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

What downtown Phoenix was like in 1993



Let's go to downtown Phoenix in 1993. That was the last year for Valley National Bank, and the first year for Bank One (which is now Chase). Walk with me.

We're employees of Bank One, and the future looks bright. The 1980s were a bad time for Arizona, and even Valley National Bank, which had celebrated its 90th year, was in terrible financial trouble. Bank One had been buying up banks all over the country, in anticipation of national banking, which became legal in 1996 (that is, banking over state lines, which had been illegal since the Stock Market Crash of 1929).

Although the photo at the top of this post shows me eating a meal at the San Carlos Hotel, I never really did that. It was a photo that was used to promote the bank, in flyers that went out with statements. I would normally brown-bag it, eat my lunch quickly and then walk around downtown.

The Bank One Building (now called Chase Tower) is like a space ship. You really don't need to leave the building, and you don't even have to walk outside - there's an tunnel from the parking garage to the building. It's 1993, and there are several businesses in lower level of the building, including a cafeteria, a florist, a dry cleaners, and a place to mail letters, and get stamps. Most of the people that I work with never leave the building.

Outside of the building it's kinda scary. Downtown Phoenix has no nightlife, unless you count the people sleeping on the sidewalks. There's no Light Rail, and no one even dreams that ASU would someday move into the buildings downtown. Across from the Bank One Building is a bar and a flophouse, called Newman's, and next to it is a building that has been abandoned and is all boarded up, which is now the Hilton Garden Inn.

I like walking around and looking at the old buildings. I squint my eyes and try to picture what Phoenix looked like before it had been pretty much abandoned. I'm from California, so it doesn't really bother me much that there are people begging for money just about everywhere I go. I learned to say, "No thank you" and keep going when I lived in Santa Barbara, where these people line the sidewalks and often get very aggressive.

I'm fascinated by the wall around the Bank One Building. It was designed specifically to discourage people from sitting on it, and every once in a while I try it. I'm pretty athletic, but the angle is just right to make it impossible. Clever design!

As I look around at the buildings I wonder if downtown Phoenix will ever be a place filled with restaurants and stores, and the hustle and bustle of life that I'm sure that it once had. The only people I see on the sidewalks, aside from people begging for money, are clumps of corporate people, talking amongst themselves and keeping their eyes front, going to the few restaurants. When I get back to the safety of the "space ship", people ask me where I was, what I was looking at.

Thank you for visiting downtown Phoenix in 1993 with me.


Image at the top of this post: In the restaurant at the San Carlos Hotel in 1993, Central Avenue and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. From a publicity photo for Bank One Arizona.

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