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January 27, 2020


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I love seeking out sites of early motor courts and go on Google Maps often to do so when I see a picture with an address or I'm seeking out the original routes of old roads and their remnants.

Anyways, some months back, I was trying to track down old U.S. 80 in Phoenix (I live in Buckeye, Az., which old U.S. 80 sliced right down the middle of, with a small stretch of original 1920's concrete still intact and used to this day), I stumbled onto 17th Ave. and Buckeye Rd. - and what I saw floored me.

From Buckeye Rd. clear north to the underpass on 17th Ave. is remnants of auto court after auto court - *most* still standing, intact and in operation (though more as extended stay joints about half a step this side of fleabags, but still.....)!!!!!

The picture captioned "Seventeenth Avenue looking north toward the railroad underpass. In those days, this was U.S. Route 80 (the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway) and was lined with motels." was taken almost exactly at 17th Ave. and Grant and, where the two palms on the left are is what's called the "Vista Palms Studio Village" - and it still stands and is in operation, with the original palms you see here and the driveways all still intact as well.

Here's the link to a March, 2019 Google street view from a nearly identical perspective as the early 1940's photo above. Just zip south on 17th Ave. when you get to the street view and you'll see all the old motor courts that are still standing:


An outstanding collection of photos, thank you. The bus station being my favorite and a lot to study in all of them.

Mark, thanks for the heads up I will check out that area next time I'm west of Central.

The King's Rest is in The National Register of Historic Places...


You bet, 100 octane - and thanks for the article.

Here's "The King's Rest" today (March, 2019) - now known as "Las Casitas" at 801 S. 17th Ave. It's about a block & a half south of the location in the 1940's picture - SE corner of 17th Ave. & Sherman. Beautiful building:


There's 2 more old motor courts right across the street (17th Ave.) that fill the block from Sherman south to Hadley. The one closest looks like it may have been built in the early 1940s while the one next to it (south) looks to have been built sometime in the early-mid 1950s. See the link here for these 2 as there are/were in March, 2019:


And there's a few more further south (mostly on the east side of 17th Ave.), including remnants (driveways) of one on the NE corner of 17th Ave. & Buckeye Rd. that might've been built as early as the late 1920's that stood until 2014 or so. Here's an April, 2014 view of that one as it was still standing - place was called "Casa del Sol" and is now a vacant lot, but with the 2 original driveways still intact:


Thank you for the photographs. It's so fascinating to see the city before it was emptied out by the time I saw it in the late 80s.

Jefferson Davis Memorial highway? What is this, Alabama?

Mark, the 17th Avenue view today is a reminder of the staggering damage done to a uniquely beautiful city. It's heartbreaking.

Amazing we’re they unusually lifeless aka built with a sandstone that can’t with stand our wetha

Jon - this makes my heart ache. My grandparents came to Phoenix in 1921 and I came here in 1957. I so remember the gracious old neighborhoods, trees and grass. To see how the area has been decimated by growth and overdevelopment is tragic. Not to mention the mentality that no one wants to mow a lawn or water a tree. Gravel EVERYWHERE. Sickening. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, keep up your most excellent work!

The charm and vibrancy of cities was a given back in the day. Even the largest urban centers had small businesses weaving an urban texture that is wholly missing in today's America. Our taste for cars and tract housing changed cities dramatically for the worse. Some cities hung on a bit longer than others but almost every one has been altered to the point of becoming alien and unwelcoming.

My grandmother lived in Lawton, OK, which back in the 1950s I recalled as a kind of paradise. It had everything including a busy main street that tantalized my eyes in a way that Sunnyslope never did. After I mustered out of the army in 1968, I returned to pay a visit. I was shocked to see the old main street a mostly depressed and depressing array of empty storefronts and second-hand stores. The magic was completely gone.

The urban revival today is both heartening and a little sad. Yes, it's great that Millenials want an urban scene that is more than monster streets connecting chain fast food outlets. But you can see the problem up close: nothing really fits together because they're no connective tissue. Cities are no longer "organic". You can see it in downtown Phoenix where streets are filled with discrete strangers, those tall buildings that inertly rise from empty streets but remain isolated and alone like the few humans that haunt its sidewalks.

