wonderful revelation!
Therefore after 7 years of extensive research, I was not surprised to discover it was an architect
right here in Sedona’s own backyard who was solicited by the Fryes to design and plan this
famous Sedona abode. This occurred in October of 1941. Remarkably, while I was doing Sedona
Legend research, I stumbled across a little clue, so insignificant, that anybody else would have
surely overlooked it. The discovery was in a tiny article printed in a Santa Fe newspaper from
1946, which mentioned that Mrs. Jack Frye was in town meeting with her architect John Gaw
Meem. They were working on plans for a Frye home in Oak Creek Canyon. Typically (at this
early date) the Sedona area was often referred to as Oak Creek Canyon.
I was in Taos New Mexico, at the time, tracking down the location of yet another Frye home
near the historic Taos Plaza. I was bowled over, as for the first time ever, I found mention of an
architect who possibly was involved with the Apache Fires House! I knew there was only one
house being built (at this time) by the Fryes at Sedona. I soon found that John Gaw Meem was
one of the most beloved and renowned architects of the Southwestern United States. Meem had
a prolific career from the construction of many of the buildings at the University of New Mexico
to a vast amount of Santa Fe work, even private homes. He is said to be responsible for the
current 'Santa Fe Architectural Style'. In my opinion, this is a blend of old and new design, with
'renovations' always adhering to an authentic Santa Fe ambiance and visual character. John is
also responsible for one of the most famous landmarks in the Southwest this being the 1929
remodel of the renowned La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe N.M. This hotel, I was to later find out,
was where the Fryes always stayed when in Santa Fe, and would often meet with John, and as
well at his nearby office. Meem’s architectural style was a match for the Southwestern-pueblo
style of the House of Apache Fires.
Later, when I was in Tucson yet again engaged in Frye research at the University of Arizona, I
contacted Meem’s daughter Nancy Meem Wirth, at Santa Fe, and asked her about the
association of her father and Jack Frye. To paraphrase, my conversation with her went as
follows, “Yes, my father knew Mr. Frye. Frye even flew my father to a building site in Arizona,
at which my father became ill after Frye did 'loop de loops'”. Her father had vertigo! She
continued, “there is no 'Frye' house filed with other Meem projects, and my father evidently in
the end did not build it”. Nancy encouraged me to follow up with the Meem U.N.M. Archives.
The Meem Archive- the Frye File
What a treasure of information! As I suspected, the papers, (175-pages of letters, telegrams,
and survey plans, etc.), were so obviously, from the very beginning, about the (now) House of
Apache Fires which still exists today at Red Rock State Park in Sedona. Many of the interior
features and rooms match that of the house we know today as the Apache Fires house! Only in
the Meem papers the project was called the Deer-Lick Ranch House. Deer-Lick was the name
for the 700-acre Frye Ranch at Sedona until the late 1940's when it became more commonly
known as Smoke Trail Ranch. The House of Apache Fires was not (so named) until after it was
completed. Even plans for a 1600 Square Foot 'bunkhouse' (never completed) are also revealed
as a preliminary building near the main house to be used by the Fryes during the building
process. Later, this structure was to be used as a guest house and dwelling for a full time live-in
Frye secretary. A shelter for 4-cars was also required along with a swimming pool. An office for
Frye who was then president of TWA and a darkroom for his photography was planned as well.
The office and darkroom exist today at the House of Apache Fires in the upstairs studio. Little
did Nancy remember, as I later found notated in the papers, she had also visited the Frye
Ranch in Sedona, herself, at one point, as a little girl with her family and had unfortunately
been bitten by the Frye ranch dog 'Pardner'. Because the Frye House was not 'completed' by
Meem, the paperwork was just filed away for 60-some years, and the connection between Meem
and Frye was totally forgotten at Santa Fe, and at Sedona !
Thought to the Exterior
“My partner, Mr. Zehner, tells me that my delay in sending the sketches to you is due to my
desire to create a genuine “Oak Creek Canyon Architecture.” As a matter of fact, he is not far
from the truth because I feel very strongly that no established or period architecture quite
belongs - whether straight Pueblo or straight modern. My solution, as you will see, lies
somewhere between these extremes and is an attempt to express as simply as possible your
requirements with the stone and adobe available at the site.”
Letter to the Fryes from John Gaw Meem- 1941.
The exterior architecture style was to mimic the rock work as seen on the Yavapai Observation
Station at the Grand Canyon National Park (1944.) A visual aspect we can readily recognize on
the House of Apache Fires today. Per Helen Frye, in a letter to Meem with a photo of the
National Park building. (The photo of the building Mrs. Frye described has been meticulously
identified as not the “Ranger’s Station” as she called it, but rather what is officially known
today as the Yavapai Observation Station.) Helen Frye letter seen below.
John Gaw Meem- Santa Fe New Mexico
John was overwhelmed with projects and problems during the World War II-- shortage of staff,
government war projects, restrictions on private home projects by the U.S. Government (to
include square footage) and a couple family illnesses, of his wife, and himself. The Frye project
was in a remote location and would encounter great difficulty obtaining materials and
man-power during the war. John visited the site at least once in Jack Frye's private plane and
as well, stayed with the Fryes at the ranch another time with his family. Although John and his
firm were dedicated to the project and had an excellent business relationship with the Fryes,
there were many underlying factors that doomed the eventual outcome of the project.
Jack and Helen Frye-
Living in -Washington D.C. -Kansas City -New York City
The Fryes were about the busiest people in the country during the second World War. Jack and
Helen started the Apache Fire house project, pre-Pearl Harbor. However, once the war started,
their lives were not their own. Jack was personally involved with Harry S. Truman, the
Democratic Party, and TWA essentially was sent to war. Many letters and telegrams were sent
back and forth between the Fryes and Meem which detailed the enormity of trying to plan a big
home amid the fray of winning a war in Europe. In the midst of all this Helen and Jack lost a
baby (miscarriage) a previously unknown tragedy which devastated Helen. The Sedona home
was to include a nursery.
Jack also was spearheading the development of the first modern airliner, the Lockheed
Constellation, along with Howard Hughes. By decree, the U.S. Government forced the two men
to develop this airliner for the war effort. After many years of delays, finally by 1945-46, Meem
and Frye decided to launch Sedona project, but unfortunately, at war's end, conditions which
were hoped to improve in our post-war economy, only served to increase costs and other
construction complications. At the same time, Jack was overwhelmed with a world-wide pilot
strike which temporarily immobilized TWA. This event alone, almost bankrupted the airline, as
TWA had just launched world-wide air service and faced stiff competition.
Shortly thereafter, Jack and Howard Hughes (the largest stockholder of TWA) reached a
permanent impasse and Jack resigned in early 1947. However, Jack immediately accepted a new
position as C.E.O. of General Aniline and Film Co. (G.A.F.) ANSCO in New York City, and
instantly received a salary of 4-times the amount he was receiving with TWA. GAF was Kodak’s
only world rival and Jack Frye would head this international concern for the next 8-years
becoming known as a “millionaire industrialist”. New York City became the Frye's main home
from this point on.
