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Old Posted Mar 2, 2010, 9:54 PM
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JAHOPL JAHOPL is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Mesa, Arizona
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From another column:

The Great Depression didn’t affect Phoenix as much as older American cities. Six banks and two building and loan associations failed, shops closed, and construction halted. Still, movie houses were open, and 1930s photographs show evidence of Downtown hustle and bustle. In the late 1930s, Downtown Phoenix’s retail sales ranked 13th in the nation.

February 25, 1931: Phoenix celebrated the 50th anniversary of its incorporation with a parade, costume ball and rodeo.

January 1933: Walter Bimson took control of Valley National Bank and is credited with helping save the Arizona banking system.

1934: The “business of sin” was alive, Luckingham writes, as brothels proliferated along Jefferson, Madison and Jackson streets between Central Avenue and Fourth Street. Today, the Phoenix Suns play basketball here.

1935: The two-story U.S. Post Office at Central Avenue and Fillmore Street opened. A 1937 stamp denoting the Works Progress Administration – created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create jobs during the Great Depression – is still visible on the sidewalk along Fillmore Street.

The Phoenix population was 65,000 by 1940, and Downtown attracted droves of shoppers from outlying areas. In the 1940s, Kress’s, J.C. Penney, Newberry’s, Korrick’s, Goldwater’s, Switzer’s, the Boston Store (later Diamond’s), Montgomery Ward, and Sears, Roebuck and Co. were concentrated in a four-block area. Phoenix attorney Kenneth Diamond, a member of the Diamond retailing family, remembers a “dramatic event” that affected Downtown merchants. “Stores were open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays,” he recalls. “Pedestrians crowded the sidewalks.” Thousands of servicemen stationed in the Valley also crowded Downtown, prompting prominent businessman George Luhrs to liken Phoenix’s streets to New York City.

1946: Eugene C. Pulliam bought The Arizona Republic and would go on to wield great influence over everything from city government reform to freeway construction.

1947: Hanny’s, a three-story clothing store at Adams and First streets (now a restaurant by the same name), opened with a modern architectural look emulated by other retailers in post-war Downtown.

1948: Automobiles and city buses phased out Downtown’s railcars, which had run since 1887.

Downtown went into decline as post-war boomers sought a new life in the city’s outer reaches. In 1957, Phoenix’s first shopping mall, Park Central Shopping Center, opened at Central Avenue and Osborn Street with 34 stores, sounding a death knell for Downtown’s merchants. Goldwater’s relocated there and J.C. Penney later followed suit. “The retail mercantile heart of Phoenix hasn’t moved out from Downtown to its far-flung arterial arms or legs just yet,” said a May 1953 article in The Arizona Republic. Still, the writing was on the wall. Rapid growth and annexation also took the focus away from Downtown.

1955: Hotel San Carlos underwent a major renovation, adding a swimming pool to the rooftop. It is the only historic hotel still operating Downtown.

1959: The Phoenix Art Museum opened.

1959: The City of Phoenix purchased the Walker Building, a 1920 building that housed the first J.C. Penney store. It is now surrounded by city government buildings.

In the 1960s, cruising Central Avenue was in, but retail was out. All the major department stores abandoned Downtown. Empty storefronts became skid rows. “When I arrived in 1968, Downtown was on its way down,” says Jerry Colangelo, a major force behind Downtown revitalization in the 1990s. In 1948, Downtown had accounted for 35 percent of retail sales in Maricopa County. By 1963, Downtown’s percentage was 7.7 percent. Meanwhile, a crop of high-rise developments uptown split the Phoenix skyline in two.

1960: The 20-story Guaranty Building opened uptown, essentially, as Luckingham quoted an observer, “nailing the lid on the coffin of Downtown Phoenix.”

January 16, 1962: Valley National Bank created a buzz with the announcement it would build a skyscraper Downtown.

February 18, 1964: In a coordinated search, officials found 12 illegal “high odds” pinball machines operating within a mile of City Hall.

1967: The Civil Rights era was in full swing, and racial rioting occurred here as in other major U.S. metropolitan cities. Blacks demanded jobs, better parks for youths and more respect from police.

While retail and small business owners had fled, the financial community staked its claim to Downtown. The skyline soared in the 1970s with new development. The pinnacle – in height anyway – came in 1972 when Valley National Bank, the glassy high-rise now known as Chase Tower, opened. At 40 stories, it remains Arizona’s tallest building. A celebration on Central Avenue rang in Phoenix’s 100th birthday in 1970, with parties later at the Hotel Adams and the Hotel Westward Ho.

1971: The First National Bank Plaza (now the Wells Fargo Plaza) opened.

1972: The Monroe School closed due to the declining Downtown population. The building has been restored and today houses the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

1972: The $21 million Civic Plaza, home to convention space and the 2,575-seat Symphony Hall, was built over a slum known as “the Deuce.”

1973: The storied Hotel Adams came down to make way for the 532-room Hilton (now the Wyndham).

1973: Voters shot down the proposed elevated Papago Freeway.

1976: Patriot’s Square Park was completed. So was the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which occupied the block where Montgomery Ward had once been.

By the 1980s, there were people crowded into local storefronts – but they were usually sleeping. “There was this hysteria about the transient population,” says Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, mayor of Phoenix from 1983 to 1990. While Downtown languished, midtown Phoenix and the Camelback corridor thrived. Tempers boiled over when developer and future Governor Fife Symington proposed the Camelback Esplanade project at 24th Street and Camelback Road. “The fight with Symington was epic and televised. It was a fight over where Downtown was going to be,” Goddard says.

1984: The City of Phoenix purchased the Orpheum Theatre, preserving its theatre palace architecture. After a massive renovation, it reopened in 1997.

1985: Phoenix now contained less than half of Maricopa County’s population, making Downtown less convenient and less relevant for those in outlying areas.

1986: Construction began on Renaissance Square, the first high-rise office building to go up in Downtown in a decade.

1989: The Herberger Theater opened.
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