Malinda of Melinda's Alley, Phoenix, Arizona
If you're interested in Phoenix history, you know that there were several unofficial streets (really alleys) that, while never on maps, everyone in town knew about back in the 1890s. They included Wall Street (which ran north and south between 1st Avenue and Central - it's where the banks were, so that was the joke), Cactus Way, which ran north and south between Central and 1st Street (where Loring's Bazar was, and later Donofrios in the Ellingson Building), and my personal favorite, Melinda's Alley, which ran east and west between Monroe and Adams. Of course, back in those days Phoenix was only from Van Buren to the Harrison (the railroad tracks), and from 7th Avenue to 7th Street. Hard to imagine, but true.
I collect old photos of Phoenix and I love to travel there in my imagination. I'm always happy to get back to air conditioning, and my computer, and sometimes I picture what Phoenix really was like (hot, and no WiFi!) and sometimes I imagine it in a Romantic way. And actually, I'm OK with both points of view, the harsh reality, and what I call "the West of the Imagination".
So don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to spoil the fun. I enjoy a good old-fashioned Western movie as much as anyone, and it never bothers me that they never seem to need to reload their six-shooters after dozens and dozens of shots. I'm OK with that, and I'm OK with Malinda.
I love the new mural of her, which shows the original Adams Hotel and the fire which creates her beautiful hair. I've read what's been written about her, how her name was Malinda Curtis, and that she was Black. I think that's wonderful, and she is so beautiful.
And for those of you with a less Romantic nature, here it is. I've been researching this for years and I've never found anything convincing about who Melinda's Alley was named after. That she was probably a prostitute is extremely probable, because that's where the "Ladies of the Evening" were in the 1890s. At the very least she was poor, as no wealthy woman would have gone strolling along a place like that, they would have stayed closer to Millionaire's Row, which although it was nearby, was a million miles away from Melinda's Alley. Millionaire's Row, by the way, was east of Central on Monroe, and the Rosson House is still there, on 7th Street. Melinda's Alley would have been one half-block south of there. Yeah, Phoenix was a small town then!
So if you're someone who insists on the absolute truth - here it is. Yes, there was (and still is) an alley between Monroe and Adams. It was called Melinda's Alley, and it would stand to reason that there was a woman named Melinda. And yes, there were women in Phoenix at that time. If you've done your research on what life for women at the turn of the century was, you know that it would be far from what we would describe today as glamorous. And yes, there were women of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) and their lot in life would have been even more difficult. I'm not going to describe any of it to you here, but I can refer you to learn more about what happened in the U.S. after the Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, and the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. I study this stuff all of the time, and there are plenty of books to read.
But if you choose not to, I'm OK with that, too. The West of the Imagination is a wonderful place, and I like to imagine that Malinda looked just like she does in the mural. She's beautiful.
Image at the top of this post: Mural of Malinda, in Melinda's Alley, in the alley east of Central between Monroe and Adams, Phoenix, Arizona. Created by local artists Hugo Medina and Darrin Armijo-Wardle.
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Posted by Brad Hall