The lost Meem papers are about a beautiful and elaborate home- at approximately 11,610
square feet. Although quite complicated, and unusual in design, it was not an impossible project.
Unfortunately, the original projected build cost in 1941, of forty to fifty thousand dollars, (as
determined by Frye pre-war), had escalated to 125,000 dollars, by summer of 1947 (post-war).
Furthermore, the remote locale (out of state) for Meem was a considerable challenge. The
square footage at originally 4200 sq. ft. had grown considerably, and much was added during the
war, with little thought to the end product by the Fryes. Therefore, the final projected cost was a
quite a surprise for Jack Frye. ($125 thousand in 1947 would be over 1 million in 2010!)
The last straw was a financial impasse between Frye and Meem. A final settlement was made,
and the two parties called it even. Shockingly, after 7 years of correspondence, plans, and
dreams, the association ended over a dispute in building costs! The Meem papers are like a
novel with a sad ending, yet, neither party is really to blame, as the blame was with the
complications of World War II and the ripple effect it had on the U.S. home-front.
On May 27 1947 the Fryes met with Meem one last time, at the La Fonda Hotel, at Santa Fe.
Mutually and amicably they ended a business partnership and friendship which started in 1941
and lasted the duration of the World War II. Later John would write an inner-office memo
about this meeting in which he stated “.... we therefore departed very good friends.”
A heartbreaking end to a lovely dream! Helen Frye must have been devastated, as it was she
who really poured her heart and soul into the home. Jack was often too busy with TWA to
immerse himself in the details of the enormous project.
After the final meeting with Meem in Santa Fe, both parties continued to try to resolve the
issues that faced the project. Finally, though, Jack Frye decided that the process was
unproductive and sent the following Western Union Telegram, from Flagstaff Arizona, to John
Gaw Meem, at Santa Fe New Mexico. It stated the words clearly and concisely (as seen below).
1947 Jun13 AM 10:05 -BELIEVE WE CAN SECURE CONSULTING ENGINEER FROM
PHOENIX MUCH CHEAPER THAN DENVER DUE DISTANCE SO DO NOTHING UNTIL
FURTHER ADVISED= JACK FRYE
The Current House of Apache Fires?
Ironically, not only is it still incomplete some 70-years later, but the initial design was never
realized. It is the same project Meem and the Fryes laboriously planned for 7-years, except in
the end it was extensively downsized. The house was built in the exact same location with a
identical footprint. The final result would not have been up to Meem’s standard, yet it does
incorporate much of his original vision. The real revelation is that the current Apache Fires
house is just a mirage, a mere shell of what was originally desired, a hodgepodge of original
designs, a rip-off of the original plan. In essence, the house is a knockoff! Who knew?
Because there is no serious interest in the restoration of the House of Apache Fires house at
this time, perhaps, the monumental bombshell of 'who' the architect really was, is a moot point
to many. However, someday, I hope there will be more serious interest and ample funding for
restoration. It is amazing to me that no one has ever pursued the true story of this Sedona
landmark as I have, because if they had, they would have ended their search with the treasure
of information I uncovered about its amazing origin!
John Gaw Meem should be credited for his initial (7-years of work) on the house, as he was the
man who is, without any other applicable term, "the de facto architect" of what became the
Apache Fires project. Certainly, so, when we realize physical construction was started just
months after Meem's last contact with the Fryes (July 1947).
It appears we will never know 'who' revised the original Meem project plans and designs to what
became the current Apache Fires house. Although, this we do know, the contractor was a local
builder Elmer Purtyman. Obvious is the fact that the final (current) home was never completely
It is my opinion, because the Fryes did not garner what they originally envisioned for the
building site, that the final outcome was likely a bittersweet and frustrating experience. Jack
and Helen Frye divorced within two-years after construction was initiated. The old saying
“building a house has caused many-a-divorce” could be at least partly to blame here. Of course,
the other element which fueled the break-up was a 28-year-old N.Y.C. showgirl (see Page 1950).
So, with a cache of lost and dusty old documents, secreted away in another state, detailing the
plans of a home that was thought to be have never been completed, and thus never identified,
we now connect the end result, as the now regionally famous Sedona House of Apache Fires.
Many years of speculation, as to 'Who' the architect was, is now finally put to rest! And the
condensed version of this Frye showplace, which many of us have visited at Red Rock State
Park, takes on a whole new identity! What a intriguing ending to a long-time Sedona mystery!
The article above, appears in its unabridged version, it was published on the URL Sedona Biz,
but was presented in an edited and shortened version. Because of the amount of time I spent
writing this story about the true origins of the House of Apache Fires I wanted to make sure
the original version was available on Sedona Legend its entirety.
John Gaw Meem deserves credit for his involvement with the initial
stages (first 6 years) of the structure that became the famous House
of Apache Fires! Although the structure (built in the end) was not as
grand as the original vision and was a simplified version!
Very Important Notation- The House of Apache Fires was not "built" by John Gaw Meem. It
was built by Elmer Purtyman. However, the Frye house was planned and designed in its original
form by John Gaw Meem, who was retained by the Fryes. Mr. Meem worked for the Fryes on
the house from 1941 to 1947. The only reason that Mr. Meem did not complete the project was
because of the highly inflated post-war cost of construction from Santa Fe, N.M., a price tag so
high, that Jack Frye thought it better to have the home completed by local Sedona labor and a
local contractor. It was at this point that Meem and the Fryes settled up and the Fryes
proceeded locally. John Gaw Meem is given rightful credit in this work, as the driving force,
along with the Fryes, behind what ultimately became known as the current and renowned
House of Apache Fires. The condensed structure which now rests at the Frye Ranch (Red Rock
State Park) is a bastardized version of what John Gaw Meem and the Fryes originally
envisioned. It is not up to the standard of Meem's work- yet it does incorporate much of his and
the Frye’s original vision. Many people familiar with the Apache Fires house will recognize
design features that exist in the home today as described in the 175-pages of lost Meem
documents, letters, and telegrams!
The image (left) was captured in 1942 at the building site where the House of Apache Fires was
to be constructed (Cathedral Rock is right of the frame). To the (right) a poignant shot of Jack
and Helen Frye (also 1942) taken by Jack and Helen's Lockheed Electra 12A pilot Robby.
Rather fuzzy only because slides don't scan well. The Fryes were showing Robby the ranch and
where they wanted to build their new home. They are sitting on Eagles Nest, now a popular
hiking trail at Red Rock State Park (former Frye Ranch) Sedona.
