The Many Lives of Downtown's Historic Charles Pugh House

by Donna Reiner
Community Commentary Education Featured History Spotlight Donna Reiner June 10, 2021

The historic Charles Pugh House, built in 1897, is located just up the street from Crescent Ballroom at 362 N. Second Avenue. (Photo: Fara Illich)

Remember the old parlor game where someone whispers a message in their neighbor’s ear and that person whispers to the next, and so forth until it comes back to the person who started? The last person says out loud what they heard and you all laugh because it is nowhere close to the original message.

While some kernels of truth do exist, that’s exactly what happened to the Charles Pugh House at 362 N. Second Avenue over the nearly 125 years of its existence. In its most recent past, it was Goldie’s 1895 House, a restaurant. But there was also the buzz that it was a flop house and the home of Dr. Judson Elliott. What is the truth? Ferreting out the facts versus the fiction reveals some interesting truths.

Many people refer to the Pugh House as the 1895 House, but in actuality, the brick Victorian house began its life in 1897. Historians generally give houses names based on the original owner, which is why in those circles it is known as the Charles Pugh House.

The Charles Pugh House aka the 1895 House, most recently served as a restaurant. It has been vacant for a number of years. (Source: Donna Reiner)

Charles W. Pugh, the editor of “The Stockman,” purchased a lot in Norma Place plat for $600 in 1896. While we do not know who the architect was, this custom Queen Anne-influenced design was constructed in 1897. The discerning eye might notice the steeply pitched intersecting roofs on this two-story residence along with its shingled gables, decorative brickwork, and carved brackets. If you had been invited in, you might have discovered it had an asymmetrical floor plan.

Pugh, his wife Addie, and daughter Hazel, settled into their plush new home. Well-thought-of in the community, unfortunately Pugh had a number of health problems, and died suddenly at the age of 41 in 1905. The house may have held sad memories for Addie, as she purchased property north of this house, and had a new home constructed in 1906. Addie remarried in 1909, selling the house at 362 N. Second Avenue, but later reacquired it.

Dr. Judson Elliott — who was he? Contrary to the title, he was not a medical doctor. Rather, he had a doctor of divinity degree and was a Baptist minister. Most articles refer to him as reverend. And Elliott did not own the house. No, he was a renter, as Addie Pugh still owned it. Elliott and his wife only lived there for about two years.

The Pugh House was converted into a boarding house in the early 1900s, and a formal dining room opened in 1924, according to an ad in “The Arizona Republican.” (Source: Donna Reiner)

In 1909, ads were placed in “The Arizona Republican” for The Germaine, a boarding house at 362 N. Second Avenue. At that time in Phoenix history, boarding houses were generally of high quality. Sometimes only rooms were rented, but one could definitely find places that offered board (food). A formal dining room opened in 1924 in the house according to an ad. It was interesting to discover that the Pugh family had three boarders in the house in 1900, so it was not unusual to convert the house into lodging.

Following the probate of Addie (Pugh) Smith’s estate in 1929, her daughter Hazel became owner of the property. Remember Addie had sold the house back in 1909, but it’s unclear when she came back into possession of it. Hazel leased the house for a number of years and eventually sold it to Pearl Van Sickle, a widow, in 1942. Coincidentally, Pearl had been living in the house since at least 1940. According to the 1940 census, Pearl was divorced (not widowed as the 1942 deed indicates) and managing a “rooming house.” Presumably, it was the Pugh House where she lived.

For the next 32 years, Pearl Lewis (formerly Van Sickle) operated the boarding house. And probably, like the Rosson House, it gradually deteriorated in appearance and in the economic level of the renters. So, calling it a flop house might have a grain of truth. When Don Stott offered to buy the place in 1975 from Pearl with the promise that he would restore the house to its original grandeur, it was an easy sale. Of course, the 17 boarders and Pearl would have to find new homes.

An advertisement for the 1895 House in “The Arizona Republic” from July 31, 1985. (Source: Donna Reiner)

Stott was good on his word. He did restore it, adding on to the rear of the house, and opening a restaurant which he called the 1895 House. He applied that year to the name of the restaurant because he thought that’s when it was built. Stott also claimed that Judson Elliott was an early owner. Both these “facts” were reported to a journalist and are set in newspaper ink.

Lucky for us historians, digitization of such things as newspapers and deeds has enabled us to disprove both of these “facts.” But Stott never mentioned Charles Pugh, the first owner, who seemed to have been forgotten some 70 years after his death.

Published real estate transfer in “The Arizona Republican,” dated Sept. 12, 1896 notes the sale of the Pugh House for $600. (Source: Donna Reiner)

Thus, the Pugh House at 362 N. Second Avenue is still known as the 1895 House to this day, partly because all the restaurants since Don Stott opened his culinary delight have continued to use that name. After Stott’s successful venture and one failed business, there were two schoolteachers and a nurse who ran the 1895 House for about three years. Then another woman owned the restaurant before she sold it to Goldie Burge in 1989, which resulted in the new label of Goldie’s 1895 House. While the restaurant has been closed for years, Goldie still owns the building.

Many of the locals are hopeful that the Charles Pugh House will reopen as a restaurant to serve all the people who are anxious to discover or rediscover its Victorian charms.