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

Fabulous Legend City, Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona


I never saw Legend City. I lived in Phoenix in the late '70s and early '80s, but I hadn't even heard of it until I started collecting old photos of Phoenix a few years ago. So I'll tell you what I know, which isn't much. Mostly I'll show you the photos that I have. If you remember Legend City, maybe you can explain it to me.

Billboard for Legend City Amusement Park in the 1960s

Billboard for Legend City, A Wild West Adventure, in the 1960s

I did the collage at the top of this post based on images that I've found. And apparently Legend City was a Theme Park with a LOT of themes. Mostly, it was an Old West Theme Park, which advertised itself as a Wild West Adventure. It was, of course, an Amusement Park, with rides.

Flying over Legend City in the 1960s, between Washington (foreground) and Van Buren.

The address, 5555 E. Van Buren, I've seen described as Phoenix, and as Tempe. It was between Van Buren and Washington at about 55th Street, just south of the Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which is still there, so it sat on both Tempe and Phoenix land. Actually, it was mostly Tempe, but if you'd asked me how to promote it back then, I would have said that it was in Phoenix. If you're a tourist, you know where that is, and Tempe, while a familiar name to locals, would have been confusing to out-of-towners.

I wish I could tell you more, but like I say, I never saw Legend City. So here are some photos that I have that are pretty cool, and if you remember it, I'm sure will bring back good memories.




 








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How to preserve the historic neighborhoods of Phoenix


If you love Phoenix, like I do, you want to preserve the historic neighborhoods. And yes, there are a lot of ways to do it, most of which I have no idea about. You can be one of those people who walks around with a clipboard, or serves on a committee, that sort of stuff. But you don't have to do that to preserve an historic neighborhood in Phoenix. I help preserve my historic neighborhood, which was built in 1985.

Yes, I mean it. And that's because everything is historic. If you just moved into your brand-new house today, it's historic. No, I don't mean that someone will be walking by with a clipboard, or talking about it in an Historic Committee. That's not what matters to me.

If you're looking for a definition of historic, my favorite one comes from my brother who likes to show me a picture of himself, maybe from last week, and says, "Here's a picture of me when I was younger". It's kinda goofy, but it's true.

To me, there's no dividing line. No one tells me that something isn't precious enough to be preserved, I decide. When I was a kid, someone once told me that something had to be 100 years old to be an antique. I have no idea who said that, but it's just some arbitrary rule, that means if I have something that's only 99 years old, it's worthless. I find that type of thinking to be nonsense.

So preserve your historic Phoenix neighborhood. Go get rid of some weeds. Wash your car. And don't do it because some Homeowner's Association tells you to. Do it because every part of a city you love is precious, wherever it is, however old or new it is. And take a photo of it, just of your street, just of your newly-washed car. It's historic.

Image at the top of this post: Glendale in 1993. You're standing in front of the Glendale Main Library, looking east at the bus stop on 59th Avenue and Brown. In my historic neighborhood.


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Why Phoenix tears down its buildings all of time, and what to do about it


If you've lived in Phoenix for more than a few years, you realize that the city tears down buildings, and builds new ones, all of the time. It's the story that I know personally of the Phoenix that I first saw in 1977, and from what I've been learning of its history, it's been going on since 1870, when Phoenix first began.

The first buildings were adobe, then the railroad arrived, and those buildings went away to be replaced with brick buildings, then in the 1920s the embarrassing old brick buildings were replaced with streamlined buildings, and then after World War II those buildings were knocked down or re-skinned to look more modern, and on and on and on. I often think that anyone who lived in Phoenix, and went away for a few years, would come back to a city that looked very different, from Territorial times up to right now.

If you're an old-timer like me, and are still giving directions by saying "Where the New Yorker restaurant used to be", it can be disconcerting. Of course, that place has been gone so long that most of the people never even knew about it, and really, I never went there, so it really couldn't have been all that important to me.

If this constant change bothers you, you have two choices, either accept it, or do something about it. A city like Phoenix has had tremendous "growing pains" all of its life. It just plain grows out of things - churches get too small for the congregations, stores get to small for the growing population, that sort of thing. But many times businesses go away simply because people don't spend their money there anymore.

So if you're protesting on Facebook, or considering writing a stern letter to someone, and are driving past a local store to spend your money elsewhere, you're wasting your time. Speaking for myself, I've been shopping as local as I could for the 20+years I've been living in this neighborhood. I take my dog to the vet that's a few blocks away, I have my burgers at my local sports bar. The only business that I haven't supported is the tattoo shop (sorry, can't do that).

Living in a growing, dynamic, city like Phoenix means growth. People like it there, and more and more people move in. That means bigger buildings, and that's perfectly normal. You can't stop that. But if you like the local businesses in your neighborhood, vote with your wallet. Go there, buy something. You can't always stop your neighborhood into changing into something you don't recognize, but you can do your little part. And you can encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Image at the top of this post: Bashas in Phoenix in the 1960s. I don't have an exact location for this, but it's very similar to the one on 7th Avenue and Osborn, which, as of this writing, is about to be torn down.


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How the design of the 1920s influenced the late 1970s and early '80s


I've always been fascinated with design, and my favorite era is the 1920s and early 1930s, the time of Art Deco, and Boogie Woogie. If you were around in the 1920s, you may remember seeing a lot of it. If you're like me, and were around in the 1970s and early '80s, you saw it, too. Because it made a "comeback" for a while.

Design is like that. It's not unusual for a previous era to become wildly popular again. To my amazement, the 1970s has been making a comeback in the last few years. Yes, I've seen bell-bottom pants. But I digress, this is about the 1920s.

1920s Art Deco font on a 1981 yearbook for Saguaro High School, Phoenix, Arizona.

I was talking to one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) this morning who showed me the cover of a 1981 yearbook, and wanted me to identify the font, which was Art Deco. Of course, I immediately thought of the 1920s, which is the era of Art Deco, and then I started hearing "Boogie Fever" (Google it on YouTube if you weren't there in late 1970s) in my mind and it all started coming back to me that there was a resurgence of interest in the 1920s in the 1970s.

