Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Why the signs say you can't take photos at Sahuaro Ranch, Glendale, Arizona


One of my favorite places in the world is just a few blocks from me - the Sahuaro Ranch (yes, it's misspelled that way), which is just north of Glendale Community College, between Peoria and Olive and 59th and 63rd Avenues. I've been there more times than I can count, and I'm always up for another visit. It's one of the "hidden gems" of the Phoenix area. I love to takes pictures of the historic buildings, the rose garden, the beautiful palm trees. But if you've seen the signs saying that you aren't allowed to take photos, and panicked, you may have misunderstood. I'll see if I can put your mind at ease, and not worry about taking photos there, and not worry about me taking photos.

They mean commercial photography. And it's pretty much true of doing commercial photography anywhere outside of private property, or a studio. Back in the '90s, when I worked as a Graphic Designer for the Marketing Department of Bank One, I had the chance to spend a fair amount of time around commercial photographers. These were among the top photographers in town, and they knew what to do. They got permission, they got permits. So if they set up their cameras, and tripods, and had their models and props all over the place, they had gotten the OK beforehand, from either the venue or the city.

Peacock at the Sahuaro Ranch in the 1940s, Glendale, Arizona. Yes, they're still there. Well, their descendants. And yes, you can take a photo of them.

The Foreman's House at the Sahuaro Ranch, Glendale, Arizona.

The pecan orchard at the Sahuaro Ranch, Glendale, Arizona.

Since the Sahuaro Ranch is a public park, it's open to anyone. You can walk your dog there, go smell the roses, or just enjoy its beauty. Its upkeep is paid for by the City of Glendale. It's for the citizens. Yes, commercial photographers can use it, but they need permission. It's not as if they're going to frighten the peacocks with their cameras, it's just that a place like that could easily become overrun by commercial photographers. And, if you follow me here, they if they got out of control, commercial photographers could fill up the park with all of their stuff, probably driving their trucks in to haul equipment, and just generally get in the way of the most important people - average citizens.

So go ahead and take photos at Sahuaro Ranch. Do a selfie with your big old head in front of a historic building. Take pictures of the peacocks. I like taking pictures of my dog. Get some pics of the rose garden in bloom in January to annoy your friends who live back east. It's your park, enjoy it!

See you there.

Sahuaro Ranch (then called Bartlett Ranch) in 1908. It's now within the city limits of Glendale.

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Visiting the Legend City Amusement Park in the 1960s, Phoenix-Tempe, Arizona


Legend City was an amusement park that was between Phoenix and Tempe, north of the Salt River, near where the Phoenix Municipal Stadium is, which operated from 1963 to 1983. And, no, I never got to see it. But this blog is for time-traveling, and I want to go there now. I want to see it, I want to experience it, and mostly I want to feel it. And if you went there, hopefully you will help me to understand. Let's go!

We're kids in the 1960s, all I can say is that they can't seem to make up their mind about what it is, but I love it. There are old west shootouts, and dinosaurs. I guess in the future some of it would be very "politically incorrect", but no one seems to mind now. Their slogan is Guns, Girls, and Games, and I have no idea what that means. I'm pretty sure it's an old west theme. Like the westerns that I see on TV, like Gunsmoke, and the Rifleman. Where people get shot and just go "aaauuggh, ya got me!" and fall down. And the saloon girls who work upstairs (I don't know what that means) all have hearts of gold.

Legend City in the 1960s

Frontier Town at Legend City in the 1960s

Flying over Legend City in the 1960s. Phoenix Municipal Stadium is just to the upper right. You're looking north.

Well, we're kids, so the idea is to stuff our faces with as much sugary snacks as possible and then get on as many rides as we can. Wow, my stomach feels kind of weird, how are you? Maybe I shouldn't have had that last creme soda!

Thank you for visiting Legend City with me!