October 22, 1941
"Requirement for a house for Mr. John Frye to be located in Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona"
(early Sedona was often called Oak Creek Canyon) -John Gaw Meem
3-page preliminary work up of details of the new house shown in part-
"On the highest level of the site, there is to be a large bedroom which will function both as a
bedroom and as a living room. To the south of the bedroom there shall be two dressing rooms
with many closets and two bathrooms, each with fireplaces..... there are to be facilities for a
studio, a photographic dark room and a general work room."
Large swimming pool....
"The swimming pool will be 15' wide by 45' long, surrounded with an adobe wall.... Adjoining
the bedroom, and to the north of it, there is to be a small office, placed close to the edge of a
ledge of rock which juts out to the west and the north. The office to be on the same level as the
bedroom and opening off a hall with stairway leading down into the living room...."
A large long living room is detailed with glass observation room....
"The living room will be one floor lower than the bedroom.... Since the principle views extend
over all the horizon with the exception of the southeast quadrant, the living room should be so
designed to take in a majority of the view.... There is to be a flat wall space opposite the
fireplace in the living room to be of the right proportion to take a painting of Mrs. Frye,
40" high by 50" wide.... Mrs. Frye visualizes a number of built-in stone seats, running under
the windows; part of the seats to have cupboards under them...." (Painting not started yet)
Kitchen area is planned....
"Adjoining the dining room, provide pantry, kitchen, a couple servant's rooms, bath, a large
freezing and storage room for food, heating plant, etc.... The main entrance as they visualize it
will probably come in front of the dining room... Provide car shelter for four cars."
"The living room and dining room must be built as to allow ample room for a service trench
which will be continuous around the house. This trench to be not less than 5' deep by 5' or 6'
wide, and to take not only the plumbing, but future heating and air conditioning ducts. The
heating plant is to eventually operate with oil and should be a hot air system, but should be so
designed as to burn wood of which there is an abundance on the ranch."
"One of Mr. Frye's objectives is to make the place as independent as possible with regard to his
food, fuel, electricity, etc. As far as electricity is concerned, he is planning to install a small
generating plant on his main ditch with an under-shot wheel...."
Frye vision of a home springs from....
"they were attracted by the detail of the Pueblo-Spanish type architecture, notably the Phillips
Petroleum Station. Mrs. Frye is inclined to have it more Pueblo or Ranch type. Mr. Frye is
inclined to the more modern type of construction.... protected by a cantilevered roof...."
-John Gaw Meem
The preliminary work-up by Meem solves a few
mysteries. The document addresses the shallow
cut-out in the current Apache Fires House dining
room east wall (a void no one has ever been able to
solve). We now know it was created to hold the
famous painting of Helen Frye (46" by 56"). This
painting was featured in a Fortune 500 Magazine,
Frye profile, (1945), and is also seen (right). The
pool (always a rumor until now) was excavated, but
never finished, later filled in. It had unusual
dimensions, perhaps this was in regard to Helen
Frye stating the pool was to be constructed in the
shape of the Frye Cattle Brand, a large 'f'.
A Long Awaited Project is Launched-
House of Apache Fires Rises from Red Dust
The above drawing, from September of 1945, is the only visual we have of the Frye Deer-Lick
Ranch House (what was to become the Apache Fires House) from September of 1945. The
original blueprints and drawings by John Gaw Meem and his staff have been lost. All that
remains is a file of correspondence documents. However, this drawing by Helen Frye, who was a
professional illustrator, shows us what the general expression was originally meant to be.
Mrs. Frye used this sketch to point out a few details to Meem after one of her many meetings
with him at Santa Fe, New Mexico. The drawing shows us what John Gaw Meem and the Fryes
envisioned for the building site where the House of Apache Fires currently rests today, up to
1945. The notations on the drawing in Helen Frye's own writing are as follows-
Top left- "possible second story for servant quarters"
Top right- "note how 'sugar-loaf' red rocks are same style as chimney"
Bottom left- "this is the sketch I wasn't going to show you, it was made before sun-deck was
designed on top of bedroom, on studio level" in the center Helen wrote "cliff front".
For many years, there were Frye house blueprints floating around before and after Helen
Frye's death, which are in the hands of the Arizona State Park Service entitled, "Cliff House".
They may be the original Meem blueprints, but I have not been able to determine where they
are filed at this time. They were offered to the park by Helen's friend Al Purchase who received
them before Helen died, by Helen Frye herself.
In a letter dated 10-06-1945 John Gaw Meem had this to say about Helen's house rendition.
"I found your sketch quite charming, but the proportions you used are not the ones that
actually occur as you will see when you look at our sketches."
The photo above and to the right shows Elliott Roosevelt, and his bride, Faye Emerson at the
Grand Canyon (December 1944). Roosevelt was the President's son. Jack (Best Man) and Helen
Frye were prominent guests. Jack flew the couple from Hollywood, to and from, the remote
location, served as best man, and the Fryes paid for the wedding! The wedding couple spent part
of the honeymoon at the Frye Ranch in Sedona Arizona, lodging at the Willow House.
December 19, 1944- Letter from Helen Frye to
John Gaw Meem- "When we were at the Grand
Canyon, I was happy to discover the Yavapai
Ranger's Station, where the Roosevelt's were
married, is exactly the type of stone handling
that I want for our house. This is not like the
Grand Canyon hotel buildings or the Hopi house
across the road from it. I don't know if you have
ever seen this Yavapai building or not. It is
about a half a mile from El Tovar and sits right
on the edge of the Canyon and is Hopi style, but
done in natural stones of quite varied sizes laid
horizontally. I would either like to get some very
good pictures of it (they didn't have any
available at the hotel) or else have you see it
before we start the house. I am enclosing a
photograph that the newspaper man gave me
while it was still wet (and in rather bad shape)
and which gives you only a limited idea of the
complete feeling." signed Helen Frye.
The Frye Deer-Lick Ranch House shown under construction with the builder Elmer Purtyman.
The images are from 1948-1949. This view is the main entry to the house which faces north.
The 'Sun Deck' as called by the Fryes
Vintage photos of the Apache Fires house are rarer than 'hen's teeth' but we have Rosie
Targhetta Armijo to thank for the lion's share of them. Ms. Targhetta, as a teenager, came out
to work for the Fryes at Sedona- summer of 1947. The first summer, she stayed with them at
the Willow House, the next summer (1948) she stayed at the Apache Fires house as the Frye's
called it. The house was finished enough for the Fryes and Rosie to move up there. There also
was a cook named Jane who lived at the Apache Fires house too, in the servants quarters where
Rosie stayed. The next summer (1949) Rosie again went and stayed with the Fryes for her
summer vacation. But, this was to be the last long period she would stay there, as she graduated
and started a full time job in New Mexico (1950). From that point on, for the next 30-years,
Rosie, who had become close to Helen stayed as a guest many times and was with Helen the day
she died in 1979. Initially, Rosie came to the ranch because her brother Joseph worked for the
Fryes as a ranch foreman. He recommended his little sister Rosie, after Helen broke her arm
(fall from a horse) and needed extra help. Rosie called Jack Frye, 'Pa'.
