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

Hatred of the new buildings in Phoenix in the 1930s


Since I'm interested in old buildings, and history, many people assume that I dislike new buildings, and modern times, but I don't. I'm not a historian, I'm a time-traveler. So when I look at a building, I time-travel back to imagine what it looked like when it was brand-new, what was there before, and what people's reaction was.

It may surprise you how much the new buildings of the 1920s and 30s were hated by the old-timers in Phoenix. Buildings that we now consider gems, like the Westward Ho, were just seen as gigantic, hideous, ridiculous, monstrosities. Time travel with me and let's take a look.

If you stand there and look up Central Avenue north from Van Buren before the 1920s, you see a lot of big houses. There were mansions, gracious lawns, leafy trees. Wealthy families like the Goldwaters had lived on Central Avenue, and it was still a beautiful residential neighborhood in the 1920s.

And then a gigantic hotel suddenly emerged, right there on Central and Fillmore. And I mean, really, would you have wanted that monstrosity looking down on your house, with all of those windows with strangers who could now look into your backyard? It also brought a lot of traffic, because, well, it was a gigantic hotel. It would have been like having a Big Box store suddenly appear in a nice neighborhood.

Walk around Phoenix in the 1920s and 30s and look at all of the new buildings, like the Professional Building, or the Orpheum Lofts. There are a lot more I'm sure you know about. Nowadays, of course, Art Deco is considered beautiful, and artistic. It must have just looked ridiculous to the old timers, who preferred the dignity of the type of brick and wood buildings that they grew up with.

The Professional Building in the 1930s

So, if you imagine a lot of oohing and ahhing from Phoenix residents when the new buildings went up, think again. They hated them, and wanted to tear them down. And many people still feel that way today about new buildings. But I don't. I love 'em, and I make a point of visiting them as soon as I can. I would have liked to have seen the Westward Ho when it was new in the 1930s, but I couldn't. But I have made a point to visit the new buildings in Phoenix, such as the one pictured below, because years from now I want to tell people that I remembered when it was brand new, and it was amazing!

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Building, downtown Phoenix.


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