This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Why Phoenix tears down its buildings all of time, and what to do about it

If you've lived in Phoenix for more than a few years, you realize that the city tears down buildings, and builds new ones, all of the time. It's the story that I know personally of the Phoenix that I first saw in 1977, and from what I've been learning of its history, it's been going on since 1870, when Phoenix first began.

The first buildings were adobe, then the railroad arrived, and those buildings went away to be replaced with brick buildings, then in the 1920s the embarrassing old brick buildings were replaced with streamlined buildings, and then after World War II those buildings were knocked down or re-skinned to look more modern, and on and on and on. I often think that anyone who lived in Phoenix, and went away for a few years, would come back to a city that looked very different, from Territorial times up to right now.

If you're an old-timer like me, and are still giving directions by saying "Where the New Yorker restaurant used to be", it can be disconcerting. Of course, that place has been gone so long that most of the people never even knew about it, and really, I never went there, so it really couldn't have been all that important to me.

If this constant change bothers you, you have two choices, either accept it, or do something about it. A city like Phoenix has had tremendous "growing pains" all of its life. It just plain grows out of things - churches get too small for the congregations, stores get to small for the growing population, that sort of thing. But many times businesses go away simply because people don't spend their money there anymore.

So if you're protesting on Facebook, or considering writing a stern letter to someone, and are driving past a local store to spend your money elsewhere, you're wasting your time. Speaking for myself, I've been shopping as local as I could for the 20+years I've been living in this neighborhood. I take my dog to the vet that's a few blocks away, I have my burgers at my local sports bar. The only business that I haven't supported is the tattoo shop (sorry, can't do that).

Living in a growing, dynamic, city like Phoenix means growth. People like it there, and more and more people move in. That means bigger buildings, and that's perfectly normal. You can't stop that. But if you like the local businesses in your neighborhood, vote with your wallet. Go there, buy something. You can't always stop your neighborhood into changing into something you don't recognize, but you can do your little part. And you can encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Image at the top of this post: Bashas in Phoenix in the 1960s. I don't have an exact location for this, but it's very similar to the one on 7th Avenue and Osborn, which, as of this writing, is about to be torn down.

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How the design of the 1920s influenced the late 1970s and early '80s

I've always been fascinated with design, and my favorite era is the 1920s and early 1930s, the time of Art Deco, and Boogie Woogie. If you were around in the 1920s, you may remember seeing a lot of it. If you're like me, and were around in the 1970s and early '80s, you saw it, too. Because it made a "comeback" for a while.

Design is like that. It's not unusual for a previous era to become wildly popular again. To my amazement, the 1970s has been making a comeback in the last few years. Yes, I've seen bell-bottom pants. But I digress, this is about the 1920s.

1920s Art Deco font on a 1981 yearbook for Saguaro High School, Phoenix, Arizona.

I was talking to one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) this morning who showed me the cover of a 1981 yearbook, and wanted me to identify the font, which was Art Deco. Of course, I immediately thought of the 1920s, which is the era of Art Deco, and then I started hearing "Boogie Fever" (Google it on YouTube if you weren't there in late 1970s) in my mind and it all started coming back to me that there was a resurgence of interest in the 1920s in the 1970s.

This leaves people who are creating "period pieces" with a dilemma. Because this font isn't what I think of immediately to conjure up 1981, but it was undeniably there. And many songs from the late 1970s did have references to the 1920s and 1930s. But if I were making a movie, I think I'd stay away from that and mostly focus on what was more current at the time, not "retro" stuff.

Retro design is still very popular, and I see it a lot nowadays. I'm noticing it especially on the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, which are design "throwbacks" to the 1960s. And that means that, if in the future I want to create some visuals that are supposed to recall 2017, I'll stay away from those designs, and focus more on "non-retro" designs, such as a Toyota Corolla (to take one design example at random).

So if you lived through the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Art Deco from the 1920s strikes a chord with you, that may be why. You have Boogie Fever!

Image at the top of this post: Art Deco design on the elevators in the Professional Building, now the Hilton Garden Inn, southeast corner of Central and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. Modern photo.

Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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