Originally the appearance of the Apache Fires House had a wonderful variegated array of
sandstone. Helen Frye, personally, picked out many of the rocks which were used in the
construction of the house. In the 1970's the house changed owners and at this time the dwelling
was violated tragically when it was sprayed with a red mortar, rendering all the sandstone
uniform in color. What a tragedy that care was not taken as to the historic value of this
structure! The Fryes desired a different appearance- as seen to the right in a 1954 color photo.
Apache Fires House 1949
Many thanks to Nancy Meem Wirth and Audra Bellmore (John Gaw Meem Archive
Administrator) for some of the materials used in this presentation. Even though the Meem
Archive correspondence is copyrighted, I have tried to utilize the information from this in
complete Meem Frye project in a manner, which hopefully does not violate the inherent usage
guidelines or the goodwill in which it was offered to me. I am most grateful to have discovered
this invaluable information, without which, many Apache Fires details would be lost.
Elliott Roosevelt- Faye Emerson
Only Photograph of Helen Frye in her Apache Fires Pueblo Home
Living the Sedona Dream in 1942
Niche for Helen Frye Portrait Commissioned by Jack Frye- 1942
Vintage images of the interior of the House of
Apache Fires number less than a dozen with no
photos of the kitchen area and how it looked
originally in the late 1940's. Also, completely
missing after 70-years, are any images of the
Jack Frye at the building site or in the house!
Western Union Telegram- Frye to Meem
Helen Frye Sketches Visual- Reflective of Current Blueprints 1945
For that matter, only a few images of Helen exist at the house. The image above (left) is
extremely precious as it the only photo which exists of Helen Frye in the House of Apache Fires.
Helen is relaxing for the camera at the kitchen nook (table area) which was built into the House
of Apache Fires kitchen. The photo was taken when Helen's mother (Maude) and niece (Sisty)
visited Helen there in the summer of 1954 and was only recently re-discovered (2011) by Sedona
Legend research. Sterling silver conchos are embedded in the edge of the table and counter tops
(notice the crank-out windows). The drawer pulls are sterling silver rings with leather ties.
Helen distressed the cupboards herself and finished them in a pale turquoise wash. Behind
Helen (to the left) is the edge of a small turret-like window Helen had built in to exterior wall to
allow light into this side of the sub-level kitchen. The window is no longer evident in the current
house having been eliminated in later renovations for whatever reason. See further discussion
below. The kitchen was completely finished by the Fryes early on and fitted out with (both) a gas
and wood commercial cook stove (right). This set-up was desired by Helen due to entertaining
the Fryes constantly orchestrated. The gas range was located by Helen from a nearby restaurant
which had gone out of business and transported up to the house. The Apache Fires cook (Jane)
always rose early and set the coffee a-brewing after which she cooked everyone whatever they
wanted for breakfast. Rosie remembers asking Helen at the time how they would ever be able
to repair the stove as it was mortared in place. Helen is remembered to have replied in her
cheerful way, "well, I guess they will have to blast it out!" The kitchen was a gathering place at
the heart of the house and many remember spending time there with Helen Frye from 1948 on.
Many thanks to Helen's family for sharing this rare and forgotten old image. Sadly we now see
photos of this area of the dwelling from our current time-frame. The stairway up to the servant
wing of the house appears (directly below) from 2008, and right (2003) the kitchen. On the right
of the kitchen photo is where the ranges were in 1948 (now seen fitted with cabinets).
The Fryes had live-in employees at all their homes and Sedona was no exception. For the first
few years after they moved into the Apache Fires house they had a cook named Jane (last
name unknown). Jane is seen (right) in about 1949 at the bottom of the studio stairs. Behind
the kitchen there were 2 bedrooms (each with a fireplace) where Jane and Rosie lived when at
the Frye Ranch. The Fryes always kept livestock and poultry on the ranch. Jane is feeding the
resident turkeys in front of the entrance stairs to the studio. Rosie remembers one holiday
when 'smoked turkey' was served to guests, wonder if one of these birds was dinner? To the left
is one of the earliest images of the house after completion with turkeys strolling the lawns. The
ranch had geese, chickens, bovines, and horses. The original stairs to the studio curved at the
bottom (as seen) but this was changed by subsequent owners. No one was allowed upstairs on
the sky deck or in the studio, as this was considered Jack and Helen's private quarters and they
always stayed up there when at the ranch, instead of (below) in the master bedroom, as the
house was not completely finished (late 1940's). The studio was finished with bathroom,
fireplace, darkroom for Jack's photography, and sleeping area. It even had evaporative cooling
for hot summer days. After Jack and Helen divorced, in June of 1950, Helen continued to claim
the studio as her own private quarters, moving out in 1962, when her new home Wings of the
Wind was completed. Helen, rarely, if ever, slept downstairs but used the lower area for
daytime use- cooking, etc. I would not be a bit surprised if the studio was the most haunted part
of the house simply because of the energy there of Jack and Helen, and later just Helen.
The Deer-Lick Ranch House (right) after
completion. This end result was a combination
of early designs and later modifications.
Fowl of All Kind in 1949
Master Bedroom Suite @ South End Of the Apache Fires House
(Below) we see images of the master bedroom suite and fireplace. Helen personally oversaw
every detail of the beautiful masonry in the Apache Fires house. Beside the fireplace was the
doorway to 'his' and 'her' dressing rooms and bathrooms. The painting over the fireplace has
mistakenly been said to have been painted by Frye intimate Max Ernst. Max, indeed, did do
some Sedona western scenes, however, the painting is not his typical style. Jack and Helen
owned a large collection of William Robinson Leigh paintings, as well. Recently, though, the
party who owns the painting was been located by Sedona Legend and this long standing mystery
has been solved. The painting is a Gerard Curtis Delano (1890-1972). Jack purchased the work
from the artist in Albuquerque, in 1936, and the painting has had only 2 owners- the Fryes and
the current owner. For more information on Delano please see Arizona Highways August 1968.
For 5-years I diligently searched for the painting of the 'Painted Ponies' and this is the ‘telling’
of this discovery! “I turned my attention to the focal point of the enormous room. Hanging at
the far end was my long-time-quest, the famous painting of the Navajo Ponies! This masterpiece
once hung over the fireplace at the famous Sedona Apache Fires house. Now it rests in silence
in a private collection. Bathed in the surreal glow of a picture light, the painting glistened in the
shadows as if to say, "finally, here I am, you found me!" Looking closer I was in awe at this
elusive Apache Fires artifact, displayed in living color, no longer an old faded black and white
photo as seen above. Carefully my eyes took in every detail of the richly colored scene, a Navajo
squaw and her beloved brave, each sitting on two Navajo ponies who were sipping from a pool of
water, hemmed by a surreal Arizona sunset. Details, I might add, which are totally lost in the
old faded photos of the same painting from the late 1940's.
