Historic homes and buildings can trigger a certain nostalgia, perhaps bringing people back to a certain time and place, or just helping paint a picture of what life was like in yesteryear. For residents living in the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood, it’s the experiences, stories and emotions contained within their walls and halls that hold the greatest value of all. “The homes remind us of a time when Phoenix was a small town and neighbors knew each other,” said Andie Abkarian of the Roosevelt Action Association. “Each home is different.” On Sunday, Nov. 13, the Roosevelt Action Association will open up their private residences to share memories, stories and some fascinating facts during a neighborhood tour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year, the tour focuses primarily on the Kenilworth Addition north of the Interstate 10 freeway, stretching from approximately Third Avenue to Seventh Avenue. Featuring homes built from 1895 to 1930, the event provides a rare glimpse inside some of the oldest — and most beautiful — surviving residences in Phoenix. According to Kevin Weight, a planner with the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office, the significance of Roosevelt is two-fold. It offers examples of early-Phoenix architecture, the largest and most elegant homes of their time. But its historic roots, coupled with the preservation efforts of local residents, also helped put this neighborhood on the map.
Photo: Brandi Porter
It was the first residential district in Phoenix to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and first district listed on the Phoenix register in 1986. “The residents were really the driving force behind these designations,” Weight said. “When the freeway came through, that really took its toll and they wanted to do everything they could to preserve what was left — and we’re grateful they did that.” The Papago Freeway Tunnel (with Margaret T. Hance Park above it) basically splits the neighborhood in two, and a number of homes were demolished in its wake. But that hasn’t stopped the Roosevelt Action Association from continuing to passionately fight for historic preservation in the area. In addition to being a fundraiser for the association, the goal of the home tour is to teach the public about the economic and intrinsic value of older homes. This year’s event features mostly Craftsman-style bungalows, with expansive porches, big windows, hardwood floors and even basements. But the neighborhood as a whole offers a variety of architectural styles, including Queen Anne-style Victorians, and period revivals like Spanish Colonial and Tudor. Roosevelt was one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Phoenix during the late 19th and early 20th centuries — and in many ways, it still is. Tour attendees can expect to see some great style, interesting art and beautiful home décor. According to Abkarian, it’s great to see people come from all the Valley to appreciate other people’s homes and some of downtown’s rich history. “Much of the traffic comes from outlying areas, Sun City, Ahwatukee — really all over,” she said. “They appreciate the craftsmanship and the fact that these houses are unlike anything they’ve ever seen — you just don’t see these types of houses in the Valley.” Before Saturday, tickets for the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood Home Tour can be purchased online for $12, or $15 the day-of. The ticket booth will be set up in front of the Kenilworth school on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Culver Street. This family-friendly and educational self-guided tour will feature food trucks, a craft fair and for an extra fee, a limited number of spots to follow along with Marshall Shore, “the hip historian.” For more information, visit the website.