Arizona Centennial: Tempe Historic Building Tour

More from this show

A guided tour of historic buildings in downtown Tempe is being offered Saturday, February 4. Tempe City Architect Mark Vinson will talk about those buildings showcased on the tour.

Ted Simons: The city of Tempe is offering tours of historic areas this Saturday. The walking tours will cover Mill Avenue, Tempe Town Lake area and old Arizona State University locations. Here to talk about the historic buildings of Tempe is Tempe architect Mark Vinson. Thanks for joining us.

Mark Vinson: Thank you.

Ted Simons: What's this tour all about? What's going on here?

Mark Vinson: This is a tour that's been done in the past, has kind of languished for a couple of years. We have revived it this year. One of the key elements is it's in conjunction with the Arizona Centennial, so it's an official centennial event. We feel preservation has been a key element in the revitalization of downtown Tempe. We like to put that foot forward with our residents and visitors.

Ted Simons: Renovation in downtown Tempe Harks it always been a factor among residents and among city officials or is that pushing and shoving toward the end?

Mark Vinson: Well, it's been a factor for the last 30 to 40 years. I think the real key will probably take a look at this building later was the decision to rebuild Tempe Municipal Building in downtown Tempe. That kicked off other revitalization of downtown Tempe. We have built on that.

Ted Simons: Let's go with some photographs. We'll start with the Hackett house. I guess it was a Tempe bakery. The house is still there.

Mark Vinson: It was originally the Tempe Bakery. Originally it was built as a speculative building because the railroad had just come to town and it was built on 4th street, the connection between the railroad depot and Mill Avenue some of it was built by a local speculative group and was sold to a German immigrant baker, Mr. Hilge. He operated his building there until it was -- until he passed away, then it was acquired by the Hackett family. The Hackett house was acquired by the city in the 1980s and rehabilitated.

Ted Simons: Lots of events, marriages there at the Hackett house.

Mark Vinson: That's true. Tempe's Sister City Organization, the primary tenant there, they operate and coordinate those events.

Ted Simons: The Laird and Dimes building is one that I think a lot of people would recognize on the corner. I don't think the Hooters is there in this picture but we got a Hooters there now.

Mark Vinson: This was built in 1893 as you can see in the photograph originally a Victorian style with lots of ornate woodwork and balconies. Remodeled in the 1920's to a Spanish Colonial Revival style. Then in 1960, when Mill Avenue was designated as a U.S. highway, according to federal highway regulations, parts of the building had to be taken off to make the road wider, screens had to be put over windows, so the building was never the same after that until the city through a public-private partnership the building was rehabilitated in the 1990s, early 1990s. One of the interesting things during the history of the building when it was the drugstore through most of its life was it was the unofficial City Hall. Lots of discussions, political intrigue went on there. It's been an important component in Tempe history for a long time.

Ted Simons: Another building is the Vienna Bakery. For a long time Tempe residents will know that restaurant Mexico, which has been around different locations in Tempe, is here now. This is a significant architectural building, correct?

Mark Vinson: Correct. Again, built in 1893, it was actually constructed by a former employee of the Tempe Bakery that we talked about a minute ago who went on his own and started his own bakery. That's what this building originally was. It's a rare example of territorial Victorian architecture although it too in the 1920's got the Spanish colonial revival treatment. There was once another portion of this building that was demolished years ago, but the remnant piece as you mentioned is home to restaurant Mexico and a well loved spot for downtown patrons.

Ted Simons: Yes, indeed. Another building I think people will recognize, although in this photograph it's a long time ago in a different form, Peterson and Cutler -- what is this all about.

Mark Vinson: The Peterson Cutler building was a two-story commercial Victorian style brick structure rehabilitated in 1983, has housed many businesses over the years, folks may remember Stan's Metro Deli there in the early '90s. Unfortunately during renovation work a fire started and the building was essentially entirely consumed by fire. So what we see today is a for the most part a reconstruction of the original building with some of the original detail elements returned to their original position, but tried to keep the same proportions and rhythm of the openings and so forth to not necessarily mimic history but to recreate that feel that we know as mill avenue.

Ted Simons: Another building very recognizable, especially to long time residents, is the Casa Loma building. This was a hotel down there in the '70s. It now has the shoe mill on the bottom floor. Looks like Café Bola is here now. This has quite a history as well.

Mark Vinson: Originally built 1899 as Hotel Atwood. It was actually a hotel for most of its life span. I believe Teddy Roosevelt stayed there when he dedicated Roosevelt Dam and other famous personages. Remodeled in the 1920's in the Spanish colonial revival style, rehabilitated in the early '80s and has been an office building on the upper levels and retail and restaurant on the lower levels. We feel it's an important mix of uses in the downtown area. We try not to have single use buildings because the space is just too valuable not only from an economic standpoint but just the vitality of the area demands that mix of uses.

Ted Simons: There's one single use building, the Valley Art Theater.

Mark Vinson: That's true.

Ted Simons: Everyone recognizes this building. It's been through some times itself.

Mark Vinson: Right. Built by Red Harkins in 1940 as the college theater. So it has had a great life span of airing great films. Was sold by Harkins in the early '60s and since reacquired in the late '80s by the Harkins operations and completely rehabilitated and continues to show great movies there.

Ted Simons: Yeah. We have about one minute left here. I know that the Tempe - upside-down pyramid building is on the tour. Built in 1970 or so, considered historic?

Mark Vinson: It is not designated historic on the national register of historic places as yet. It's currently going through the process of Tempe designation. But as significant as the shape, the striking form of the building, we feel it's even more significant because of its role as a catalyst in redevelopment of downtown Tempe when the decision was made to build that building there instead of at Rural and Southern, that was a key component in kicking off revitalization of downtown.

Ted Simons: Fascinating stuff. The walking tour is this week. I think there's a luncheon involved as well. Good to have you here. Good information. Keep up the good work in Tempe.

Mark Vinson: Thank you.

Mark Vinson:Tempe City Architect

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: