Since 2006 Vail Preservation Society has worked to celebrate and connect our heritage and history and build strong relationships within our community. Vail and Corona are great places to call home. They are even better when their stories are celebrated, preserved, and put to work for the future.

By JJ Lamb

On the southwest intersection of Highway 83 and Interstate 10 is a lonely concrete obelisk. Without its original landscaping or original plaque, it is hardly noticed by the carpoolers who surround it with their parked cars and trucks. This humble obelisk is a monument to an Arizonan who rolled up his sleeves and was part of turning a territory into a state. Lamar Cobb did not live in Vail, but his service to Arizona and the legacy of good roads statewide that he built as Arizona’s first State Engineer are commemorated here along one of the many highways he designed. Lamar Cobb was born in Athens, Georgia in 1870 and died in Phoenix, Arizona in 1926. He served in the 23rd Arizona Territorial Legislature as a delegate from Graham County, was one of the framers of Arizona’s constitution, and served as an Arizona Electoral College delegate. He was Arizona’s first Highway Engineer from 1912-1915.

In 1914 Lamar was invited to be a founding member of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO). This group laid the groundwork for a planned national network of roads. Up to this time roads were built mostly in response to local needs, often providing a way to get farm products to market. Roads were frequently little more than ribbons of dirt stretching from town to town; travelers were plagued by conditions that alternated between miry mud and clouds of dust. In June 1914, Cobb reported to Governor George Hunt that Arizona’s official road system had only two roads consisting of 251 miles. Almost every city, town, and county needed to be connected. In 1916 Lamar Cobb was recruited to be one of seven on the AASHO executive committee that met in Washington D.C.

In 1918 Lamar ran for governor of Arizona against Governor Hunt. It was an unpleasant contest. The financial and emotional toll on Cobb was very high and he returned to his native Georgia for a time, but he soon returned to Arizona to work for Portland Cement until his death in 1926. In 1927 Governor Hunt had the state highway department place a monument to honor his service to Arizona along Highway 83, one of the roads he had designed. Lamar dedicated his life to making sure that Arizona communities that dotted the landscape were accessible to each other through planning and good design. In 2020 there are over 6,000 miles of roadways connecting Arizonans with each other and the nation.

Eyesore into Asset

Vail Preservation Society and Granite Construction, Inc. have recently completed work restoring the Lamar Cobb monument to its former glory. The restored monument now welcomes residents and travelers to stop and discover an important Arizona story and serves as a prefect gateway to scenic Highway 80. Historic preservationist Donovan Rypkema expressed it best, “A community without memory is a meaningless place. Historic resources are the physical manifestation of memory. Today quality of life is essential for a competitive community. The long-term quality and character of a community is directly related to its willingness to identify, protect, and enhance those places that define and differentiate it. Historic preservation is not about being the museums of yesterday; historic preservation is about using heritage resources to build quality of life for tomorrow.”
VPS is proud to work with great partners like Granite Construction to put historic resources to work for greater Vail.

Thank you, Granite Construction, Inc. and staff! Your craftsmanship, funding and in-kind donations made the restoration of the Lamar Cobb Monument possible.

J.J. Lamb is President & CEO of Vail Preservation Society. A U of A graduate, her family has lived in Vail since 1971. She was named an Arizona Culturekeeper in 2011 and an Arizona Friend of the Humanities in 2020.

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