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Historic Preservation Month would not be possible without community support. By protecting our heritage, we help shape our City’s identity by establishing a sense of place and honoring what was and will continue to be.
In honor of May being Historic Preservation Month, we asked you to share a story of a historic place in Downtown Phoenix that has had a special impact on your life. In order to qualify, the place mentioned in the story must be at least 50 years old and possess significant historical, architectural, and/ or cultural value. The submission must be authentic, thoughtful, and creative. And photos were encouraged, but not required.
While we could only award one winner with a prize, we had so many awe-inspiring submissions that we wanted to share some honorable mentions as well.
My husband, Chris, and I got married last year at Floor 13 located in the Hilton Garden Inn which was the former Valley National Bank building! Our photos were taken in the iconic lobby—we were obsessed with the art deco architecture. As downtown residents (and myself a native downtown Phoenician), having our wedding in that building felt like we were honoring a piece of Phoenix history.
Honorable mentions (in no particular order)
“I was born and raised in DTPHX, and my dad worked Downtown in the 90s and early 2000s — I would visit his office as a kid and was always so awe-inspired by the history, culture, and significant buildings. It was a dream of mine to be part of that one day. In 2021, I managed the historic Heard Building on Central. Caring for Heard Building and being a part of our community & rich DTPHX history has been an honor, a privilege, and a dream come true!”
Natalie R., 31 years old
“Our family moved to the Encanto area in 1969. My friend Mary and I were in 8th grade. Her mother invited us to lay out at the Westward Ho Hotel pool one weekend. We were all lying out, and then I saw Paul Newman! Walking across the pool area and sitting across the way from us. I knew exactly who he was, and I just hid under my towel and didn’t move. I understand why my friend’s mom wanted to go to the Westward Ho Pool.”
Kimberly J., 68 years old
“In November 1982, my husband and I went to The Compass Restaurant. After dinner, my husband went to the restroom. I sat on a bench waiting for him. A man sat next to me and began talking. Our conversation went like this:
“Hi.” “Hi.” “Do you know who I am?” “No. Do you know who I am?” “I’m Carlos.” “I’m Robin.” “Now, do you know who I am?” “No.” “I’m Carlos Santana.” “I’m Robin Asaki.” “I’m performing tonight.” The next day his picture was in the newspaper.”
Robin A., 68 years old
“In 2010 I was an amateur videographer. I created a timeline of Phoenix skyscrapers and architecture celebrating our beautiful downtown. We are in 2023, and it is very outdated, but I’m still proud of this video.”
James C., 53 years old
Back in August of 2016, I came to more fully appreciate two historic landmarks in downtown Phoenix. The post office at Central and Fillmore. And the octogenarian I met on that day inside that Spanish Colonial Revival. Both of them reminding me they are not simply shadows of their former glory.
I was working on a therapy project to assist me in overcoming PTSD from a trauma I experienced. And to guide me in my determined odyssey to reach a symbolic goal. It involved going out daily and meeting complete strangers. Getting their written support on giant foam boards for my efforts.
That’s how I met Jack. He’d been standing outside this vintage post office. I walked up to and engaged this fellow. He signed his support on one of my boards. Then it was his turn. This self-proclaimed introvert decided to open up to me. About a lot. Including his own trauma and heartbreak.
About two decades earlier, he lost his wife and only child in the same month. His beautiful spouse succumbing to cancer. His talented son dying in a tragic accident.
Jack had come to pick up his mail every day here for many years. He did it for two reasons. The first being that he felt a connection to this building. More than just nostalgia. Kind of like that special bond that only twin brothers have. You see. He and that postal building have the same birthday. Almost to the exact day. Each being introduced to downtown Phoenix in 1936.
And the second reason for coming to this particular spot. For him to be around love and feel that hope exists. Especially after his devastating losses.
He figured what better place to go than one that’s all about love and hope. A place where letters and cards are sent and received with care every single day. Since 1936. That post office celebrating life’s greatest moments. Our birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and holidays.
Jack was like clockwork. Checking his PO Box daily at precisely 11am. It was easy for me to find him when I was on my downtown travels with my project. The two of us ended up meeting and talking in that distinguished building more than a dozen times over those following several months.
He excitedly shared so much with me about his wife and son during our little chats. So many memories that he held and released one by one. And then sometime just before Christmas, he stopped coming. I often continued to arrive at 11am. But each time, I’d leave by myself. I knew. Jack was gone.
Right before what was our final goodbye, he said that this hallowed post office on the National Register of Historic Places is and always will be about the people of downtown Phoenix. A building based on a foundation of sending and receiving millions of moments of love and hope for 87 years now.
Jack was right. It’s the only building in downtown Phoenix like it.”
Ron B., 54 years old
A huge thank you to everyone who submitted their stories! We look forward to continuing to document and share Downtown Phoenix’s remarkable history.