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

Maryvale, past, present and future, Phoenix, Arizona


As someone who is interested in Phoenix history, when I mention Maryvale to people I get a lot of different responses. My opinion about Maryvale is that I find it fascinating. And I'm interested in its past, present, and future.

Let's time-travel back to Phoenix after World War II. After the dark days of the war, the United States' economy was booming. Yet, one of the worst things that happened to young people who wanted to start a family was the terrible housing shortage. It seemed like homes just couldn't be built fast enough, and just about anything with four walls was acceptable. So, houses were being thrown up everywhere, and people were glad to have them.

John F. Long (on the left) in Maryvale in 1961, with spokesman actor Ronald Reagan.

But Maryvale was different. The developer, John F. Long, didn't just want to build a bunch of houses. He wanted to build a community. He wanted shopping centers, hospitals, and parks. Nowadays we call that a "Master Planned Community". He called his new community Maryvale, after his wife Mary.

It must have been amazing. Instead of building just a bunch of houses out in the desert, John built a place for people to live. He designed a community which even included a golf course. It doesn't sound like much now, but it was a pretty new idea back then!

Maryvale in the 1960s. The new golf course in on the left.

Of course the houses were affordable. That was as important back then as it is now. But they weren't just cookie-cutter houses, they had style. If you look at old photos of Maryvale, you can see that.

Nowadays, Maryvale has lost a lot of that style. In fact, a lot of people look at it and wonder what I'm talking about. When people talk about Maryvale they talk about how run-down it's gotten. And it is kind'a sad to see, especially if you know about what John and Mary had done.

Maryvale Community Hospital in the 1960s

The future of Maryvale will depend on what people in Phoenix want. As of this writing, there is still a lot of wide-open land around Phoenix, especially north and west, with brand new subdivisions being built. I visited one of them yesterday and I was reminded of the people I knew in Los Angeles who bought houses so far away from where they needed to go that they spent several hours a day commuting on the freeway. And as nice and new and the houses were that I saw yesterday, I saw no community. I saw gigantic block walls and big slabs of boxy houses. I wonder if this is what people want? I guess they do. But maybe it's because they never knew about places like Maryvale.


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