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The end of the Plaza in Phoenix, Arizona

If you're a serious fan of Phoenix history, you know about the Plaza. If you've never heard of it, you may wonder if it was a shopping center or something? And that's understandable. Phoenix has a lot of shopping centers, and movie theaters, and parking lots. The Plaza has been gone since the late 1920s, and that's too long ago for anyone alive today to remember it. It was simply a place set aside by the city of Phoenix for the people. It had trees, grass, and a bandstand. And like so many things in Phoenix, once it was erased, it was forgotten.

1881 map of the original blocks of Phoenix, Arizona

A square block was set aside when Phoenix was platted, in 1870, between Blocks 24 and 22, and simply labelled as Plaza. Nowadays it's called Block 23, as it's just another commercial block in Phoenix, and has now for over ninety years. But for the first sixty years of Phoenix, it was the Plaza, set aside to be used by the people, as a public space.

The Plaza is where people gathered to watch parades, which went along Washington. The Plaza was a place to listen to band concerts, to have picnics, to just walk under the trees. In my imagination I like to walk in the Plaza.

After all of the trees were cut down in the Plaza, 1920s.

Then one day it was gone. It must have been heart-breaking to see nothing but tree stumps. The city built a new City Hall a few blocks west (Historic City Hall, which is still there, at 1st Avenue) and got rid of everything trace of the Plaza. In 1931 a gigantic theater was built there. Not a tree was left, not a blade of grass. It was as if the Plaza had never existed.

It's all about progress, and Phoenix has always progressed. More buildings were built on Block 23, and as the years went by, even those buildings got old and got knocked down. As of this writing, Block 23 is still just a patch of asphalt, where cars park, and there are plans to build more buildings there. If you go there, take a moment to remember the Plaza.

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