I let my mind wander back to the story of how Jack Frye, then president of Transcontinental &
Western Air, had discovered this freshly created painting in 1936. He was in Albuquerque, a
place he often frequented, as it was one of Transcontinental & Western Air's mainline
terminals. (Frye, himself, is credited by Albuquerque for the development of this airport). Jack
met with the artist Gerard Delano and chose this sizeable masterpiece from several others. The
price was $3,600 dollars, a hefty fee for the time.
Jack Frye had a deep appreciation for Western Art, as he himself, was part Cherokee, and
Arizona was his adopted state. This man tamed the Southwest with the very first scheduled
passenger airline service from California to Arizona to Texas, which he himself was often the
president-pilot. Jack Frye was Arizona's first registered (licensed) commercial pilot and civilian
pilot as well! Shortly after initiating the above mentioned air routes, Frye connected his airline
with railway service, establishing the very first United States trans-continental passenger
service for the United States. This service, later led to the very first scheduled trans-atlantic
passenger service for the U.S., from New York to Paris. In regard to the then primitive
Southwest, Jack personally, experienced it as few people alive today remember, as a lonely pilot,
landing and taking off in sputtering transports from baron sand-swept runways. A remarkable
man, remembered today as one of the country's foremost entrepreneurs and aviation legends!
Well earned kudos, but sadly, he is somewhat forgotten by our current generation! Tragic!
After purchasing the painting, Jack Frye had it shipped by TWA to his executive office in
Kansas City. Once there it likely graced a wall of his 5-acre Tudor-style-estate near Kansas
City. By the early 1940's, after he and Helen Vanderbilt were married, the painting was shipped
out to their Smoke Trail Ranch at Sedona where it hung at the famous "Willow House". By
1948 it was re-hung at the famous House of Apache Fires as evidenced by three historic black
and white photos. Eventually, in 1962, it was moved up to the adjoining Sedona Wings of the
Wind House, where it hung for another 15 years. After this, it transferred to its current
location (in the collection of an intimate Frye friend) where it has hung for the last 25 years.
I knew all Delano’s were named, but I had never been able to identify this particular painting,
because it never sold on the resale art market. In carefully examining the back of the canvas I
found the title 'Evening' written in longhand by the artist himself. Understated, perhaps, but the
perfect description of this display of love and peace between two Native American Indians. Now,
at the end of its historic journey, the painting has witnessed many art-loving folk, from
common, to the rich and famous, all silently gazing into its rich and layered depths. One can
almost hear it whisper, "I'm a painting who has been loved by some pretty remarkable people.
It's you, who should be honored to be in 'my' presence!' And so it was, and so we were....
An Extensive Art Collection
Graced Jack and Helen's Walls
Apache Fires Master Bedroom Suite- Fireplace and Hanging Bed
Helen and Jack's (intended) bedroom was directly below the studio. I say 'intended' because by
the time the house was functional Jack was already working in New York City as CEO of
Aniline Film (GAF) and he was not able to spend much time at the ranch. By June of 1950 he
and Helen had divorced. Either way, as the images show above, in this part of the house there
was a hanging bed in front of the large windows overlooking the valley below. A king bed was
hung from the ceiling by chains and supported at the base on log rounds (similar to the ceiling
support Vegas (Pine). Everyone always wanted to sleep in the unusual bed. On hot Sedona
nights, summer breezes would sweep up the canyon walls and into the large suite, making it one
of the most refreshing areas of the ranch house villa. The room had a fireplace and sitting area.
However, because there were always many guests in the house, for privacy, Jack and Helen
usually slept upstairs in the studio. Helen would put a lawn chair across the stairway ascending
to the studio, which indicated to the staff, it was 'off-limits'. Jack and Helen who were both avid
'sun-worshippers' and liked to sunbathe on the private and secluded studio deck.
One day Helen Frye was exasperated with the placement of the sandstone in the master suite
fireplace. This is why today there exists two different confusing photos of the same fireplace
with a totally different patterns of rock work. The only person still alive, who was a witness to
the event, was Rosie Targhetta, who related the following story, "Mrs. Jack Frye called
everyone together one morning in 1948 or 1949, this included Elmer Purtyman, Jane, and
myself. She told us to all take a good look at the fireplace stones (as temporarily placed) and
said 'you had better all get a look at this stone work and take a picture because it is all coming
down- I'm going to re-do the entire fireplace'". Helen had her builder Elmer Purtyman sit in
the fireplace for the above image, the second image, after the fireplace was finished is
showcased by Kachinas and other Native American art which was the decor favored by the
Fryes. Both photos are part of Red Rock State Park files (originally Frye construction images).
Original Master Fireplace- Re-Worked By Helen Frye Herself
A Search for the Frye 'Painted Pony' Painting-
The studio was finished with comfortable seating and two small beds. The walls were painted
turquoise and sand and there were beautifully crafted shelves and built-in storage areas,
designed and built by Jean Foster and her partner. There was a fireplace, bathroom, closet, and
a room that was to be Jack's darkroom for his photography work. The shelves were lined with a
library of books, Kachinas, and native American Indian art. Jack did a lot of reading while at
the ranch. There was a 'service buzzer' which rang here. The housekeeper or cook downstairs,
when wanting to reach Jack or Helen, would ring a button and it would notify the Fryes, up at
the studio, to pick up the telephone. With this method the Fryes could talk to the downstairs
staff. There was telephone service at the House of Apache Fires and the Willow House from the
mid-1940's. This is thought to be the first such convenience in rural Sedona, initiated for TWA
business. Rosie remembers Howard Hughes calling and talking to Jack many times, this even
after their famous falling out, in February of 1947! Views from the studio were in all directions
out over the magnificent picturesque Frye ranch.
The Studio- Jack and Helen's Private Quarters
The House of Apache Fires was in a state of incompletion by June of 1950 (when Jack and Helen
divorced) but, for the most part, it was generally finished. I think there is a bit of confusion as
to what 'finished' meant at the Apache Fires project to most people. I take it to mean that the
main construction of the house was complete with all openings glassed and doored (except one
entry). In some areas of the house, the walls were not plastered, painted, etc., and not all
built-ins were completed. However, the house was certainly livable and secure. The portions
which were not completely 'fitted out' but framed, by 1950, were the 'his' and 'her' dressing
rooms off the master bedroom suite, master bathroom, and Jack's TWA/Aniline home office.
During the construction process, huge crates of sandstone (flagstone) were stored in the grand
living-dining room wing, which were quarried at the Frye Sunshine Ranch east of Flagstaff.
