This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The difference between air cooling and refrigerated in old-time Phoenix


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the web, and often people will be amused by the mention of the term "refrigeration" on advertising for a motel. And it really was an important selling point.

No, the rooms weren't as cold as the inside of your refrigerator! But the concept was similar. Time-travel with me back to the 1950s in Phoenix.

I love Phoenix, but let's face it, it's hot. It's in the desert, and that desert heat can be miserable, especially if it's hot at night. If you've ever lived in Phoenix and tried to sleep when your air conditioning isn't working (which I did for one night about a couple of years ago, and I still remember!) you know how important air conditioning is. Without it, no one in their right mind would live in a city like Phoenix, or Palm Springs. But air conditioning, like wifi, is a technology that took some time to evolve before everyone took it for granted.

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It started with something called "air cooling". And it was better than nothing, but not much better. Air cooling was often referred to as "swamp cooling" and it was simply a big fan that blew air across a pad that was soaked with water. Some houses in Phoenix still have swamp coolers, although most of them have them in addition to refrigeration.

Ah ha! And there's the distinction. Refrigeration is a newer and much better way to cool down a building, and it's what we just call A/C nowadays. So if I told you that my house has air conditioning, you would know that I mean refrigeration, not swamp cooling, or "air cooling". But in the 1950s, a business like the Egyptian Motor Hotel had to be specific. They were proud of having actual refrigeration, not just air cooling (swamp coolers).

Now that's luxury!

The Egyptian Motor Hotel in the 1950s, 765 Grand Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona. Cooled by refrigeration.