Legend City ticket from 1972

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Where to get a bargain in old-time Phoenix - Five Points


Five Points is the intersection of 7th Avenue, Van Buren, and Grand in Phoenix. The reason that it's called Five Points, is that you can go in five different directions from that intersection - 1) west on Van Buren, 2) east on Van Buren, 3) south on 7th Avenue, 4) north on 7th Avenue and 5) northwest on Grand.

Let's time-travel back to Phoenix in 1913. This is waaaayy out on the edge of town. And there's no trolley to that destination, so it's kinda difficult to get to. You can walk there, or you can take one of those new fangled "automobiles", or you can ride a horse. But since there's no trolley line to there, it's not as convenient a place to shop as most other shopping areas in Phoenix, so it's a place for bargains. Kind of like Outlet Stores are nowadays.

In the 1913 ad at the top of this post, it looks like walking there was being encouraged. And they're showing why you should be able to get bargains at Five Points stores. Even though it's only five blocks from the Post Office (which was on Van Buren and 1st Avenue), it's out of the "high rent district". Other benefits were live, energetic merchants, and hitching posts to tie your team (of horses). And there was a Post Office there, too. Post Offices were very important back then!

Let's walk over to Five Points. Everybody's doing it now. We can go to the Famer's Exchange, the Missouri Clothing Store, Five Points Barber Shop, the Cowboy Corral, the Variety Store, the Blue House, Five Points Livery, Osborne Concrete Company, Five Points Painting Shop, L.C. Eblen Hardware, the Golden Star, Henderson Brothers (I need a fly swatter!), the Log Cabin Bakery, Smith and Mason Blacksmiths, W.E. Atkinson, the Arizona Bottling Works, William Wetzler, and the J.D. Halstead Lumber Company.

Thanks for visiting Five Points with me today! My ankle hurts, so can I ride your horse back into town?

O.S. Stanley at Five Points in the 1940s. As of this writing, the building is still there, on Grand north of Van Buren.


1894 ad for Five Points Saloon. Pepper's whiskey and the coolest and freshest glass of draught (draft) beer in the city at 5 cents.


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Why Phoenix is a suburb of Los Angeles, and San Francisco


Every once in a while I hear someone say, in a joking way, that Phoenix is a suburb of Los Angeles. And I agree. Because while the distance is great, the connection is very tight. And if you go back further in time, the connection is with San Francisco. And like a child yearning for independence, there has always been a little bit of a resentful attitude towards these California cities.

Los Angeles when Phoenix was young.

In this blog my main focus in Phoenix history, but you can't study Phoenix history without including California, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. And that's because Phoenix began with reliance on San Francisco, in the 1800s, and continued with Los Angeles in the 20th Century. And while Phoenix has become more self-reliant in the 21st Century, the influences remain.

As long as I can remember, people in Phoenix have said that they "don't want to be like LA". And that meant freeways, sprawling suburbia, smog, that sort of thing. But it happened. But Phoenix has been watching Los Angeles, and as a distant "suburb", has learned from its mistakes. Yes, there are freeways, but they're much better engineered, and attention has been placed on controlling air pollution, and attempts have been made to control sprawl. But, like any LA suburb, there are freeways, smog, and sprawl.

San Francisco in 1906

If you time-travel back further in time, it's all about San Francisco. Because as big and important as Los Angeles is nowadays, back in the 1800s, it really wasn't much. San Francisco was it. Ships arrived with goods from all over the world, and Phoenix needed that stuff, which was brought in by train.

As a former Angelino, I find it just adorable when my favorite city, Phoenix, stands up and insists that "it's big", like a three-year-old insisting that it can do it itself. And Phoenix has gotten big, and when people say that it's really just a suburb of Los Angeles, it can rankle. But Phoenix has a long way to go, and along its journey it will continue to look over its shoulder to the City of Angels and the City by the Bay.

Image at the top of this post: Flying over downtown Phoenix in the 1960s. From a postcard.

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Why the Calvary Church sign has a star on it, the original Westown sign


If you've seen the Calvary Community Church sign, which is just west of the I-17 freeway between Thunderbird and Cactus Roads in Phoenix, you probably weren't surprised to see a star. After all, it's a church, and a star is appropriate. But the star was there long before the church, in fact it was the original sign for Westown.