Above we see the massive long living room with the fireplace and storage nooks Helen desired
(finished much later, supposedly, by Nassan Gobran). The flagstone stairway? It descends from
the Master Suite and Jack's office into the Grand Hall. Because the house was built to conform
to a hill site it has many different levels and is essentially a maze of stairways. The floors were
originally flagstone, but in some areas, they have since been overlaid with wood floors which are
in poor shape (currently) due to leaks from the flat roof. Of credit to the Fryes- they built a
massive dwelling which has withstood the test of time, in spite of the fact, that the structure has
received virtually no maintenance for over 70 years! This is the true legacy of the Frye-
House of Apache Fires ruins which will surely outlive us all!
The House of Apache Fires Grand Living Room Wing
Both images (aside) were likely taken by the
Fryes in the late 1940's. The photo directly
above is on file at Red Rock State Park.
Elmer Purtyman in Fireplace
Lonely is the Apache Fire’s studio.... which rests in stony silence some 70-years after its
construction while the house dissolves into forgotten ruins. Only because the house was so
massively constructed does it still stand akin to a European castle. Above (left) we see the
fireplace which was altered by Eckankar in the mid-70’s by adding additional flagstone above it
and rebuilding the firebox. The door? Changed from original French doors to two matching
wooden doors. The ceiling? Changed at the same time with new rafters, joists, and headers (as
was the entire house) the original being log rounds and saplings in a Native American style. The
energy here is of stony silence. Although I have never spent a night here, I do feel, as others,
that the house IS haunted. At twilight, right before the park closes, you are returning from a
lengthy hike. You scurry past the shadows of the House of Apache Fires which rests in silent
darkness. Glancing up nervously you wonder if the house is really devoid of life? But wait, out
of the corner of your eye, you detect movement in the upstairs studio window, just for a second,
you swear you see the figure of a beautiful woman staring down at you, as if to say, “who goes
past my house- who nears my sacred abode!” Don’t worry it is but Helen Frye who would often
pull back a curtain and peer down below from her favorite haunt, perhaps ever seeking the
vision of Jack Frye returning across the courtyard and back into her empty lonely embrace!
Jack and Helen's Private Quarters as Seen in Our Time Frame
Master Bedroom Suite- Today
Currently one finds the master bedroom suite similar to the 1940's but with a new ceiling and
different windows. Again this is all a result of massive renovations by Eckankar who owned the
house briefly, from the early 1970's to the early 1990's. The house served as a group
construction project. The doorways? These lead to (his and her) dressing rooms (now removed)
of which the outlines of the original walls can be seen on the floor (each side had a separate
entrance). Beyond this is the master (his and her) bathroom. Observant surfers will notice the
plasma orb in the fireplace in the left photo. If it is indeed an orb and not just a reflection of the
camera lens it leads credence to the conclusion of visitors that feel the structure is haunted.
Exterior of House of Apache Fires- Mirror of Exterior of the
Grand Canyon Yavapai Point Ranger Station (1944)
Above is Jack's TWA home office. Requirement
by Jack for this room was a wall to display all
the photos of his business associates. Frye left
TWA by the time of this construction though.
To the right is the exterior courtyard entrance
dropping down to the Apache Fires kitchen.
Two great photos of the roof of the House of Apache Fires taken in about 1949. Notice behind
the kitty (the small cut-out windows of the grand living room which no longer exist) rocked
over in recent renovations. Helen's idea was that the windows, which extended along the east
side of the house, would add light to the sub-level side of the living room and kitchen.
Notice the small windows behind her (missing in the current house). Also the stairway is
rounded at the bottom (another feature which was altered by Eckankar renovations in the
1970's) rendering the stairway straight up and down (currently). Both images from 1948-1949.
(Above) Rosie relaxes on the terrace of the
studio. Helen and Jack valued their privacy in
this section of the house and would sunbathe
up here often when at the ranch. To the right
Rosie ties her saddle shoes on the stairs that
lead up to Jack and Helen's private part of the
house- the studio. Summer of 1948 or 1949.
Helen and Rosie on the Apache Fires sun-deck (1948). Notice the chimney is still not completely
finished at this early date- eventually though stone was placed on up to the top.
The main entrance where Elmer stood is shown
currently (above). To the (right) is the built-in
outdoor fireplace-barbecue area built by the
Fryes for entertaining (seen directly behind
Elmer). The foreground, once grass, is now
flagstone. The exterior was violated when
Eckankar sprayed the house with red mortar,
totally destroying the character of the house
and the priceless sandstone hues. Helen was
still living on property (mid-1970's) when this
was orchestrated and objected vehemently, feeling it ruined the historic value of the structure.
In the early 1940's, Helen lovingly picked out hundreds of beautiful sandstones to be used in
construction of the future home. Later they were placed, at her direction, in pattern of
variegated hues. When the house was 'painted' with red mortar it broke her heart (according to
a then member of Eckankar) who witnessed the confrontation between Helen and
When the Jack Fryes' move into their new home at Smoke Trail Ranch-
Arizona will have a new claim to fame with an inhabited cliff dwelling
Designed by Mrs. Frye and built on a red rock bluff across the creek from the old ranch
buildings, the exterior very closely resembles a pueblo. Thin flat rocks are used with their edges
projecting beyond the mortar. This method catches both light and shadow, and makes the walls
blend into the surrounding countryside. The house is two stories high at one end, drops down to
one story with a roof terrace, then descends to a long wing set at an angle to the main
structure, with a pleasing variety of breaks and lines. There is also a constant variation in the
interior, although it is bound together by stone floors, harmonious treatment of the walls and
The studio, naturally, is the first room to be completed for and by the artistic Mrs. Frye. On the
second floor, entered from the terrace, this room is made light by the ample use of windows.
Built into one wall is a fireplace that is flush with the wall, and the hearth is level with the
floor. An interesting arrangement of rocks, some laid horizontal, with thin edges projecting,
other laid vertical, with the flat side forward, piles irregularly above the hearth. From the rocks
to the ceiling, the wall is painted a brown of great depth and warmth. The ceiling itself is made
of yew saplings laid in a herringbone pattern. The end walls of the room are the color of sand
enlivened by sunlight. The remaining wall is painted a deep turquoise, with natural
irregularities of a lighter turquoise relieving the flatness that paint otherwise acquires. The
painting was done by Helen Frye herself, as it is creative work, acquiring much from the
personality of the painter. Yew saplings also are used in the bookshelves and furniture.
Underneath this room is another with unique effects. The fireplace, with a sunken hearth, is as
yet incomplete as Mrs. Frye has been unable to find someone who knows how to build it as she
has it in mind. She will, therefore, build it herself, with stones but without mortar. The
fireplace will be so constructed that in summer it can be converted from a place of warmth to a
cooling waterfall. With stone floor, and with a wide view of Oak Creek as it winds through the
Smoke Trail Ranch and of the red rock country in which the ranch is cupped, this room
combines a feeling of living warmly in the west and at the same time remotely, as in a New
Large bathrooms and dressing rooms with cabinet work designed by Mrs. Frye to accommodate
elaborate wardrobes also are on this first floor of the higher level of the building. Behind them
is a swimming pool shaped like the Smoke Trail brand.
An office for Mr. Frye juts out over one end of the cliff, commanding a magnificent stretch of
scenery. The large wing ambles back from the cliff to the hillside and will contain dining room,
kitchen, and utility rooms. This part of the building is now under construction by Elmer
Purtymun of Sedona, who has been working on the residence since it was first started, just a
year ago. Purtymun estimates that it will be another six months before construction is
completed. The Fryes expect, however, to move into the completed part of the building within a
month or two.
The interior decoration will continue for an indefinite time, as Mrs. Frye works at it as she does
on a portrait, seeking the exact impression or effect that she has in mind. Although they now
own several ranches in Arizona which are operated by the Fryes for the raising of stock, Smoke
Trail is the one on which they plan to make their permanent home, and the one where they are
experimenting with prize cattle, slowly building a herd of the copper-colored animals that are a
mixture of Shorthorn, Brahma and Afrikander stock.
The Smoke Trail foreman is Joseph Targhetta of New Mexico, who has many relatives in
Cottonwood. His sister, Rosie Targhetta, has acted as housekeeper for the Fryes last summer
but she had to return to Bernalillo, New Mexico to continue her education.
Please note: The swimming pool was never completed, but excavation was initiated. The location
was in the courtyard below the studio on the southwest side overlooking the valley. The
unfinished hole was later filled in. The Frye's had the creek excavated in several areas to create
large swimming holes and this is where they swam throughout the years.
Deer-Lick Ranch House, now known as the House of Apache Fires or the Apache Fires house,
as the Frye’s called it. Construction started in mid-1947, the Fryes moved up from the Willow
House in June of 1948 (to the studio), completion date was projected to be the end of 1948.
Smoke Trail Ranch- Home of Jack Frye Combines Beauty & Utility
in Modern Pueblo (Spring 1948- Verde Valley Newspaper)
Above we see Rosie sitting at the grand entry
to the Frye House roof top entertaining area.
Apache Fires roof top fireplace is (PIGG?) and (HAF builder) Elmer Purtyman's nephew (name
unknown). Above (left) we see Pigg posing at the rear of Jack and Helen's new 1948 Pontiac
convertible at the rear of the House of Apache Fires. Image is on file at Red Rock State Park.
The couple above posing by the unfinished
(Above) we can see the view from the house looking east, notice behind house are horse corrals,
and the little wood building on (right) is the original pump house which supplied water to the
Apache Fires house. This image appears to be from the early 50's about 7 years after
construction. The image to the right shows HAF (House of Apache Fires) builder Elmer
Purtyman with the Frye cook (Jane) at the quarry where all the red rock for the house was
excavated (1948). For years it has been a puzzle to officials at Red Rock State Park where the
the massive amount of red rock used in the construction of the house was quarried. This
mystery has been solved by Sedona Legend research. In an interview with a renovations
construction worker who helped with the house in the 1970's it was learned that the original
quarry was the sub-level of the House of Apache Fires well house. This gentleman told me that
the current red rock pump house was built over the original quarry where all the house rock
came from. Helen was on site when this project was completed (1970's). I have been in the pump
house and there is a basement level which is fitted out with massive fresh water holding tanks.
Again we see Rosie in the earliest days relaxing at the Apache Fires property on her summer
vacations from Albuquerque N.M. Most of the shots of Rosie were likely taken by Helen Frye.
Above left Rosie sits on a red rock ledge which was built into the house and still exists today
between the studio stairs and the grand stairway up to the Apache Fires terrace sun-deck. The
photo to the right is on the lawn where the flagstone courtyard is now (looking east). The little
building on the right is the original well house which was torn down in the 1970's and re-built.
Rather than endless speculation as to the origin of 'WHY' the house is called the Apache Fires
house and 'WHO' built it, let's get the story directly from Helen Frye, who stated in published
accounts, that it was built by Apache Indians from a local reservation. So there we have it, plain
and simple, the Apache Indians were the labor force used to build the House of Apache Fires.
Makes sense doesn't it? Yet, how was the 'Fires' name derived? The published account goes
that an English friend of the Frye's who was staying at the ranch, in the evenings, noticed that
the fires of the Apache workers, who were staying along the river, would drift up over the cliff
and cloak the house construction site. Thus she suggested the house be called the 'Apache
Fires' house. Jack and Helen obviously agreed. Who was this mysterious English friend? After
5 years of research, this too is not hard to figure out. Helen and Jack had a couple visiting the
ranch from England, and (later) the wife (widow) served as a Frye ranch manager. The same
couple (the husband) a famous Hollywood portrait artist painted three magnificent portraits of
the Fryes. Two survive of Helen, the one of Jack is missing. All were painted at the ranch (or N.
Y.C.). The Fryes had great respect and admiration for the Native American Indians. Helen was
proud of their involvement in the construction of her new home and Jack was part Native
American Indian, himself, (Cherokee). Transcontinental & Western Air Native American
Indian names and motifs were due to this great man wanting his airline associated with the
Southwest where the airline originated.
So all the endless speculation about whether Apache, Yavapai, Hopi, or locals built the house
ends here. Hopefully the origin of the name is now well clarified. Much of the heavy rock work
was done by Indian labor brought in from Camp Verde and various other labor projects were
done by local artisans and contractors. After the war many needed the work. I discovered
another interesting detail while researching background for this Web Site. This gem was mostly
derived from Yavapai County recorded documents, depositions, and Jack and Helen Frye's
divorce decree. There is no doubt in my mind that the name of Jack and Helen's home was
originally and always designated 'House of Apache Fire(s)' not the ‘often bantered about 'House
of Apache Fire.' This inaccuracy has been completely verified and authenticated many times
over. Through the years the name has become misinterpreted and research to verify the
discrepancy has tragically not been attempted until now (2004). In light of the monumental
historic presence of this dwelling, in regard to Sedona and at Red Rock State Park, and the
Helen and Jack Frye Story, I feel that the accurate name of this famous dwelling need be
notated emphatically on this Web Site. In my work with Red Rock State Park, addressing
enhanced documentation on the Frye association with the property for park visitors, this detail
has now been corrected. It appears the Fryes called the house simply the 'Apache Fires house'.
Regionally the structure became the 'House of Apache Fires' or 'the TWA house'.
The Why of a Name- House of Apache Fires Becomes Legend
Interview with Jack and Helen Frye @ a New York City nightclub
Celebrity Column of Charles B. Driscoll
Jack Frye of Transcontinental & Western Air U.S. Aerial Service
Manhattan, N.Y.C. June 2, 1942
Excerpt from article appears below as it relates to the future Apache Fires house.
(World War II delayed the construction of the house.)
"Jack Frye, head of Transcontinental & Western Air, and his beautiful West Virginia wife,
were in town for a few days, and I managed to snare them for an evening's conversation. Jack
has bought a large ranch in Arizona, 4000 feet up, close to Flagstaff. He and Mrs. Frye have
staked out the site for their new home, have hired an architect, and hope to have a roof over
their heads by the time snow falls in less favored lands. The wide verandas will overhang a real
river which runs sparkling cold water the year around."
Mrs. Jack Frye on top of the House of Apache Fires where the construction on the roof top
fireplace chimney was to be built. Joining her is Rosie, Sonja the police dog, and Copper. (1948)
Summer Oasis- Carpets of Lawn Above- Cool Clear Creek Below
Housing For Full-Time Secretary and Bunk House
The Fryes desired a 1,610 square foot bunkhouse be built in the east courtyard of the Apache
Fires house. To be built in early 1947, the function would be three-fold. Jack needed a full-time
secretary to live at the property for business correspondence, the Fryes wanted a new
temporary dwelling built to live in while they were over-seeing the Deer-Lick Ranch house
construction, and lastly, they desired extra quarters for over-flow guests. An original letter
from Helen explains how all this would be implemented (please see Page 2009).
(This letter at the very infancy of the Apache Fires project discusses some early ideas for the
home such as lawn on the second level and window openings. Keep in mind this correspondence
is pre-Pearl Harbor and pre-government restriction on civilian square footage and materials)
November 18, 1941
The Shore Ham Hotel
Dear Mr. Meem:
Just received your letter of Nov. 13, and I am glad to know our ideas are working together. I
think Mr. Frye is very desirous in leaving the living and dining room roof as a part of the lawn
running out from the bed-room level; however, I have made no definite decisions because I feel
the contour survey may have some influence on this idea. So when you have the facts in hand -
- you think things over and if there are good reasons for or against the original plan, Mr. Frye
will have to at least listen. Unless my eye is bad, I believe the office will be a step or two below
the level of the bedroom floor - - that is if we don’t change the lay of the land as it is now and
because it sets out on the cliff - - we certainly shouldn’t change it.
As to the windows - - At first I thought the large plate glass the best - - then Mr. Frye said the
view being so magnificent (of course you saw it on a dull day) that if we used the large open
glass it’s beauty might be too overpowering. Well, whether our children will grow up to have
inferiority complexes on account of the view or not, I couldn’t say, but there’s another point
that is more to be considered at this time. Since we will not be able to live there continuous for
some years to come - - plate glass windows are easily broken and allow a big space for any one
to go into the house - - whereas steel frames with small spacing and a good lock inside surely
has it’s advantages to prevent ransacking. I think two servants rooms with bath between would
be best. Whether we use both for servants or not I would like one to have built-in bunks-- one
above the other. Also good closet space in both rooms.
Mr. Frye has asked for arrangement to be made on the surveying and the info be forwarded on
to us. So far it has not arrived but we will send it on to you as soon as it comes.
The government has asked some special work of my husband and it will probably hold us here at
least another ten days. As soon as possible we hope to get west again. I am looking forward to
your new sketches and also in seeing you in person to discuss our plans - - as I know it’s not
really fair to you to try to arrange our house by mail.
To read letters between Jack and Helen Frye and their architect-
reproduced for historical reference- the Building of a Dream....
the evolution of the House of Apache Fires- See Page 2009
(This letter accompanied the houses sketches above by Helen Frye)
Sept. 24, 1945
Dear Mr. Meem,
The corner window which is the key to the house plan- is in white. The red line is a rough guess
of mine- as to where the office room should go.
As well as I could judge the center of the office location is 1 foot lower than the level of the
I found the ranch in horrible condition due to the exchange of help- have become a hand myself.
Never before was it entirely up to me alone to care for the cattle, ditches, equipment, and stock
supplies. I haven’t a fingernail left and I am scratched black and blue from doctoring calves. A
new foreman takes over Wed. and as soon as I can get him acquainted with the place and it’s
problems- I shall be able to return to Santa Fe.
Many thanks for your help with the shoes. I was sorry to cause you so much trouble, but I truly
did appreciate it. (Meem helped Mrs. Frye on delivery of some ordered Santa Fe slippers.)
My regards to little Nancy and Mrs. Meem.
Mrs. Helen Frye
The unusual sounds on the web page were recorded after midnight at the Frye Ranch (Red
Rock State Park) down along the creek (below the House of Apache Fires). I titled the sound
bite 'the Sacred Guardians of Smoke Trail Ranch'. The screaming creatures are frogs, I think
you will find the cacophony quite interesting. Summer nights at the former Frye Ranch are
alive with the exotic sounds of a variety of night creatures.
Eckankar leadership who rudely ignored her input.
Forgotten Logging Wheels- Gift From Timothy Riordan
The historical 'logging wheels' (seen right)
were used for harvesting timber in Northern
Arizona at the turn-of-the-century. This 1968
image was in color however I only have the
b & w version. The 'skidder wheels' or
'big-wheels' were a gift from close Frye friend
Timothy Riordan, via Joseph Dolan, the
manager of the Arizona Lumber and Timber
Company (this company was owned by
timber-baron Riordan). The date of the gift
was around the first part of September 1942.
The wheels were delivered to the ranch shortly
thereafter. The wheels still rest near the
Apache Fires house. Because they are
currently in a state of deterioration I have
been searching for vintage photos of the
wheels which show them in their original state.
At one time these wheels were mentioned in
an article on the N.A.U. Alumni website which
detailed logging wheels which were used in
Photo (above) was taken by Clyde Munn (Page
1962) on a visit to Helen in 1968. Notice the
oak and iron 'big wheels' have an unusual
tongue as compared to similar ones. By this
time the wheels had been at the Apache Fires
house for about 24-years but were still
standing. The wheels are dated to about
1910-1916, the origin was Redding California.
From a movie-still (seen above) in 1960 we can see the 'logging big wheels' sitting behind the
house. Also, you can see where Helen painted 'For Sale' in white paint (mid-1950's) on the
terrace of her house. It was her desire that a plane passing overhead might desire to purchase
the house (the ranch itself was not for sale). The image (right) is from the Flagstaff Train
Depot. These wheels, restored and displayed, are similar to the Frye wheels (just larger). Helen
described the wheels to her architect in 1946 as follows, "By the way, don’t forget our huge old
logging wheels. We want to use these somewhere, perhaps a gate entrance, but if you have any
other ideas, let us know. They are heavy, made of iron and oak, the axle coming to about my
shoulders (4.5 feet). The wheels were never used for hauling logs once the Frye's obtained them
but were intended to be incorporated into the house. Because the Fryes broke with John Gaw
Meem in the end (1947) and the house plans were revised, the wheels were never used.
Discovery and Enlightenment