Cornville, Arizona may be next Western White House
Ariz. town may be next Western White House
by John Faherty - Nov. 2, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
If Sen. John McCain proves the pundits wrong on Tuesday and becomes the next president of the United States, Cornville will become the next Western White House.
But first, people would have to find it.
Cornville is about 100 miles north of Phoenix.
It has a population of 3,355 according to the 2000 Census.
It has some restaurants, some bars and vineyards, but more than anything, Cornville is a small country town.
And it may start developing an identity crisis.
When the New York Times or the Washington Post write about McCain's beloved cabin get-away in Cornville, they usually say it is in Sedona.
The problem, of course, is that it is not in Sedona. It's in Cornville.
When asked to describe their town, most residents follow the lead of Becky Wilson, a bartender at the Old Corral Bar, who said: "Cornville is Cornville."
That could all change on Tuesday.
Ronald Reagan had Santa Barbara, Lyndon B. Johnson had the LBJ Ranch in Texas, and the current president has Crawford.
There is no doubt that McCain, if elected, would still retreat to his cabin - actually a large house - along Oak Creek.
It is the talk of the Cornville Barber Shop. At least it is when shop owner Glenna Davis allows politics in the room.
"I don't encourage talking politics here," she said.
So it could happen here, but first people will have to know that "here" is Cornville.
"I'm really tired of people saying John McCain's up in Sedona," said Tom Hallinan, 49, who manages an RV Park in Cornville. "Sedona? Sedona? Where's Cornville?"
It's right where it has always been. Take I-17 to McGuireville, then head west on Forest Road 119, also known as Cornville Road. Go about 9 miles and don't blink.
It appears, however, that Cornville was never supposed to be Cornville.
According to Arizona Place Names, the local postmaster sent in paperwork to Washington, D.C., in 1887 to create the Cohnville Post Office, after a Verde Valley family.
Maybe the ink smudged, but somehow Cohnville Post Office became the Cornville Post Office. It didn't seem to bother anybody much. So it stuck.
In 2008, there are few, very few, "John McCain for President" signs visible in the town.
That may not be a statement about politics as much as it is a reflection of apprehension that a McCain presidency could change the town.
There might be more tourists; there would absolutely be more media.
A Western White House in Cornville could put a town that has enjoyed being off the beaten path right on it.
"The idea of Cornville changing is kind of scary," Wilson said from behind the bar. "Cornville is a nice small community."
Residents say the one thing that has already changed in Cornville is people stopping to ask for directions to the McCain residence.
"Everyone wants to come in and ask where John McCain lives," said Randy Hale, 54, who owns the Manzanita Restaurant, which features authentic German food.
"I tell them it's a pretty nondescript forest road. There are no shining lights saying, 'John McCain lives here.' "
And he's right.
The McCain place is at the end of a long dirt road and it becomes clear you may be getting close only when you pass a driveway with a cardboard sign that says: Not McCain's Drive.
The people who live in Cornville say that when he arrives at his home, he usually stays there.
"I used to work at the diner near his place, and he would come in with his whole family every once in a while," Wilson said. "He was real nice. Always wearing a baseball hat. A good tipper."
Aleda Frazier moved to Cornville about two years ago from Wisconsin.
She likes Cornville the way it is and does not worry about it changing.
"It's a real nice place, and I don't think it would change much," Frazier said. "It seems Cornville is pretty resistant to change."