Julia Miller

In the 1930s, Julia Miller took over managing the Lion Farm, one of several Miller family run business situated on Route 66. The Lion Farm was located on a particularly stunning vista near the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, but it was built cheaply out of readily accessible materials and relied on large roadside signs to entice travelers to stop.  By incorporating the promise of exotic animals along with iconography drawn from various Native American cultures, the Miller family was capitalizing on a mythical view of the American West that was prevalent in the time period.  When park superintendent Smith built a checking station that started to divert traffic down the Painted Desert Rim road and into the park away from the Lion Farm and other local businesses, he began a long battle with Julia.  She wrote to the Secretary of the Interior and the director of the Park Service and complained that this was ruining her and other local businesses.  Smith fought back claiming that her property was a “blot on the scenery” with an overpowering stench and that it was “unsanitary”.  Miller and the park service battled back and forth about this starting in the 1930s for at least a decade.  Julia claimed that if the Park Service went through with its plans, it would be to the “detriment and financial ruin of many of the pioneers of Arizona who have invested their life savings in small business enterprizes [sic] to entertain and direct tourists in viewing the Painted Desert and other beauties of Arizona.”

For more information:

The Navajo County Historical Society, Holbrook, Arizona

Lillian Makeda’s excellent article “A Fly In the Amber: Route 66 Architecture at Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park:  A Wilderness Bound In Time

 

 

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