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12 Fun Facts You May Not Know About Downtown Phoenix

June 27, 2019 by Taylor Bishop

History buffs, Phoenix fans and newcomers: These Downtown Phoenix fun facts are for you. From hidden letters on the side of a hotel to stats that prove we’re one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, here are some interesting tidbits you may not know about our city:

Phoenix once had an underground bowling alley

The skylights once illuminated an underground bowling alley that was connected to the Westward Ho by tunnels. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

The Gold Spot was downtown’s underground bowling alley from approximately 1939 to 1950 — and you can still see remnants of the bowling alley on the sidewalk across from the Westward Ho on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Pierce Street. Look for the glass blocks in the sidewalk, which were once used as subterranean skylights. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else left of the bowling alley — but we can dream of it someday being redeveloped.

The Renaissance hotel has hidden letters on the side of its building

Ghost letters on the East side of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. (Photo: Jim Scott, @entropicstrings)

The “ghost letters” are created with reflective material that is hidden during the day. Here’s how you can capture the letters at night: Head to First and Adams streets and find the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, stand across the street from the valet area on First Street, turn on your camera’s flash, point your camera toward the East-facing wall, take a photo and keep snapping until you get the “PHX” letters.

And don’t forget to use #DTPHX when posting!

Hotel San Carlos has its own Walk of Fame

The Marilyn Monroe Suite features a bedroom and lounge room adorned in the star’s classic imagery and style. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Marilyn Monroe stayed in this room at the Hotel San Carlos twice in the 1950s. She preferred the hotel for its privacy at the time and chose to stay in the suite directly next to the pool so that she could swim at any hour. Other stars that frequented the historic hotel include Mae West, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart — who have suites and gold stars on the bordering sidewalk of Monroe Street and Central Avenue named in their honor.

Downtown Phoenix was in the opening scene of ‘Psycho’

The opening scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ shows Downtown Phoenix in 1960.

We get a panning look at our city nearly 60 years ago at the beginning of the classic film. At the start, you’ll see the Heard Building (not the Westward Ho), Hanny’s and an assortment of other Phoenix relics. Hitchcock then zooms into the Jefferson Hotel (now the Barrister Place building) where Marion Crane and Sam Loomis discuss their future.

Hance Park was built over the I-10 freeway tunnel

Hance Park sits atop the Papago Freeway Tunnel. (Photo: Lauren Potter)

Built atop the 2,800-foot-long Interstate-10 tunnel and commonly referred to as deck park — Margaret T. Hance Park has hosted food festivals, countless community events and even an NCAA Final Four March Madness Music Festival with 20,000 attendees.

Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) and Hance Park Conservancy are leading fundraising efforts to revitalize the park with shade trees, a splash pad, amphitheater and a restaurant.

Downtown is covered in more than 50 murals

A dozen local artist collaborated to muralize the alley behind The Churchill. Tato Caraveo was the artist behind this beauty. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Thousands flock to the First Friday Art Walk to experience downtown’s artistic side through galleries, performances and murals. Beyond Roosevelt Row, murals can also be found on Grand Avenue, in the downtown core and the Warehouse District.

Keep an eye out for new work on the exterior west-facing wall of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, which was one of many recent calls to artists put on by Artlink Inc. and Downtown Phoenix Partnership.

Hilton Garden Inn has a bank vault in the basement

An incredibly heavy bank vault door remains in the basement of the Hilton Garden Inn, which was once home to Valley National Bank of Arizona. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Before it was the Hilton Garden Inn, the Art Deco skyscraper on Central Avenue and Monroe Street was home to Valley National Bank of Arizona from 1932 to 1972.

After a long vacancy, the building was renovated to become a 170-room hotel in 2016 — where you can find the bank’s original tile in the lobby, a business center converted from the office of the bank’s president and an old deposit box in the wall.

Downtown Phoenix has more than 2,000 residential units under construction (as of June 2019)

Slated for completion in 2019, Block 23 includes approximately 330 apartments by StreetLights Residential, 200,000 square feet of creative office space, restaurant and retail uses. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

The past few years have seen a marked increase in residential completions, with no signs of a slowdown. Downtown Phoenix’s residential population is expected to nearly double in population in the next five years— thanks to developments like Block 23. Also under construction are Portrait on the Park (325 units), The Battery (276 units), Kenect Phoenix (320 units), X Phoenix (253 units) and phase one of The Link PHX (252 units).

Chase Tower is the tallest building in Arizona

Chase Tower is Arizona’s tallest building at 483 feet. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Built in 1972, the 40-story tower takes up an entire city block. The second-tallest building, U.S. Bank Center, is just a block away.

Arizona Center features our state amphibian

A metal sculpture of an Arizona tree frog jumps into the fountain of Arizona Center. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

Who knew?! The state amphibian is an Arizona tree frog, which is green and a bit larger than a quarter. Although you may not see any live tree frogs in downtown, you can admire large lifelike artwork of them in the fountains of the Arizona Center.

Downtown expects 14 cranes by the end of 2019

A crane works on the site of Kenect Phoenix by the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix campus. (Photo: Taylor Bishop)

No crane, no gain. As one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., Downtown Phoenix is reaching new heights each year with the most continuous development momentum ever. From now until the end of the year, you can expect to see 14 cranes in the rising skyline.

The Grand Canyon inspired the architecture of the Phoenix Convention Center

The Phoenix Convention Center boasts three ballrooms, 99 meeting rooms, a 2,300-seat performance hall and an executive conference center. (Photo: City of Phoenix)

The red rock walls and turquoise waters of the Grand Canyon inspired the architecture of the Convention Center when it was expanded in 2008. The $600 million project tripled the size of the center to more than 900,000 square feet of extraordinary meeting and exhibit space.