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This leaves people who are creating "period pieces" with a dilemma. Because this font isn't what I think of immediately to conjure up 1981, but it was undeniably there. And many songs from the late 1970s did have references to the 1920s and 1930s. But if I were making a movie, I think I'd stay away from that and mostly focus on what was more current at the time, not "retro" stuff.

Retro design is still very popular, and I see it a lot nowadays. I'm noticing it especially on the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, which are design "throwbacks" to the 1960s. And that means that, if in the future I want to create some visuals that are supposed to recall 2017, I'll stay away from those designs, and focus more on "non-retro" designs, such as a Toyota Corolla (to take one design example at random).

So if you lived through the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Art Deco from the 1920s strikes a chord with you, that may be why. You have Boogie Fever!

Image at the top of this post: Art Deco design on the elevators in the Professional Building, now the Hilton Garden Inn, southeast corner of Central and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. Modern photo.

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Finding open space, and solitude in the modern Phoenix area


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and one of the most common things that I see people say is how nice it must have been back then when there was so much open space, and solitude. And when I tell them that there's still a lot of it, right nearby, they don't even hear me. I suppose they think that I have quite an imagination.

But it doesn't take any wild imagination to see open spaces and solitude in the modern Phoenix area. You don't need a time machine, and you don't have to travel for hundreds of miles. Just exit the freeway to Saddle Mountain, which is south of the 1-10, near Tonopah (which is near Buckeye).

I went there with a friend of mine last year and when we got out of the truck to eat lunch, the silence was amazing. The freeway was still in sight, but we were standing in a place that has that special kind of desert quiet. If you've never heard it, I feel sorry for you. Once you have, it becomes an addiction to hear it again. Or to not hear it, if you see what I mean.

I've sought out places like this all of my life, beginning in Los Angeles. I didn't have the budget, or the time, to travel a long way, so I found them right nearby. And it's always been the same - when I tell people about them, they just roll their eyes. They know that I couldn't have possibly been to these places, as they had to be hundreds of miles away, or have been gone for a long time.

If you know these places, you know what I mean. If not, I understand. Most of the people I know keep themselves continually busy with work, and errands, and live in a world that couldn't possibly be one of open space, and solitude. Open space and solitude is just an annoying time and space that needs to be crossed as quickly as possible. When people always ask me how long it took for me to drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, and when I tell them that my best record was four days, they just think I'm crazy. Maybe I am. I wish it could have been five days, but I got in a hurry towards the end.

The most important thing to know about open spaces and solitude is that there's nothing to see there. So if you're looking for a gift shop, or a sign that points out "scenic view", you'll be frustrated. You may see places where the ground shows signs of people hiking, or maybe indications that horses have been there. And that means that you just need to keep moving.

As I stood on the foothills of Saddle Mountain, I time-traveled back to a time when standing on the foothills of Camelback Mountain looked the same - wide open spaces and solitude. And I imagined that someone would be tugging at my sleeve and asking if we could go somewhere, as they could see the little city of Phoenix way out there in the distance. It always happens, and I know that it's time for me to return to freeways, doughnut shops, and cell phone coverage.

Image at the top of this post: Saddle Mountain in 1939, and in 2016.


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The design mistake of combining cars with pedestrians


If you've lived in the Phoenix area from the time that cars started becoming popular until right now, you've seen an unfortunate design mistake of combining cars with pedestrians. In the future people will laugh at it, the way that I'm laughing at the photo up there of the photo of the swimming pool in a parking lot at a motel, with the car just a few inches away from where people are sitting poolside. And it's not funny to imagine an excited child jumping out of the pool and running behind a car.

Of course, in the 1950s, having a car just inches away from a swimming pool wasn't considered all that strange. People just didn't see anything wrong with it. And this type of design mistake has continued, and it seems to be just taken for granted that cars are combined with people walking around them, in parking lots. The next time you park your car in a parking lot in Phoenix, take a look at where people are expected to walk - behind the vehicles that are backing up. There is rarely any type of sidewalk that separates pedestrians from cars. It's just not designed in.

But things are changing, and I'm watching the design change. And it starts with not taking for granted that people need to share their space with cars, or trucks. But it's not enough to just make a space strictly for pedestrians. There are people who will need to be accommodated, such as disabled people, or the elderly, or someone like me with a bad ankle (which I like to consider "athletic injury"!). Areas that are completely closed off to vehicular traffic would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to get in to help. So it's going to be a compromise.

But the first step has begun. And that first step is to see how ridiculous it is to have a space shared by gigantic metal objects, and fragile things of flesh and bone. And as a designer, I tend to be very stubborn that yes, it can be done. There are a lot of wonderful and talented people out there working on it right now, and I'm confident that intelligent separation of cars and people will become the norm. And stupid, and dangerous, design will become a thing of the past.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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The confusing, and frightening, introduction of "Automatic Elevators" in Phoenix


I've been on elevators a lot in my life. I used to work in downtown Phoenix, and I knew how to operate them - you pushed a button (either up or down), waited for the elevator doors to open, got out of the way of people getting off, got in and pushed a button for the floor that you wanted. To me, nothing could have been simpler.

I've never been in an elevator that was operated by a person. I've seen them in movies, and read about them, but that's all. But if you lived in Phoenix before the 1940s, that all you would have seen, and all your parents would have seen, going back to the invention of elevators at the turn of the century. A person would stand inside of the elevator, you would tell them what floor you wanted, and they would operate it. But all of that changed when elevators were automated. And it must have been confusing, and frightening for a lot of people.

I'm not kidding here. When the elevators in the Professional Building were equipped to be operated automatically (with no person in them), it was quite a shock to the people who worked in the building. In addition to pamphlets being printed up, there was a presentation that Valley Bank employees could go see, including a movie showing how it was done. And like any new technology, there were people who resisted it, and couldn't understand why something as dangerous and complex as operating an elevator should be trusted to a little button. What if something went wrong? You would be trapped in a box suspended hundreds of feet in the air. Trust a little button? Really?

