The underground parking garage from 1953, Block 23, Phoenix, Arizona
If you're a serious Phoenix history fan, you know about Block 23, even if you've never heard it referred to as Block 23. It's between Washington and Jefferson, between 1st and 2nd Street. It's also one of the most important places in downtown Phoenix, the original site of the Phoenix City Plaza (set aside by the city as a public space in 1870), the location of the first Phoenix City Hall, and the first Fire Station, and for those of you who don't remember quite that far back, the location of the Fox Theater and the downtown JC Penney's.
When I first started my serious research on Block 23, I described it as "just a blank" in my memory of downtown Phoenix in the '90s. But apparently it's my mind that was just a blank, not Block 23. It was the location of the city bus terminal, and the "building with the basketball on it", which was the old JC Penney's building, built in 1953, and which was there until 2008, used by the City of Phoenix. You know, the building that you used to see when you walked out of America West/US Airways arena, just north of it.
I've been driving past Block 23 for years now, and just seeing a parking lot. All I did was scoff at it, and it wasn't until just a couple of weeks ago that I took a closer look. There's an underground parking garage there, from 1953! Yes, it's still down there!
As of this writing, I haven't gone into it, but other people have, and sure enough it's in current use. I'll tell you what I know about it.
The underground parking lot was built for the brand new JC Penney's building in 1953. It had three levels, and there was an escalator that took people up to street level. The entrance was on the corner of Jefferson and 2nd Street, and there was even a Chevron gas station there.
I don't know about you, but this kind of stuff just fascinates me. And having underground parking, with an escalator, must have seemed amazingly futuristic in 1953. Of course, it probably wasn't very safe, and since cars had no pollution controls on them at the time, it must have smelled pretty bad.
Thank you for history adventuring with me. I'm still snooping around, and I let you know what I find.
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Posted by Brad Hall