By Dominika Maslikowski
Arizona has a long history of quirky characters and free spirits, but topping the list is the state’s first governor George W.P. Hunt, buried in a Giza-style white pyramid tomb atop a hill in Phoenix’s Papago Park. Hunt was so fascinated by the pyramids after a trip to Egypt that he asked the US Congress for permission to build the pyramid tomb in the southwestern state’s capital.
“In my last sleep I want to be buried that I may in my spirit overlook this splendid valley,” he said in one of his last wishes before his death in 1934.
Born in Huntsville, Missouri, in 1859, Hunt was a self-made man who arrived in Globe, Arizona, in 1881 with little besides the clothes on his back. He studied political science and worked odd jobs as a delivery boy at Bailey and Company before he became its president a decade later. He married Helen Duett Ellison, a daughter of Texas pioneers who shot guns and rode horses, in 1904. Today she is buried in the tomb alongside her husband.
In 1910, Hunt helped write the Arizona Constitution, which granted women the right to vote eight years before the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution extended that right to all American women. He was a progressive governor who served seven terms starting in 1912, when Arizona became America’s 48th state, and worked to improve the young state’s infrastructure while securing its rights to water from the Colorado River. He was called a friend of the common man, and enemy of big-money railroad and mining trusts.
Hunt took some time in between gubernatorial terms in 1920 to see the world and became fascinated with Egyptian pyramids during his globe-trotting. His 20-foot-tall pyramid is on the National Register of Historic Places and cost $1,700 to construct, paid by Hunt in 1932. Aside from Hunt and his wife, the pyramid is the final resting place of four other family members.