I always think of this when I teach a new technology. What seems simple after you've gotten used to it doesn't look the same to people who are seeing it for the first time. When I worked for Bank One, I helped introduce people to an "automated teller machine" (ATM) both professionally and personally, because I thought that they were pretty cool. In Los Angeles, in the '80s, I sought out gas stations that had "Pay at the Pump", because once I saw how fast and convenient it was, I had no interest standing around talking to people - I treated gas stations as "pit stops".

Technology is technology to me, whether it's computers, or "new fangled push-button elevators". And human nature has never changed - some people resist, some people catch on eventually, and some people are early adopters.

Image at the top of this post: elevator doors in the Professional Building in the 1940s, Central Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. I'd like to believe that I would have been one of the brave people who walked into them, and pushed a button!


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Looking past suburbia in Phoenix, and Los Angeles


I've been exploring Phoenix, and Los Angeles, for many years now. And on a regular basis, I'm reminded that what I see is weird. I can look past suburbia.

I can see the mountains, the rivers, the wide open spaces. And I've been doing it next to the doughnut shops of the San Fernando Valley, and the Starbucks of Phoenix. And it makes me sad when I realize that most people not only can't do it, they don't even try.

I call this "history adventuring", but mostly it's just looking at stuff. I was a nerdy little kid who liked to draw (and I still am!) so I'd take my sketchbook out to places and draw things. I drew trees, and rocks, and flowers, and all of the things that the grownups didn't see. They saw traffic lights, and grocery stores.

I still do this all of the time, and I often take photos of things that I find interesting here in the Phoenix, Arizona area. I see trees, rocks, flowers, mountains. And it's when I post them on Facebook that I realize that people see freeway entrance ramps, and "do not park" signs, and trash cans. And they wonder why I'm looking at freeway entrance ramps, and "do not park" signs, and trash cans.

But I refuse to live in that world. There's so much more to see in a parking lot than the closest parking spot to a store. I see acacia trees, I see the mountains that surround the valley, I see hummingbirds. I see beauty.

Of course, for most people, this beauty needs to be carefully packaged. It needs to be labelled "scenic view" or sold as part of a travel package. I'm an old Marketing guy, and I understand. It makes a lot of money, and the tourists understand it.

But I don't need that kind of packaging. I live in an astonishingly beautiful world, right here in my neighborhood. And if you see me standing there, staring at nothing apparently, don't worry, I'm not looking for the bus. I'm looking at Arizona.

Image at the top of this post: the foothills of South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona. This is what I see.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Living in Phoenix, and surviving Valley Fever


If you live in Phoenix, you've survived Valley Fever. Luckily, you only get it once, and once you've survived it, you'll be fine. And chances are that you never even noticed it, it probably felt like a mild cold, or maybe even a bad one. So, congratulations on surviving!

Valley Fever (I have to Google this, hang on) is a fungal infection caused by coccidioides (kok-sid-e-OY-deze) organisms. I got that from the Mayo Clinic site. You get it by breathing in the spores that live in the desert dust. OK, that's as technical as I'm gonna get. You can go read more if you want to, but I'd rather not.

I survived Valley Fever when was I was 19, and got to spend some time at the County Hospital at 24th Street and Roosevelt. I had a neighbor drive me there, and he and I had no idea where to go, and it was kind of an emergency. I later found out that I was covered, as a college student, under my parents' insurance, and I could have gone to any hospital, but at the time I didn't know. And they took good care of me there.

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I reacted with spots, and pneumonia. The spots were interesting, and since the County Hospital is a place for doctors to learn, I got many visits and requests to show off my spots, which went away in a few weeks. I also got my back pounded on, which I guess helps to clear up lungs that get congested. I don't remember much about it, but I do remember asking the nurse if people die from this, and she just quietly said, "yes."

In the hospital room, I remember thinking how beautiful Phoenix was, and how much I wanted to see the blue skies and the palm trees again. I did, and I survived. And if you lived in Phoenix, you survived, too. Congratulations! Now go out there and enjoy the blue skies and palm trees!


Image at the top of this post: the Palo Verde trees in bloom in the spring by the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, Arizona.

What the white crosses by the street in Phoenix mean


If you've driven around Phoenix, Arizona, you've seen the white crosses. And they're what you think they are - markers, like over a grave. But don't worry, no one is buried underneath them. They mark the place where someone died in an automobile accident.

As an average white guy growing up in Minneapolis, my attitude towards the dead has been that once someone is gone, they're gone. In my culture, we hardly ever speak of the dead, dead people are only "creepy things" during Halloween, having pictures of dead family members is seen as "not getting over it", and death is mostly ignored.

So if you're kinda creeped out by the white crosses, and also by the "in memorandum" written on the backs of windows of vehicles in Phoenix sometimes, I understand. If this is part of your culture, you may wonder why people object to this. I'll see if I can explain.

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When I moved to Phoenix I discovered a world of connected families. Brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, etc. I remember one of my best friends walking me down a street in his neighborhood pointing out all of the houses where his family lived. And then I discovered something even more shocking to me - that family remained family even after death.

I've been exploring Phoenix on foot a lot the past couple of months, during the nice weather. I've ridden on the bus, I've been on the Light Rail. I've seen a lot of people, the way that you don't see them if you're always inside of a car. I haven't done much walking for years (I'm usually sitting at my computer or inside of a car) and it's fascinating to walk with these people. And when you see one of the white crosses by the road, you walk with the dead.

If you walk in fear of the living, and the dead, take a moment to look more closely at the crosses. There's a connection there of friends and family, of brotherhood and sisterhood. The type of connection that transcends all barriers, social, economic, ethnic, and cultural. And transcends all understanding.

Go in peace.

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Exploring Arizona on foot


Walk with me. I've always loved to walk around, and explore. I live in Arizona, and it's March, and the weather is just beautiful for exploring on foot.

I've explored a lot of places this way, from the little town in Minnesota where my Grandma lived, to the coast of Southern California, to the Arizona Highways. Well, Arizona roads. Actually Arizona foot paths.

