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The Professional Building: Not Your Garden Variety Hilton

by Douglas C. Towne
Arts & Culture Community History Douglas C. Towne December 15, 2022

For a stunning Streamline Moderne skyscraper that has anchored Downtown Phoenix for more than 90 years, the Professional Building got off to a rough start.

The name had to be changed at the last minute for marketing reasons, and construction noise created a heated dispute with a neighboring building.

The loud pounding of rivets into the steel girders that created the Professional Building’s framework interfered with luncheons at the nearby Hotel Adams, precipitating numerous complaints. Finally, after the construction crew hammered 65,000 rivets into place, they unfurled a sign in the direction of the hotel. It read, “The riveting has been completed! You are glad, and so are we!”

Maricopa County Medical Society members envisioned the landmark building as a centralized healthcare center in 1930. Concurrently, Valley National Bank wanted to relocate to property it owned at the southeast corner of Monroe Street and Central Avenue.

Valley Bank obtained commitments from medical professionals to lease space in the proposed building. Initially, the structure was to be called the “Valley Bank Building,” but the name was changed to focus attention on its medical tenants because of the many bank failures during the Great Depression.

The Professional Building became the primary health care center between El Paso and Los Angeles when completed in 1931.

The building, constructed for $1 million, featured storefronts on the first floor and 11 stories of offices. The Valley Bank occupied most of the building’s lower three floors; the upper floors were medical offices for physicians, dentists, and laboratories. The building’s first tenant was the Santa Fe Railroad ticket office in 1931.

The Professional Building featured many luxurious and modern touches. Marble facades and engravings embellished the elevators, while hallways featured metal lattice designs. It was the only building in Arizona to furnish individual linen towels in the restrooms; people used more than 86,000 towels in 1936. The roof’s electronic bell tower system rang out the time, music, or announcements. The basement garage could hold 90 cars.

In 1972, the Valley Bank moved next door to the newly completed 40-story Valley Center (now called Chase Tower) building, and the Professional Building began its slow decline. Although listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, it lost its last tenants soon afterward. As a result, the historic building sat empty and deteriorated for more than two decades.

Plans to transform the Professional Building into the Hotel Monroe, a 150-room boutique hotel slated to open in 2008, failed during the Great Recession.

Instead, Minneapolis-based hotel developer CSM Lodging bought the property in 2013 and redeveloped the building into the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Phoenix.

From the outside, the hotel looks nearly identical to its predecessor, with its limestone façade, grand entryway with decorative grills above the doors, and Art Deco architecture. The renovation preserved one of Phoenix’s most beautiful buildings and created new downtown lodging options that make guests feel like they’ve stepped back into an earlier era.

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