If These Walls Could Talk
September 3, 2013 by Alex Turley
One major benefit of working and living in Downtown Phoenix is that I have the luxury of walking to work. Daily I meander through the city streets of Arizona’s central business district admiring the eclectic mix of structures and buildings that stand so tall. I often wonder what stories and fascinating facts would be divulged if the walls of these building could talk!
Downtown Phoenix has always intrigued me – it is home to unique, historic and modern buildings that add personality to the heart of our urban core. An array of structures, materials, colors and edifices create a visual kaleidoscope that truly shape Phoenix’s skyline and offer an eye-opening delight when strolling around Downtown Phoenix.
There are approximately 25 mid-rise and high-rise buildings soaring up to 40 stories tall shaping the Downtown Phoenix skyline. Two of Arizona’s tallest skyscrapers, the Chase Tower that stands at about 483 feet and the US Bank Center at 407 feet, are in Downtown Phoenix.
One of the first buildings I see on my route into work is the Westward Ho, located at Central and Fillmore streets. This building has been visited by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, as well as Vice President Richard Nixon. It’s true! Now, the Westward Ho is a subsidized apartment complex for the elderly. Hidden inside, there is lush landscaping blooming in a quaint courtyard area. The building has always intrigued me and brings back childhood memories when I’d pick my father up from work at a nearby law office. In fact, the building was recognized in 1982 on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walking a little further along Central Avenue, I stumble upon the parade scene where the Marilyn Monroe film, “Bus Stop,” was filmed. And if the walls could talk, I’d learn that the Downtown Phoenix skyline is featured in the opening scene of the famous 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” That scene includes the Hotel San Carlos, the Valley National Bank Building and the radio tower. I can’t wait to watch the thriller again to see which buildings I can identify!
Architecturally speaking, the Luhrs Tower, the Professional Building – better known as Hotel Monroe – and the Hotel San Carlos all boast Art Deco-style designs. The Luhrs Tower has been vacant for several years, but there are whispers about this historic building indicating it will be converted into a new hotel. This would be an exciting addition to the current Downtown Phoenix hotel offerings. The Professional Building was completed in 1932 and was a direct result of the city’s need for more medical, dental and laboratory offices. And the San Carlos Hotel, well, they say it’s haunted! This hotel has been associated with many ghost sightings and it, too, is a on the National Register of Historic Places.
A little off the beaten path is the Ice House located on Fourth Avenue and Jackson Street. It is historically known as Constable Ice and Fuel. Before days of refrigeration, the Ice House produced 300 pound blocks of ice to keep produce cold on the long journey via railway to the East Coast. After, this space was used to hold evidence for the police department. Helen Hestenes and David Therrien transformed the Ice House into a center for performing arts, music and special events venue, and a place to view creative installations. My favorite room at the Ice House is the cathedral room where the high arched brick walls come to meet the star filled sky. It’s quite beautiful since this room has no roof!
There’s a little bit of everything when it comes to the building styles of Downtown Phoenix. It’s quite remarkable — take time strolling around Downtown Phoenix and absorb the history each structures in exudes.
* This post was written by both Alex Turley and Katie Brashear, Complex Director of Public Relations, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.