If you've never seen these places, I understand. Most of the people I know never get out of their car. And if they do, they drive miles somewhere, do some kind of laborious "hike" (hoping that it will be all be over soon so they can post it on their Facebook page, and go get lunch at a restaurant), and then go home to look at the pamphlet that they got at the gift shop. But that's never interested me - I just like to walk.

If you're from Australia, it's called a "Walkabout". You just stumble out into the Outback, with no particular destination in mind (other than getting back to where you started eventually), and you walk, and look at stuff. Yeah, I learned that from Crocodile Dundee. Mostly I call what I do "Urban Hiking".

But don't get me wrong, I'm not hiking along the harsh concrete sidewalks of the city, with cars zooming past me. There are so many other places to go. And there's so much more to see than just traffic lights, and buildings. There are wildflowers, and shady trees.

So leave your car keys behind, put on some sunscreen, wear a hat, and carry a light backpack (I have the nylon one kind with the pull-strings). I carry a bottle of water, a few snacks, an extra little bottle of sunscreen (this is Arizona!), and not much more.

Everywhere I go is a scenic view. I always stop and think "why isn't there a sign here that says, 'best place to view'?" Like the photo at the top of this post, in the Sahuaro Ranch. It's at the edge of a parking lot, where you can see people have cut through the weeds (for lack of a better term). You can see Pecan Orchards, the cool grass, the palm trees, and way off in the distance, the mountains. If you're seeing something other than that, I understand if you think I'm weird for stopping here and taking a photo.

This is only a few blocks away from my house, but it's worlds away from the world where most of my neighbors live. They get in their cars, and do errands, when they're not going to work. I'm sure they think that it would be nice to see Arizona, but they just don't have the time. I've taken the time all of my life, and I hope to always be able to do it.

Thank you for walking with me.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Understanding the Mormon Church in Arizona


If you live in the Phoenix area, you see a lot of Mormon Churches. The signs say "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints", and it is often abbreviated as LDS. If you yourself are LDS, you know all about it, if you're not, I'd like to explain a bit.

No, I'm not Mormon. And by the way, there's nothing wrong using using that term, it's just that LDS sounds just a bit cooler, making you seem as if you're "in the know". I've been learning about Mormonism since I was about 13, and I still have a lot to learn, but I'll tell you what I know so far.

I'm an adventurer. I have an inquisitive nature, which I guess starts when you ask "why is the sky blue?" and for most people fades away after they start school. But I never outgrew it. I have a good friend who says that when he was a kid he wanted to know everything, and he never outgrew it. It genuinely puzzles most people that I meet, and the people who are intellectually curious are the ones that understand. So no, I'm not trying to convert you, or me, to Mormonism, but if you'd like to learn more, let's take a look.

The place that I started was the Visitor's Center in Salt Lake City when I was about twelve or thirteen. I loved to draw superheroes, and I was very impressed by the heroic paintings that I had seen there. So when I got home that's all I could talk about. Of course the grownups had no idea what I was talking about, and thought that I had confused what I had seen there with my comic books of Thor, etc. But a neighbor of ours was Mormon, and they gave me my first copy of the Book of Mormon. And the paintings are all in there. The artist was Arnold Friberg, by the way, and if you Google him, you'll see more of his artwork, including the amazing work he did for the Book of Mormon.

Arnold Friberg artwork for the Book of Mormon.

I can't really say that I read the Book of Mormon, I mostly looked at the pictures. None of it seemed to make much sense to me, and there certainly wasn't anyone at the Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church who knew anything about it. It was about at that time that I found out that if you had any curiosity about something that was outside of your common experience, it caused the grownups to panic. I learned to keep quiet.

So it wasn't until I was all grown up, and living in Arizona, that I had the opportunity to talk to anyone about the Mormons. Of course, most people got wildly upset (people do - I call it "throwing chairs") and went off on rants. The people who knocked on my door were surprised that I wanted to talk about it, I had never heard the words spoken out loud. I wanted to clarify about what happened in the war that ended with Mormon giving his son the golden tablets. I would say stuff like, "waitaminute, now who were the Lamanites (and learn how to pronounce the words)?

For me the very best thing was getting a bunch of children's books from a student of mine at the Art Institute of Phoenix who had casually mentioned that she was getting married, and was LDS. I don't usually mention personal subjects in my professional life, but in this case I asked her to help me out, to help me to understand. She gave me a bunch of children's books, and it was wonderful, and I learned more from them than from anywhere else. If you're interested in learning, this is what I recommend for you.

Thank you for exploring with me.

Image at the top of this post: Sign on the Food Bank building, LDS, Bell Road and 69th Avenue, Glendale, Arizona.

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The fonts of Phoenix, Arizona


I have a particular fascination for fonts. After all, I'm a Graphic Designer, and I really wouldn't consider myself a very good one if I didn't. And if you see fonts, like I do, you're either a Graphic Designer, or weird, or both.

Seeing fonts is part of what I call "seeing structure, not just content". And it applies to all types of design, automotive, architectural, everything. If it's completely invisible to you, don't be surprised, you're in the majority. For the vast majority of people, it's content that matters, not structure. When the average person looks at a poster, they are supposed to be inspired to buy the product, when they see a building, they're supposed to go in there. If most people just stood around looking at posters and admiring the fonts, then their function would be essentially lost. If you're like some people, you can see both. I'm working on getting better with seeing content, but I have to work on it, it doesn't come naturally to me. And I see fonts!

Or rather, I'd like to use the term typeface. Because once you start seeing type the way that you see people's faces, it all starts to make more sense. Yes, typefaces fall into categories, like people's faces do, but once you get to know them, you recognize them. And you wouldn't confuse Helvetica with Times anymore than you would confuse me with someone who, well, had serifs. Of course, once you're totally obsessed with fonts, you begin to wonder how people could say that Arial is the same as Helvetica! OK, now I'm just getting myself upset...

Seeing fonts has been a problem for me. Take a look at the photo at the top of this post and tell me what you see. A bank, right? And you may be wondering where exactly this one is, or you may be someone who worked for 1st Bank, or banks with them. You may have had a bad experience with them, or have been delighted with their great service. But look at it through my eyes, I took the photo because of the use of the font. I pondered it for quite a while, enjoying how the negative space had been used, and wondering if I could really call it Helvetica, or if it was a just a modified sans serif font. Nah, look at that K, it's not Helvetica! I do this all of the time, and sometimes if people ask me if there's a bank around, I will say "Bank? I don't recall any bank". The content often doesn't even sink into me.

