Saturday, March 31, 2007

Historic downtown Phoenix - a 1.5 mile self-guided walking tour

[Source: Barbara Yost, Arizona Republic] -- In 1867, the U.S. General Land Office began surveying Arizona and the Salt River Valley into townships, and by 1870 the location of Phoenix was selected and named. Early Phoenix desert was surrounded by irrigated farmland, which used a canal system (similar to prehistoric Hohokam canals) built between 1867-1885. This canal system allowed homesteaders, businessmen, investors and promoters to reclaim the desert and transformed it into fields of alfalfa, grains, vegetables and, eventually, citrus and cotton. Because the water supply was unpredictable in 1911, Roosevelt Dam was built to ensure a consistent supply. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Phoenix had railroad connections to two transcontinental lines and had become a major distribution center, not only for agriculture but for mining and manufacturing, too. Downtown Phoenix kept its 1920s identity well into the late 1960s, when the face of the city changed with the construction of office towers in the central core. Fortunately, many of the key commercial and civic buildings from the 1920s remain.

1. Fry Building, northwest corner of Second and Washington streets - is the earliest known intact commercial building in Phoenix. This two-story building was built in 1885. In 1904, the north addition of the Fry Building was erected and the storefronts were remodeled in 1950.

2. Hanny’s Building, 44 N. First St. - was built in 1947 by Vic Hanny, a local businessman. This store brought the International/Moderate Style influence to Phoenix and sparked a major face lift in the downtown area.

3. Professional Building, 137 N. Central Ave. - provided centrally located medical offices for the first time in Phoenix. It was built in 1931. This is the largest limestone-sheathed building in Arizona and is an Art Deco/Moderne Style skyscraper. The top story was added in 1958.

Getting started: A Walking Tour of Historic Downtown Phoenix is published by the Historic Preservation Office of the City of Phoenix, Neighborhood Services Department. Phone: (602) 261-8699. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]