Article by Hoyt Johnson
Unquestionably, one of the most uniquely interesting stories related to the creation and development of a commercial entity in Sedona is about The Morris Company, longtime builder of impressive residences and tourism facilities, as well as myriad civic headquarters and business centers.
Speaking of things that are artful, if this beautiful city was thought of as an extremely large art gallery, then Phil might very well be thought of as the artist who has his work displayed throughout this expansive, imagined “gallery.” Yes, luxurious homes in the private golf community of Seven Canyons to the dramatic setting at Eagle Mountain, and from Soldier Pass to the vicinity of Cathedral Rock; resorts like Los Abrigados and Enchantment; civic facilities like Sedona Medical Center and handsome business locations like Hillside Sedona, dot this entire community – and in a relative sense, these signature works by Phil are not unlike the creations of acclaimed artists that grace the walls and rooms of Sedona’s finest galleries.
What is it that has caused attention to specifically be focused on The Morris Company at this time? Of particular significance, this prominent firm has been in business for 40 years, which is a long time anywhere – but in Sedona, which didn’t have an official name until 1902 and wasn’t incorporated until 1988, two decades after this company started doing business, it is a very long time.
As the story goes, Phil’s uncle and aunt, George and Sally Black, purchased a ranch house, constructed in the early 1900’s by T.C. Schnebly and his wife, Sedona, this community’s namesake. After the Blacks had obtained the Schnebly home in 1916, it burned down in 1918 and two years later, George and Sally constructed the charming stone house that today is the historic hallmark of Los Abrigados Resort. In 1927, Phil’s father, Marion, who had directed the construction of major projects for an internationally involved corporation, came to Sedona to “retire,” but he also worked for the Blacks. Some years later, he built homes in the area that is now Village of Oakcreek.
With regard to the historical perspective of this company’s presence in Sedona, it is surprising to note that only a decade before Phil started business in 1967, people who traveled between Phoenix and Sedona did so via Wickenburg, Prescott, Jerome and Cottonwood – and the entire 135-mile alignment of Interstate 17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff wasn’t opened until 1978, a decade-plus after Phil organized his company.
Other notable occasions that effectively date the 1967 debut of The Morris Company include the start of a weekly newspaper, Red Rock News, in 1963; formation of Cowboy Artists of America at Oak Creek Tavern – today, Cowboy Club – in 1965; the arrival of Elvis Presley to film “Stay Away Joe” and a development company’s creation of Village of Oakcreek, both in 1967; and the establishment of Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, as well as Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge, in the ‘70’s.
The Morris Company received statewide recognition as one of Arizona’s 100 largest, privately held companies.
There’s something else, too: People who know Phil best understand that he absolutely loves to build his own homes. Fact is, he would drive a fortune-teller crazy because it is well-known that no one could accurately foretell when he will build the next new residence for himself and his wife, Pamela, who is an extremely talented interior designer. Indeed, Phil and Pamela continuously search for something new – an unknown site, a creative design, a revolutionary technique, a surprising concept – and they repeatedly create and dispose of personal residences with the verve of San Diego surfers. Phil has been doing this for 40 years, so it isn’t expected that he will stop when he has a little more time.
The contention is supported by the fact that despite being involved with considerable commercial construction in the Phoenix/Scottsdale and Sedona areas – including The Clubhouse at Desert Highlands, Dale Anderson’s Restaurant, Los Abrigados Resort, Sedona Medical Center, Hillside Sedona, The Inn on Oak Creek and El Rojo Grandé Ranch plus an acclaimed residential development, The Cottages at Coffeepot, and a long list of Sedona’s most impressive homes – Phil has created numerous personal residences.
Among these private homes are a uniquely charming, relatively small home between Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village and Los Abrigados Resort; a picturesque country home on Oak Creek in the Pages Springs area; a contemporary, two-story ranch residence on Oak Creek in a historic Sedona residential area; and a luxurious barn-style home on Oak Creek, just off of Upper Red Rock Loop Road. Also, Phil and Pamela currently are constructing a beautiful, casually inviting home that hangs on the edge of spectacular Eagle Mountain in the vicinity of Red Rock State Park.
Now, as The Morris Company celebrates its 40-year history, there is interesting speculation regarding how much The Morris Company will change. Probably, it won’t be very much. It appears that little change is anticipated because this legendary firm has enjoyed exceptional success for a very long time – and the old maxim, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” seems quite appropriate.
Just as with the Energizer Bunny, some batteries never wear out – not even after 40 years!