Zoomed in. Note how the S is created out of the negative space of the one and the T, and that the back of the K is the last stroke of the N. And this is just one example of millions of things like this I see all of the time.

And it gets worse for me, because I'm not just fascinated with fonts, I'm fascinated by all kinds of design. I'll walk around buildings, and people will wonder if I'm looking for the door, or the gift shop, or the restaurant. I could tell them that I'm admiring the way that the art deco design blends so beautifully with the art deco fonts, but I try to just smile, thank them, and walk right up to the door that says, "Restaurant Closed" - probably in Garamond. Or maybe Times New Roman?

Image at the top of this post: 1st Bank Branch on the southeast corner of Bell Road and 59th Avenue, Glendale, Arizona.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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How to meet your suburban neighbors, for a dollar


I like living in Arizona, and I always wanted to live in the suburbs, which I do. It's quiet, peaceful, and safe, and I live on a "no outlet" street, so the only cars that go past my house are either my neighbors, or people who didn't noticed that the street doesn't go through, sometimes making a U-turn in front of my house.

I have six-foot block walls, and the front of my house is mostly a garage door, which opens up with a remote control and allows me to enter my house without anyone ever seeing me. I like it here.

But all of this leads to a strange feeling of being surrounded by strangers. If you're like me, you'd rather know the people who live around you. I grew up in Minnesota, and I have that typical "Minnesota friendly" spirit. And I do know some of my neighbors, in spite of the fact that most of them drive past with tinted windows and never get out of their cars, except when they're stopping at the mailbox, and their car door is open, and the engine is running.

I've seen people do a lot of stuff trying to meet their neighbors. But walking over to someone's house in the 'burbs is just kinda creepy. Of course, if there's an emergency, it's OK, but just walking over to introduce yourself makes you seem as if you were selling something. But I want people to know who I am, to be comfortable around me, to know that I'm one of the good guys, a good neighbor. And I discovered a great way to do it, for a dollar. Go to a garage sale.

When I first bought this house, about twenty years ago, it only cost 25 cents to meet a neighbor in a garage sale, but nowadays it's good to pay a dollar. This how it works - walk around your neighborhood on a Saturday with a dollar in your pocket, and buy something at a garage sale. I have found the most standoffish people will welcome total strangers onto their driveway for a dollar. I suppose back in the fifties, you could have done it for a nickel.

Now waitaminute, don't get carried away here - all you're doing is buying something at a garage sale. You're not interviewing these people, you aren't introducing yourself, you don't even have to give your name. Just the fact that you're on foot shows them that you're a neighbor. Mention how beautiful the weather is, smile, make a little bit of eye contact. And pay full price for some little do-dad that they're selling. Give them a dollar. Smile and be pleased with your purchase. If someone chooses to talk to me, I will listen. I will tell them my name, I carry business cards with me so they can visit my website if they want to. My neighbors can find out that I'm a Graphic Designer, that I draw cartoons, and that I taught over at the Community College. My business cards don't have my address, but they just saw me walk over from my house, a few doors down, so they know where I live. And I certainly know where they live - I'm standing on their driveway.

There is something so human, and so reassuring, about a garage sale. A dollar is your ticket to this. Don't wear a hat, or sunglasses, let people see your face. When you get back home, you've made your neighborhood just a little bit better.

Image at the top of this post: Palm trees in Phoenix, Arizona.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Why Gus and Bess Greenbaum died on the same day in Phoenix, Arizona


My interest in Phoenix history has taken to to some fascinating places, often with experts who know all about stuff. And the more I learn, the more I learn how ignorant I am. If you know all about Gus Greenbaum, you already know why the marker at the Beth Israel Cemetery has the same date for him and his wife Bess, December 2, 1958. They were murdered.

I'll tell you what I know, which isn't much. You can find a LOT of information out there, as this is a connection to True Crime in Phoenix, going back to the days of Prohibition.

As a volunteer for the Pioneers' Cemetery Association, I am able to connect with a lot of great experts in Phoenix history. I'm mostly interested in collecting old photos of Phoenix, and how people lived, but it's also important to know how they died. Let's go to the Beth Israel Cemetery, which is on 35th Avenue and Harrison (just north of the railroad tracks, between Van Buren and Buckeye Road). The Pioneers' Cemetery Association, by the way, is interested in all of the cemeteries in Arizona, and there are a lot of them. So I was just riding along.

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I don't know much about cemeteries, but I know that even the smallest ones can be very difficult to find people in. So if you're lucky, someone will be around to show you where a particular marker is. The bigger cemeteries have maps, and roads to drive around on, but the Beth Israel Cemetery is small enough that the caretaker walked us over to who were looking for, which was Phoenix pioneer Michael Wormser. And then the caretaker said something about a marker that had matching death dates for both people buried there. I don't recall if he knew the whole story, but I'd never heard it before. It was in all of the papers, but I wasn't around on December 2nd, 1958.

The double murder happened in the Encanto neighborhood of Phoenix. True Crime aficionados know where the house is, and I've had it pointed out to me (although since it's a private residence I'd rather not give the address here).

I was at the Beth Israel Cemetery a few weeks ago, and I looked at the marker again. Everything there is so peaceful and quiet. And if all you see is Beloved Father and Beloved Mother, and the matching death dates, it can make you curious to learn more.

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Phoenix before you were alive


Phoenix, Arizona is a young city. That's part of the reason that I like it. There's a youthful vibrance that just sparkles in Phoenix. There's a vitality that the city displays all of the time, with new buildings, the newness of the Light Rail, and so many other things. I mean, have you been to downtown Phoenix lately? A lot of it looks as if it were just built yesterday. And some of it was! And by the time I finish writing this, there will be more. Phoenix is a young city, always under construction.