Time-travel with me back to the 1960s. And we're gonna drive waaaaayyyyyy north of Phoenix on the Black Canyon Highway. There are a few scattered houses, and businesses out there, but not much. Heck, even Metrocenter wouldn't be there until 1972. We're going to Westown.

The original Westown sign in the 1960s

I have no idea why it's out here. But you can see the Westown sign, with the star, for miles and miles. And it isn't just a mall, it's kind of a little community of businesses. It's a shopping city. Of course, there's a Valley Bank, and look over there, a nice big A.J. Bayless!

A.J. Bayless at Westown, Phoenix, Arizona.


1960s ad for Westown merchants, Phoenix, Arizona.

And don't forget T.G.&Y., Para Dimes Laundromat, Westown Union Service Station, Martin's Shoes, the Photo Den, Mary Lee's Beauty Salon, G&E TV Service and Sales, Stretch's Sip & Snack, Ryan Evans Drug Store, Famer's Insurance, Merry-Go-Round Nursery, Econo-Mart, and Pepe's Mexican Food.

Hey, Mexican Food sounds great, and I'm hungry! Let's go to Pepe's!

Many of the original buildings of Westown remain. To get a better view of them, drive along 27th Avenue near Larkspur, which is north of Cactus.


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How to tell if you're an Arizona or Southern California local, using "the" for freeways


I've only lived three places in my life, Minnesota (where I grew up), California (where I lived in the '80s) and Arizona, where I am now, and where I always hope to be. So when I heard that it was unusual to add the word "the" to a freeway number, I was surprised. Then I put it to the test - sure enough, I found myself saying "take the 10", "take the 101" (both of which are freeways in Los Angeles and Phoenix) but when I thought of where I learned to drive, in Minneapolis, I found myself saying "take 35W".

This train of thought started for me just a couple of months ago, when I read an article that insisted that the use of "the" was strictly a Southern California thing. So I asked around here in Arizona. Everyone, and I mean everyone, I talked to includes the word "the". It seemed like a silly question to people I asked, but my friends are used to me asking silly questions.

So, apparently this is a Southern California and Arizona thing, using the word "the". I always do it, and I never heard myself doing it. So, if you're a local, you probably do, too. And people from elsewhere may look at you kinda funny.

Right now I'm kinda curious about elsewhere. The article that I saw insisted that it was strictly a Southern California thing, but obviously it's not. I talked to my brother, who lives in the Bay area, and he says he hears people saying it with and without the "the".

What do you say? Please let me know in the comments!


1960s master freeway plan for the Phoenix, Arizona area.

A postcard showing Black Canyon Freeway in the 1960. I've always said "the Black Canyon Freeway", and if you do, then you're probably a local.


Construction of the 1-10 with the 303 freeway, Phoenix, Arizona. ADOT calls it Interstate 10 and Loop 303.

Image at the top of this post: The I-17 freeway under construction in 1961, Phoenix, Arizona. Also called the Black Canyon Freeway.


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Watching the Fox Theater being built in downtown Phoenix in 1931


It's 1931 and everyone is talking about the new theater being built on Washington and 1st Street, called the Fox. Let's go take a look.

OK, no one has seen us sneak up onto this roof, let's take a look. Wow, you sure get a good view of South Mountain from up here!

The old-timers are complaining because this is where the city park used to be, and the old City Hall, but but this is Phoenix, and it's all about progress. And this is amazing! And even more so since the big depression hit a couple of years ago. I'm surprised it's being built! I hope that I can scrape up enough money to go see some shows.

It sure is fancy! I wonder what it will look like on the inside? Phoenix has a lot of theaters, but this has got to be the biggest and the best. This will really be a point of pride for the city, I hope that it will always be here, and I hope to be going to movies with my great-great grandchildren!

What? You think that maybe they're gonna tear it down in about forty years? And leave an empty place with just a parking lot for another forty years? What an imagination you have! Come on!

