I've been watching Block 23 for a long time now. The designation is of the square block between Washington and Jefferson and 1st Street and 2nd Street. It goes back to when Phoenix was originally platted, and laid out with numbered blocks. Actually, there really no Block 23, just the block between 22 and 24, which had been set aside as the Plaza. Whether the city promised that it would always be a public space I really don't know, but became just another business block in Phoenix in 1931 when it was sold off. It's where the old City Hall was, if you remember before 1931, which I sincerely doubt you do. The truth is, most people have no idea that Block 23 was the Plaza for over sixty years, as a place where families gathered for picnics under the trees, and watched parades going by. Memories in Phoenix are short.
|Block 23 in 1893. From a Sanborn map.|
In my experience, Block 23 has just been an empty space - another parking lot in downtown Phoenix. And it's been that way for so long now that most people have no memory of what used to be there, which was the Fox Theater, and JC Penney's. Even the buildings that erased the old Plaza have long since been erased.
|Block 23 in 1932. The Fox Theater.|
But Phoenix changes, it grows, and I'm OK with that. A lot of people who know that I'm interested in history think that I want everything to stay the same, and that the old buildings should be frozen in time, with what I call "velvet ropes around them". But that's simply not the way I feel. I like Phoenix to be dynamic. I get a big kick out of seeing new construction, which Phoenix has been doing non-stop since 1870. When I time-travel in my imagination, I can see the canals being built by the Swilling Company, the roads being paved for the first time, the introduction of air conditioning (now THAT must have been nice!).
So this is what I see as of December of 2017 on Block 23. The foundations for some very big buildings are being dug. It's an exciting time, and it's history in the making. In the future you'll be able to say that you were there when the block was nothing but a big hole in the ground.
Image at the top of this post: Block 23 under construction on December 26th, 2017. You're looking west over 2nd Street between Jefferson and Washington from the Collier Building. Photo by Mick Welsh, used with permission.
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