So if you can't see how old Phoenix is, that's understandable. When I first started collecting historic photos of Phoenix I had a vague idea of the age of the city. My ASU tee-shirt says, "Since 1885" but it didn't really ever register with me. And by the time that school was being established, Phoenix had been there for fifteen years. Yes, Phoenix began in 1870. And Tempe is even older.

So I don't care how old you are, Phoenix was there before you were born. Of course, places seem to begin when we arrive, which for me was in 1977. Since this is my adventure, and my blog, I call that the beginning of "the modern era" - when I arrived. If you arrived in the 1960s, or 50s, or 40s, or 30s, or 20s, or even before that (wow, just how old ARE you?) to you Phoenix would seem to begin there, it just makes sense. You may have some vague idea of what your parents, or grandparents saw, but to you, your Phoenix begins with your personal awareness of it.

I'm a time-traveler. I don't pine away for "the good old days" when children obeyed their parents, or when everything in life was clean and fair. Because those days never really existed.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not looking back with negativity, I'm time-traveling with as realistic an attitude that I can have. With my modern sensibilities, I have a lot of difficulty imagining living in Phoenix without air conditioning, which people did for many generations. I do, however, like to imagine a city of trees, which were mostly all gone by the time I got to Phoenix, in the late '70s.

Thank you for time-traveling with me.

Image at the top of this post: Gardiners Hotel in 1872, which was on the northwest corner of Washington and 3rd Street, Phoenix, Arizona.


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Being in love with where you live


I just love it here. I live in the Phoenix, Arizona area. And I'm just crazy about where I live.  And I mean in that kind of way that makes people wonder about me. I want to be together forever with the place I where live. 'Til death do us part. I write love-letters to the place where I live (this is going to be a real mushy one), I spend hours just marveling at how lucky I am, I look at pictures of the place where I live.

Of course, not everybody feels the same way about where they live. They grumble, make excuses, and put up with it. I've known a lot of these people, and they make me sad. When I ask "why are you here?" I want to hear that they've found the place that they love, where they want to make a home, not just because "it's where a particular job is, or because they need to be there for some other reason". I want to hear about romance. Let's see, I guess that would be Cityramce? or Placeromance?

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My little brother lives in the Bay Area of California. And he is absolutely in love! To the point where he puts up with stuff that I can't imagine, like how insanely expensive everything is there. He loves hiking around there, and he will often call me just to tell me what he's looking at, standing somewhere in San Francisco. He just loves it there, and I'm so happy for him.

I chose Phoenix. I left Minneapolis as quickly as I could, right after I bought a car, and figured out which way "west" was (I'm still directionally-challenged, but I can follow a map). Yeah, I know we broke up for a few years while I lived in Los Angeles, but when we got together again, we knew we'd stay together forever.

If you love the city where you live, no one needs to tell you how wonderful it is. It's not too big, not too small, and the weather is glorious. It has the best restaurants, it has the best teams. It's home, and it's a wonderful place to be.

I like it here.

Image at the top of the post: Flying over Thomas Mall in the 1960s, looking towards Camelback Mountain. If the mountains of Phoenix tug at your heart-strings, you're home.

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The future of Light Rail in Phoenix


The Light Rail in Phoenix is way cool. If you've been on it, you know. And if you haven't been, and think you know, like I thought I did, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise. And it comes down to a totally different feeling from being on a bus, or in a car.

Like most people my age, I rode the bus before I got a car, when I was 18, and never really thought about public transportation after that. I owned some unreliable cars in my twenties, so I remember the disgrace of walking or riding the bus. I was just hoping that no one would see me at the bus stop. Yes, there's a stigma to riding the bus, sorry. Standing on a street corner while cars zoom by is just awful. The few times that I've ridden the bus in Los Angeles, and in Phoenix, I always feel as if someone should pull over in their limo while I'm sitting there, and hand me some cash through the window.

But the feeling of the Light Rail is different. In principle it's the same thing, you sit somewhere and wait for a big machine to show up, and you get into it with a bunch of other people, but it's not the same feeling as being at a bus stop. The Light Rail stations aren't squeezed into a dirty, forgotten area of a sidewalk, they sit proudly right in the middle of things. When I'm at a Light Rail station I feel as if I'm going somewhere important, or fun. I'm not huddled into a corner. And it gets better.

The Light Rail stops at each stop. You don't have to be looking out of the window, and pulling a cord to make it stop, and worrying that you might miss your stop, like on a bus. It just stops. And people don't have to stand in line, there are multiple wide doors that open up. I don't hang my head getting off of the Light Rail, the way I do getting off of a bus. The Light Rail feels dynamic and vital, and it glides past all of the cars waiting in traffic jams. You really do get a sense of "look at those poor people stuck in their cars!"

The problem, of course, is that the Light Rail hasn't yet made its way out to where I am, in Glendale. And that means that for me to get to what I call "the end of the line" - which is now at 19th Avenue and Dunlap, I have to drive there, or take a bus, which spoils the whole effect in my opinion. So I'm looking forward to the future, and I'll tell you what I know, and what I'm hoping for.

The next major project for the Light Rail will be to get to Metrocenter, which is just west of the I-17 Freeway north of Dunlap. I've seen the plans, and it looks like they're gonna build a Light Rail Bridge across the freeway just north of Dunlap. I'm looking forward to seeing this! It's not physically a long way to go from 19th Avenue to Metrocenter, but engineering-wise there's a lot that has to be done. So it's gonna take a few years.

After that, my hope is that the Light Rail will continue along Dunlap going west to Glendale Community College (no, this isn't any kind of plan I've read about, I'm just dreaming here). Aside from the fact that I live near GCC, and it would be wonderful to have the Light Rail right nearby, it seems to make sense. I'm inclined to think that they wouldn't go all of the way south to Grand Canyon University, but who knows? One thing I'm sure of is that the Light Rail will get to the Cardinals Stadium, which is on Glendale Avenue just east of the 101 Freeway.

Until the Light Rail is built out to my part of town (hopefully!), I'll have to take bus to "the end of the line". It's really not that bad, but it's the bus, not the Light Rail.