Inside of the Fox Theater in the 1930s


Inside of the Fox Theater in the 1930s


Inside of the Fox Theater in the 1940s


Built on Block 23 in 1931, the Fox Theater was torn down in 1975, and, as of this writing, Block 23 is still just a parking lot. There are plans to develop it.



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Why Phoenix changed so much after 1887


If you've lived in Phoenix for a while, I think you'd agree that it changes a lot. Old buildings are torn down, new buildings spring up. For the past few years I've noticed that the street corners that I used to know so well all seem to look the same, as they're either a Walgreens or a CVS. And people who have lived here longer than me have seen it over and over again. At the risk of sounding poetic, Phoenix really is like the legendary Phoenix Bird, which was reborn from its ashes over and over again.

So, it fascinates me to how many times Phoenix has been reinvented. I like seeing the things that remain the same, like the mountains and the streets, but the buildings tend to disappear. And what fascinates me the most is trying to visualize what happened after 1887, when the railroad finally arrived in Phoenix.

Time-travel with me to the 1870s. Phoenix was platted in 1870, and the town started growing right away. I guess it had the things that people wanted, like cheap land, and, well, cheap land. It had a steady supply of water, from "Swilling's Ditch" - the canal that ran along Van Buren, and it had, let's see, oh yeah, cheap land. It certainly didn't have a railroad. Phoenix would have to wait eighteen years for the arrival of the railroad.


And without a railroad, it wasn't easy to transport building materials to Phoenix. And no, the rivers didn't flow enough to float ships on them, in spite of modern-day fantasy about it. Building materials had to be hauled in by mule train, or found right there.

So the local building material was mud, reinforced with whatever could be found locally, mesquite, cactus, whatever. If you had a LOT of money, you could bring in some timber from up north, with a mule train. In fact, some of the pre-1887 buildings were so crude that after they were abandoned, people thought that they were very ancient. They were just mud, rocks, and a little bit of timber.

Then in 1887 the railroad arrived, and everything changed. Building materials suddenly became much cheaper (although they were still expensive!) and buildings made of brick started to pop up. The old adobes were abandoned, or knocked down (which didn't really take much, they tended to melt in the rain).

If you lived in Phoenix before 1887, and went away for a few years, your city would have become almost unrecognizable when you got back. That's what Phoenix does.

Image above: Washington between 1st Street and Central in the early 1880s. After the railroad arrived, this would all change very suddenly, and the old adobe buildings would be left behind.


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From Peoria, Illinois to Peoria, Arizona and the Presbyterian Church


If you like looking at old buildings in the Phoenix area, you've seen the Peoria Presbyterian Church. It's over by the Peoria History Museum, on 83rd Avenue west of Grand Avenue.

I visited it a couple of days ago and I immediately went into my "time-traveling" mode. It was 1892 and the church had just been built. Well, the building at least. The Presbyterian Church is the congregation of people who had moved from Peoria, Illinois, to Arizona. I'm not trying to be obtuse here, but a Church is wherever two or more are gathered in His Name. And in 1892 this area must have looked (please excuse the expression, but it's the best description) as God-forsaken as anywhere in the world.

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Look around you. Miles and miles and miles of desert. Dust, dirt, sand, and tumbleweeds. To the west you can see the White Tank Mountains, which the Apaches still protect. To the south are the Estrella Mountains, where the Pimas live. To the east you can see the Phoenix Mountains, and especially Camelback Mountain. The young folk with better eyesight can see the McDowell Mountains way out east, nearby where the Pima people also live. To the southeast are the Salt River Mountains, which would be come to be known as South Mountain. You can see Grand Avenue over there, although it's quite a fancy name for just a wide dirt road. There are laterals from the Arizona Canal, which is just north, and has been there for almost ten years, but relying on water from a canal just seems kinda iffy. A lot of people are drilling wells. And a lot of people are praying for rain.

The people around us have that combination of home-sickness and the feeling of promise that's typical of being so far away from home. Of course, we can take the train back to Illinois anytime we want to, it's not like we're stranded out here. But the train is expensive, and this is our home now. The congregation has built a church, and with hope there may be a chance of life. Time will tell.

