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

Block 23, Territorial City Hall, Phoenix, Arizona


If you've been following the story of Block 23 in Phoenix, you may have read about the plans to build a grocery store there. As of this writing, April 2016, it's just been announced, but no construction has begun. Block 23, by the way is between Washington and Jefferson and 1st and 2nd Streets.

If you lived in territorial Phoenix, you would have called Block 23 City Hall Plaza. This chunk of land was set aside when the city was platted in 1870, and until the late 1920s it was a public space, mostly filled with trees, a fountain, and a gazebo where generations of Phoenicians gathered to socialize, and to watch parades.

Of course Phoenix has always had growing pains, so by the time the new City Hall/Maricopa County Courthouse was planned to be built over on Washington and 1st Avenue (now Historic City Hall), the old Territorial Court House was really in need of being retired. And so the city turned over Block 23 to commercial use, and a gigantic theater was built there, called the Fox. The old-timers must have been outraged, but Phoenix was no longer a tiny town. Of course, they were probably outraged back in 1893, when they started seeing numbers instead of names on maps of Phoenix. The map above, by the way, was created by a company called Sanborn, which did very careful labelling of buildings for fire insurance purposes. Note how 2nd Street has Maricopa (the original name) in parenthesis, and Montezuma is now labelled as 1st Street.

If you lived in Phoenix between 1931 and 1975, you will remember the Fox Theater, which was on the northwest corner of Block 23. And if you lived in Phoenix between 1953 and 2008, you will remember the JC Penney's building, which the city of Phoenix took over in the 1970s, about the time the city bus terminal replaced the demolished Fox Theater.

Nowadays Block 23 is just a parking lot. People who remember Phoenix know how important this place has been historically, and how it's changed over the years, just like most of Phoenix.

Block 23 in 1888. You, and the horses, are looking east from 1st Street between Washington and Jefferson, at the Territorial City Hall building.


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