The everyday people of Phoenix, and Los Angeles



I like everyday people. And that means everyone. Because we're all everyday people. We all sweat beneath the same sun (especially in Phoenix!), we all look up in wonder at the same moon. Rich or poor, young or old, male or female, etc., etc. And if you like everyday people, you're in luck. They're everywhere.

I moved to Phoenix when I was 19, just because I had a car and I knew how to read a map. I was looking for something different, especially a place that didn't snow (I grew up in Minneapolis), and I was immediately frightened and lonely. I wrote back home to my parents, and my friends all of the time (always including a cartoon!) but it wasn't enough. I needed people.

People in Phoenix are weird. Some of them are a lot like the people I knew in Minneapolis but some were so strangely exotic that I could hardly believe it. Some of them spoke a strange language, and ate things called "tacos". And I very quickly got over my fear and turned everyone I met into everyday people. I started becoming comfortable around people in Phoenix because they really were the same that I knew in Minneapolis - they had families, they drove the same cars (really, this was a surprise to me!), they were brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers. Some people had very dark skin (I'm talking about white people here) caused by the rays of the sun "tanning" it (remember that I'm from Minnesota). And then it got much worse for me, I moved to LA.

LA was a world of opportunities for me. Southern California seemed like such a magical place, and it is. But the people there are VERY strange. I lived there in the eighties, and people, like, dude, talked like, dude, in a strange way. Dude. The surfer dudes said "gnarly!" and the Valley girls said, "totally!" And everyone, like, drove everywhere. Nobody walked in LA. So making strange Californians into everyday people was quite a task for me, but I did it. I'm comfortable there, whether you're a big celebrity, or just one of "the little people" that are mentioned in speeches at the Oscars.

If you're confused, or maybe frightened, by people whose skin is a different color, or who wear different colors than you do, I understand. If you've been taught to hate people who look different from you, or who act differently from you, or follow a different team than you do, you have every reason to hide. It's a scary world you see, and I remember it. I see a different world, a world of everyday people.

Image at the top of this post: A cartoon poster that I did for Bank One Arizona in the 1990s.



Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Phoenix before seat belts


I enjoy collecting old photos of Phoenix, and I especially like the old cars. But one thing that always seems to bother me is that before 1965, most of cars didn't have seat belts, nor did the cars have much in the way of protection for passengers during a crash. There were no air bags, no crumple zones, no side impact protection. And the kinds of accidents that people survive easily today were very often fatal back then. And even in the 1970s, and '80s, most people didn't wear seat belts in their cars. I remember when it became a law, and how strange it felt for my parents. They were way too cool for seat belts, but they were law-abiding. They were more afraid of getting a ticket for not wearing a seat belt that having it save their life in a crash. People who drove cars back then just hoped for the best, and when they crashed, they mostly died.

No, I'm not trying to be a downer, man. I'm just saying that although I enjoy visiting old-time Phoenix in my imagination, I'd much rather be in my modern car, which not only has seat belts (including a shoulder belt), it has air bags, crumple zones, side impact protection, and probably things I've never heard of. If I make a mistake out there on the road, or if someone else does, my day will be ruined, but I probably won't die.

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And that leads me into the strange comments that I often see on the internet that say something like, "We didn't have seat belts, and here we are, safe and sound!" Of course, the flawed logic is that the people who died back then can't say that. They're dead. And while I'm young enough to take seat belts for granted, I'm old enough to remember when I was a kid that for most people dying behind the wheel was just seen as "natural causes". As if it was just the time for them to go. I never liked that as a kid, and I don't like that train of thought now.

Comedian Dana Carvey created a character on "Saturday Night Live" of an old guy who said stuff like "when we hit the brakes, we went crashing through the windshield! And we LIKED it!" And while there were a lot of things that old-timers remembered, I can't believe that they actually liked stuff like that. There were a lot of thing to like "back in the day" but a gruesome death behind the wheel wasn't one of them. And it happened a lot. Junkyards are filled with the cars. I've spent a lot of time in junkyards, and I can read the stories there.

If you're interested in historic Motorsports, like I am, you know that "back in the day", racers refused to wear helmets, or seat belts, in racing cars because it made them seem less "macho". And a lot of race car drivers died. If you're interested in learning more about this, you can Google what Sterling Moss said about driving a racing car not being synonymous with creating a situation whereby a driver commits suicide for the amusement of the crowd. He changed everything, and nowadays it's hard to imagine a race car driver without a helmet, and not wearing a safety harness. I have a friend who raced in the 1950s, and he remembers that the guys who wore helmets, and thought at all about safety, were laughed at. My friend is still alive - he wore a helmet, and he used seat belts.

I enjoy visiting old-time Phoenix in my imagination, and IRL (in real life), too. And in real life I wear a seat belt. Buckle up and live!


Image at the top of this post: Looking west on Washington at 3rd Street in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona.

The billboards of Phoenix


Phoenix, Arizona had a LOT of billboards in the mid-twentieth Century. I don't remember them, so apparently by the time I got to Phoenix, in the late 1970s, they were going away. And the reason that I know about the billboards is the Duke University Digital Collections website, which has a large digital collection of old-time advertising, including billboards. And of course people who grew up in Phoenix remember the billboards.

I'm a Graphic Designer, so I've designed billboards, and ads, but like most people I'd really rather not see them all over the place. And billboards were the "pop-up ads" of the mid-twentieth century. If you remember "Ladybird" Johnson, the First Lady of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, you may recall that she was instrumental in getting rid of a lot of billboards that had infested America's Highways. She helped beautify America.

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Phoenix has always had a lot of empty lots. And empty lots attract billboards. And like internet advertising, they tend to attract the worst designs - jarring, designed to be "eye catching", but mostly annoying. And in old Phoenix it was even worse.

It's hard to imagine nowadays, but cigarette and liquor billboards were very common. If you go to the Duke site and search for "whiskey" you'll get a lot of images, and hundreds of them will be billboards in Phoenix.

Bob's Big Boy in the 1960s, looking north on Central towards Thomas. Note the billboard that I cropped out of the image on the left. This is what I do - I find the image, I optimize it in Photoshop, crop the billboards out as best I can, and save the image.