Old people in Phoenix, and the breath of life of desert air


If you've ever spent much time in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you know that there are a lot of old people there. I see a plenty of of them here in the west valley, as I'm only a few miles from Sun City. And, if history is any indication, there will be a LOT more old people in the Phoenix area in the future.

And although Sun City, which was established in 1961, is the first thing most of us think about when we think of old people in Phoenix, it goes way back before that.

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Time-travel with me to the days when tuberculosis was fairly common in large cities. You don't hear much about tuberculosis nowadays, but it's still around (TB has not been eradicated). In the 1800s most people would have called it "consumption". It's an infectious disease that's spread through the air. Yes, people coughing on you could give it to you. And it killed a lot of people, and it was a terrible way to die. Once you got it, there wasn't much that doctors could do for you, so many people just moved out of crowded cities and went where they could, like the desert, in the hopes that they would be able to breath easier there.

Sunnyslope, Arizona in 1946. North of the canal was considered much healthier. It certainly was drier!

Nowadays, just breathing desert air doesn't sound like much of a prescription, but for a lot of people, it was a life-saver. People came out to the Phoenix area, and lived in tents if they had to, desperate for breath, and life. And although many people died, many didn't. They got old. In fact, the man who built Camelback Inn, John C. Lincoln (yes, the man who built the hospital in Sunnyslope), lived to be 97. He came out to the desert for his wife, who had contracted tuberculosis, and she lived to be 101.

So, people have been coming out to the Phoenix area for their health, and for a long life, for over 100 years. And that means that there are a LOT of old people in Phoenix. If you live in Phoenix, take care of yourself, exercise, take your meds, and enjoy that desert air, chances are very good that you will become one of those old people!

Image at the top of this post: 1960s ad for Sun City, Arizona.

Discovering everything about Phoenix history


If you're like me, you want to know everything about Phoenix history. And that means reading original documents, looking at old photos, listening to people talk about Phoenix. And if that's your goal, well then it's gonna take some time. I've been working on it for many years now and plan on working on it as long as I take the strength to. Lucky, I drink a lot of coffee!

Since I've been a teacher, I know that giving a short answer can be helpful, and it can also be a disservice. On this blog, I try to condense what I've been finding to spark curiosity. Yeah, teachers do that - they tell you a little bit about something, then they hand you a book. If a short answer inspires you to learn more, that's great. If a short answer is all you get, then it's like sprinkling drops of water on the face of someone dying of thirst - it's not enough for people who truly thirst.

One of the most common things I hear from some people is for me to explain something in a "couple of sentences". For something as complex as Phoenix history, it can't be done. The best I can do is to say a couple of sentences and then recommend that the person do their own research, at the Library of Congress, at the ASU and the UofA's Digital Collections, or thousands of other places. And then, when you find something cool, please share it with me.

So, yes, I want to learn everything about Phoenix history. I want to know about every person, every place, every building, everything that ever happened there. So this blog is just where I write things to help me to organize my mind, it's not my research. My research goes on all of the time, and I post most of my raw data on a Google+ page called Phoenix, Arizona Historical Images. I try to provide links for everything I'm finding.

So thank you for walking me on this history adventuring blog. And if it makes you want to find out more, that's great. If it makes you want to find out everything, even better. I can use all of the help that I can get!

Image at the top of this post: Looking east on Washington from Central Avenue in 1872, Phoenix, Arizona.


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The use of tobacco in old-time Phoenix


As a time-traveler, and non-smoker, I often think about how much tobacco was in use in old-time Phoenix.

If you look at the interior of an old building in Phoenix, and really want to see what it looked like "back in the day", you have to include the use of tobacco. To our modern eyes, it would be a world of smoggy, hazy, rooms, the smell of burning cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. And there would also be the smell of tobacco that had been recently (and not so recently) spit out, into a "spittoon".