Of course I'm not on the Duke site because I'm interested in billboards, I'm interested in Phoenix. And since the images are indexed by what's on the billboards, not what's in the background, it takes a fair amount of time, going through the images one by one, zooming in, and trying to recognize places in Phoenix. Some locations are easier to recognize than others, and I like to see things like Camelback Mountain, and street signs, whenever possible. But remember that the photos were taken of the billboards, not of the backgrounds, which were incidental.

I do this for fun, because it's my hobby, and apparently because I'm more than just a little bit crazy. It started for me when I started teaching Graphic Design, and I used images of old Phoenix just to practice with Photoshop, or creating websites. And then little by little it became an obsession with me. I love finding old photos of Phoenix, and I love sharing them. If you like them, please let me know. You can support me on Patreon, or you can replace a billboard with a tree, if you can. Because Phoenix wasn't always a city of billboards, it was a city of trees. Thank you!


Image at the top of this post: Billboard on McDowell and 52nd Street in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona. The Papago Buttes are in the background. You're looking east.

The Arizona Falls, Phoenix, Arizona


Yesterday I visited the Arizona Falls. It's on the Arizona Canal just east of 56th Street at Indian School Road. It's been there since 1885, and if you've never noticed it, and if you kinda don't believe me that it's really there, I can't blame you. But it is.

The Arizona Falls in 1885, Camelback Mountain is in the background.

The Arizona Falls in 1895. From a postcard.

I've always had a fascination for the canals of Phoenix. I've never lived anywhere that has canals, and most of the people I know confuse them with storm drains. They're not. Canals bring water into the city, drains carry it away. Phoenix, of course, has both. And of course all cities have ways to bring water in, but it's usually covered up. My favorite example is the gigantic aqueduct that brings water to Los Angeles from the Owens Valley. It's just pipes, so it's not much to look at. Phoenix canals are different, they're beautiful, and they have always been meant to be seen. From the day that they were built, they proclaimed that here was proof of life in the desert, that Phoenix could be an oasis.


The Arizona Canal, and the Arizona Falls, in 1908. From a postcard.

When I visit the Arizona Falls I try to imagine what it all looked like in 1885. Raw desert as far as the eye could see. And although the desert looked the same then as it did now, people didn't see it as "scenic" - they saw it as a terrible place, hot and dry. A good place to die, no place to live. And then I imagine it just a few years after the completion of the canal, which goes from waaayy east of Scottsdale, to west of where I'm writing this right now, in Glendale. And it began the real transformation of the desert into an oasis. Because there were trees planted there. Instead of dust dirt and sand, there was life, and the trees proved it, marching for miles and miles along the canal.


The Arizona Canal in the 1920s

The Arizona Falls was a place that people visited just to see it. People had picnics there. I wouldn't be surprised if a bunch of darned kids didn't do death-defying jumps there. It must have been amazing to see.

Of course, it started being taken for granted not long afterwards, and the Arizona Falls became a place for generating power, hidden under a building for decades. Then the building fell into disrepair, and the Arizona Falls became just another "backwater", just another place that had once been beautiful that had been utilitarian, and then forgotten. When you go there, you'll see the remnants of the old machinery that was inside of that building, which is thankfully gone now.

Yes, I know the Arizona Falls isn't Niagra Falls. It's not even close. And it isn't even close to the falls near where I grew up in Minneapolis, called the Minnehaha Falls. But the fact that it's even there, right in the middle of the desert, is what amazes me. It's worth a look.


Thank you to my patrons on Patreon who help support History Adventuring! If you like these blog posts, and would like to make suggestions for future ones, please go to patreon.com/Phoenix HistoryAdventuring where you can show your support for as little as $1 a month. Thank you!

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Touching the blocks of the Roosevelt Dam


Yesterday I touched the 1906 blocks of the Roosevelt Dam. And no, I'm not talking about in my imagination, I was in Tempe, at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park. You can do it yourself, and I encourage you to, especially if you're interested in Phoenix history.

I've been to the history museum there often, and each time I go, I walk over to the Roosevelt Dam. Well, the whole dam isn't there, the whole darned thing is over on the Salt River, where it's been since 1911, north of Apache Junction. The blocks there in Tempe are bits and pieces that were removed when the dam was expanded, in the '80s and '90s.

The Apache Tail of Arizona and Roosevelt Dam

If you've never seen the actual Roosevelt Dam, it's well worth a look. I recommend taking the Apache Trail just to get the right feel. The road hasn't changed much since it was built for construction of the dam, and although a four-wheel drive vehicle isn't required, it does take some careful driving in narrow spaces. Those of you who have been there know what I mean.


Turtle Rock in the 1930s, Curry Road between Mill and Scottsdale Road.

For those of you who would prefer not to travel so far, I recommend visiting the Roosevelt Dam on College Avenue between Mill and Scottsdale Road (just north of Curry). It's at the Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park, towards the back. It's on the north side of the river (not the ASU side, which is south of the river) so if you're not familiar with that part of Tempe, it may be pleasant surprise to see it. To me, it seems closer to Old Town Scottsdale than anywhere else. It's over by Turtle Rock, if that helps.

When you go there, it can be easy to walk right past it, and never even notice that it's there. And it's not that it's not big enough to see, it's just that most people are used to walking right into a building (what I call the "Gift Shop Syndrome"). I tend to stay out of buildings, and away from gift shops (although I'm getting better) and that means that it was the first thing I saw, and the most important thing for me to see again each time I visit the museum.

By the way, you don't have to pay admission to see the dam. Just walk right up to it. Of course, you'll want to go to the museum, and see the cool displays. If you're a Triple A member you get a discount, which I got, although I did an additional donation, anyway.

I spend a lot of time in cyberspace so I'm delighted to get out and see stuff IRL (in real life). And if you know the history of the Roosevelt Dam, and how important it was, and continues to be, to Phoenix, simply touching blocks is quite a feeling.

Arizona Heritage Center at Papago Park
Showcase for multimedia & hands-on displays on city life & other aspects of Arizona history.
Address: 1300 N College Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281


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