It's difficult for me to imagine, but the use of tobacco was very common up until the 1970s, when I was coming of age. Up to that time, aside from people who considered it "a nasty habit", it hadn't been conclusively linked to lung cancer, and even doctors smoked. My parents gave up smoking in the late 1960s, but I had often been told that the doctor told my mother to to "continue with her regular habits", which included smoking, when she was pregnant with me.

As a non-smoker, my working experience has been very lucky. I started my corporate career in Los Angeles in the 1980s, when smoking was just being banned from workplaces (and I worked for Blue Cross, and they were very insistent on it!), and Valley Center (now Chase Tower) had just banned smoking in the building when I got there in the early '90s. So I sometimes look at old buildings and imagine that I would be coughing and choking amidst the all the smoke, and smell. But probably not.

Time-travel with me. Let's walk into the lobby of the Adams Hotel in the 1920s, which is the picture at top of this post. That's where the Marriott Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel is nowadays. Of course, you can't smoke in the lobby now, but back in the 1920s, you would have been weird if you didn't. The old-timers may have still insisted on chewing tobacco, and would have been disgusted at the lack of spittoons. Wealthy businessmen would display their wealth with expensive cigars that sent up plumes of smoke like smokestacks. Even the ladies were smoking cigarettes, as a way of showing how modern and liberated they were. Kids would be smoking in Adam's Alley (formerly Melinda's Alley).

And so, even if we're non-smokers now, back then we probably would have been smokers. And we wouldn't have noticed the use of tobacco then any more than people notice the smell of internal combustion engines now.

Image at the top of this post: the lobby of the Adams Hotel in the 1920s. How many ash trays can you count in the photo? Hey! Is that a spittoon?

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A restaurant that has been in Phoenix since, like, forever - Sing High


One of the most common things I hear from people when I ask how long a particular restaurant in Phoenix have been there is, "Since, like, forever". Actually, some people don't even pause, and they just say "Since forever!"

What I hear from that is that they don't remember a time when the restaurant wasn't there - even when they were kids. And Sing High Chop Suey House is one of those restaurants. It's been there since, like, forever,

If the photo at the top of this post doesn't look familiar to you, even though you've been going to Sing High's since 1981, it just because that it is a photo of the original location, on Madison and 3rd Street. It had to move when the basketball arena was built. That's the Regency Hotel there on the left, so you're looking north.

Sing High Chop Suey House in the 1970s, 3rd Street and Madison, Phoenix, Arizona.

When I started my research on Sing High, I wondered just how long this restaurant had been in Phoenix? Since the '50s? '40s? '30? How about 1928!

How about that? Now that's really "since forever" in Phoenix. The business was started by a man from Canton, China named Yuk Cheung Lee, who simplified his name to Fred Lee when he moved to Phoenix in 1927.

Lee decided to open a Chop Suey House, which he intended to call Shanghai (a city in China), but apparently the sign painter didn't really understand what he was saying, and Lee didn't speak English well enough at that time to realize that the name had been misspelled to Sing High. It's actually much more cheerful than Shanghai, which had a reputation of being a place that people who drank too much ended up in, after being pressed into service in a ship against their will. It was called being "shanghaied".

And also, before you get all upset and say that Chop Suey was never really a Chinese dish, consider that it had become very popular in places like San Francisco in the late 1800s, and was easy to prepare, and cheap, which the sailors really appreciated. And to be fair, a lot of popular "ethnic" foods nowadays are things that weren't exactly fashionable in a native country. Speaking for myself, pizza was something that my ancestors just made out of whatever was left over when they were through cooking, essentially just a way to get rid of the leftovers. But I digress.

1921 recipe for Chop Suey

Chop Suey has been popular in America as a "Chinese Food" since the turn of the century.  So if you wander into the Sing High Chop Suey House, which is now on Madison and 1st Avenue, go ahead and get yourself a big plate of chop suey, or chow mien. People have been enjoying it since, like, forever.

Image at the top of this post: Sing High Chop Suey House in the 1970s, in its original location, 3rd Street and Madison, since 1928. It's now on 1st Avenue and Madison.




Update: August 11, 2016. Since this blog is about my journey of discovery, I was amazed to find out today that just about everything I wrote here is wrong, and the restaurant is actually older. It opened in 1924, owned by Henry Sing, and was at 138 S. 2nd Street. Based on his name, it would be reasonable to assume that there is nothing to the misspelling of the word Shangai story.

Here is the Grand Opening ad from May 24, 1924 (below). Since this is original documentation, and the rest of my research was based on modern articles, it just means that memories can be kind'a hazy. Let's go get some chop suey!

May 24, 1924 ad for the opening of Sing High Chop Suey House

May 24, 1924 ad for the opening of Sing High Chop Suey House, full page

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Phoenix, Arizona before air conditioning


In this blog I like to explore things in my imagination, and I appreciate your coming along with me. Today I'd like to time-travel back to Phoenix before the days of air conditioning. This may seem like too much of a stretch of the imagination, unless, of course, you remember those days. They really weren't that long ago.

Speaking for myself, since I came to Phoenix in 1977, my lack of air conditioning just had to do with the fact that the "less than fashionable" apartment that I first lived in had a thing that was called an air conditioner, and the manager insisted that it was supposed to cool the air, but all it did was make noise. I also didn't have air conditioning in my car, as I had come from Minnesota, where it wasn't really needed. But let's travel back further in time.

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I think that it surprises people that most of the homes that were built by John F. Long in the 1950s and '60s didn't have air conditioning. They had, as an option, evaporative coolers (sometimes called "swamp coolers"), which was just air blowing past fibrous mats that were damped with dripping water. True air conditioning, which was then called "refrigeration", was for the wealthy, or commercial buildings.

Like any technology, it starts out very expensive, and then the price goes down. In old-time Phoenix, any type of cooled air, even just air being blown past some water (you know, "swamp cooling") started in businesses like movie theaters and hotels. Real air conditioning (refrigeration) followed, but was still mostly in commercial buildings, not homes.

By the time I got to Phoenix, in the late 1970s, true air conditioning (refrigeration) was becoming common in homes. Many homes had both evaporative cooling and refrigeration. The house that I'm in right now, built in 1985, had just refrigeration, or what we just call air conditioning (A/C) nowadays.

When you consider that Phoenix goes back to 1870, there were a LOT of people who lived there long before even the slightest hint of air conditioning was invented. Around the turn of the century, electric fans became available. By the 1920s, places like the San Carlos Hotel boasted that they were air cooled (evaporative cooling). By the 1960s, malls were being built that were enclosed with true refrigerated air, such as Christown. It must have felt like heaven to the old-timers.

So, come along with me and let's walk into Christown Mall in 1965. Mmmmmm! That feels great!

Interior of Christown Mall in the 1960s, 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, Phoenix, Arizona.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north on Central at Monroe in 1935. Note the sign for the San Carlos Hotel - Air Cooled!

Buying land in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in 1910


Buying land in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles in 1910 would have been a good investment. There was no steady supply of water there, just the promise of an aqueduct being built to bring in water from Lake Owens almost 300 miles away. So most people would have thought you were crazy to invest. In fact, they would have laughed themselves silly. Bringing water to Los Angeles from that distance was absolutely unthinkable. Stories of the Owens Valley Aqueduct sounded like Jules Verne science fiction. This was 1910, a time when for most people horsepower meant horse power. And it was a era of a lot of crazy speculation, from oil wells to gold mines.

Of course, there was no way of knowing if this was going to ever happen, and your investment could have gone the way of millions of other crazy investments created by people who were either "unrealistically optimistic", or just plain con men.

But the aqueduct was built, and the water did arrive, three years later. And the value of the land skyrocketed. The Los Angeles City Engineer at the time, William Mulholland, designed it all, and on the day of its grand opening, at the Cascades, on November 5th, 1913, as he began his speech, the water was set flowing too early and drowned out everything he had planned to say, except "there it is, take it!"

The story of how water was brought to Los Angeles has been blurred by fictional accounts, like the movie "Chinatown". And the fiction is interesting, and Chinatown is a great movie. But the reality is just spectacular engineering, which is impressive enough if you understand it. There's no need for fiction, or conspiracy.

By the way, you can still see the Cascades, near Sylmar, in the northeast San Fernando Valley. If you're interested in engineering, it's worth a look.

The Casades. Near Sylmar, which is at the northeast corner of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, California.

Ad for the Lankershim and Van Nuys Ranchos in 1910, from the Los Angeles Herald, Library of Congress http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042462/1910-05-29/ed-1/seq-11.pdf


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Relaxing at the Hardwick Hotel in the 1920s, Phoenix, Arizona


It's the 1920s and I'm waiting for a train, which will stop at the station at 3rd Street and Jackson in Phoenix, Arizona. Luckily, I'm staying at the Hardwick Hotel, which is just a few feet away, so I can relax there, and when the train comes, I'll wander over there. I already have my ticket.

Relaxing at the Hardwick Hotel in the 1920s, 3rd Street just north of Jackson, Phoenix, Arizona.

The Hardwick Hotel, at right, in the 1920s, 3rd Street just north of Jackson, Phoenix, Arizona. In the background to the left, behind the train station, is the Jefferson Hotel, at Central and Jefferson. The tower of the territorial city hall is visible in the center of the photo, which was on Washington and 1st Street.


It's an overcast day in Phoenix, which is unusual, so it's pretty comfortable. The Hardwick doesn't have air conditioning, but it has those nice sleeping porches, so I had good night's rest last night. I wonder if the people over there at the Jefferson Hotel are more comfortable than me? I know they spent a lot more.

The Luhr's Building (at left) and the Jefferson Hotel (behind the train station) in the 1920s, Phoenix, Arizona

Wow, look at that gigantic building over there. I understand that the young George Luhrs built that, along with his dad, H.N. They must be rich! Looks like Phoenix is really growing up! I'll bet there's a great view of the Phoenix Mountains from up there. Maybe the next time I'm in town I'll go up to the top, ride in one of those new-fangled elevators. Never been in an elevator before. I understand that the operators are very careful, but it would still make me nervous! It's a beautiful building, I hope that the city of Phoenix is wise enough to never tear it down.

Here comes my train, I'd better get going.

The train station and the Hardwick Hotel are long gone, but the Luhrs Building, which is on Jefferson and Central, is still there, as is the building that was originally the Jefferson Hotel, nowadays called the Barrister Building. As of this writing, the Luhr's Building is where the Bitter and Twisted Cocktail Bar is.

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Eating Chinese Food in Phoenix in 1906


I'm hungry, it's 1906, we're in Phoenix, so let's get some Chinese Food. I know a great place that opened three years ago called the American Kitchen. It's on Center Street between Washington and Adams.

1903 ad for the opening of the American Kitchen, Phoenix, Arizona.

Yeah, I know the name "American Kitchen" doesn't sound like a Chinese Food restaurant, but it is. No, I don't speak any Chinese, but the owner, Yee Sing, does, and so do all of the people who work there. Well, enough so that we can get some good food. Come on! They serve the kind of Chinese Food that's so popular in San Francisco these days, you know, Chow Mein, Chinese Noodles, Chop Suey. No, I have no idea if that's what they eat in China, but it's what they eat in California, and it sounds good to me!

Ad for the American Kitchen and the English Kitchen in 1911, Phoenix, Arizona

Let's see, for the two of us we'll need seventy cents. And then about a dime for a tip. Do we have enough. Sure! Let's go!

There's a large Chinese community in Phoenix, mostly east of Center and south of Monroe. They pretty much keep to themselves, and are quiet, except on the Chinese New Year. I'm sure you've heard the noise. It's enough to scare the devil, and I guess it does!

1893 article about celebrating the Chinese New Year in Phoenix. Montezuma street is now called 1st Street.

Thanks for eating Chinese Food with me today!

Images from the Library of Congress

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