It's a small world, Soleri. In the early 1980s, I worked for the Lawton Constitution and Morning Press.

Urban renewal had clearcut blocks of old downtown Lawton, replacing it with a mall surrounded by surface parking lots. This was seen as progress.

Only in the photos of the newspaper morgue could I find the dense texture of old Lawton. Such a loss.

Sourced from my album as two other collectors, made an A-Z list last summer of Phoenix hotel and motels. Majority pre-1960, there were 171.

Here is the newly opened William Henry Brophy College (later Brophy College Preparatory) in 1928, at 4701 N. Central Avenue, just south of Camelback Road. It was promoted as "the Sunshine School, located three miles north of Phoenix, Arizona."

The promotion was aimed at attracting boarding students. The top floor of the south wing facing the Arizona Canal was a dormitory / sleeping porch.

Sorry! The focus was on the 1940s!

Help me out here gang: I'm as nostalgic as the next guy, but the comments seem to suggest there was someway to cling to those good old days. Not sure how you go about doing that.

BTW, the photo's are amazing, As a footnote we have some of Webb's early years photo's at the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum and better yet his Phoenix stories from the 30's and 40's are quite fascinating.

Back on point, for those of you longing for the simplicity, grace and style of the 40's...how would that have been even possible? Can neighborhoods reinvent themselves? Is green grass and trees realistic in a state where water is limited practical?

Maybe i misread the comments, but lamenting the loss of what was fails to understand that change is inevitable. And understand please, i ask these questions because this blog has posters who are truly insightful, well-read and well-written.

Bill, I hope others will comment, but here's my first take:

This site is about Phoenix history and urban policy, among other things. I'm suspicious of the word "nostalgia," because it suggests a lazy whitewashing of the past. If you read the columns, they are definitely not that.

Phoenix had added so many new residents and seen so much population churn that it suffers from an unusual lack of connection to its history or, with the large number of people who consider elsewhere "home," even to itself. What other large metropolitan area has so many residents who refuse to use its name, relying on "Valley"?

Every place changes, but Phoenix has changed for the worse to a greater degree than nearly any city in which I've lived. San Diego, Denver, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Charlotte have all changed, but for the most part have gotten better and preserved their hearts. And as you can tell, I don't consider freeways and sprawl "better." Even so, on almost any rigorous, objective measure of economic or civic health, Phoenix badly trails its peer cities.

Water? Phoenix doesn't have the water for unlimited sprawl, and destroying its historic and natural oasis to enable the destruction of the past three decades is outrageous. But so few people know what was, what a unique treasure we had, that they don't even know.

From back in my days as a Republic columnist, I was fascinated by how the powers-that-be (or came to be after we lost our civic stewards) are so threatened by the writing of Phoenix and Arizona history.

I hope others will weigh in.

Ideally, we learn from our past mistakes.

Unfortunately, the powers that be in Phoenix, such as they are, have always been able to profit from what many of us consider to be mistakes--i.e. the ever widening gyre of suburban sprawl. Cheap land, quick profits, and let somebody else pay for your infrastructure. Water? There's plenty of water--right up until there isn't.

This has been sustainable for so many years that the idea that it might suddenly stop is unimaginable to some.

Maybe, someday, the voters will put their collective feet down, and scream "enough!"

Or maybe we'll get better "stewards".

But I'm not holding my breath.

By the way, I wonder if they mention that Del Webb was just a tiny bit mobbed up at that museum...

I like and agree with Bill Pearson's comment that change was inevitable and no amount of nostalgic memory-waxing will bring any of it back. As an example, take the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It went around Europe building stunning cathedrals that still visually dominate the centers of most cities. But the religion itself is mostly an empty husk now. Sadly, you can't pour new wine into old wineskins. The moment once gone is gone for good.

Looking at those pictures of old Phoenix, I shiver in pleasure. Did the people living then know how lucky they were? Did any guess that in several decades their prosperous offspring would be marveling with little irony how rich life was during the Great Depression?

I moved to Portland not because I wanted to ride a bicycle naked or legally enjoy cannabis but because the center city has enough old buildings to connect me to something much richer than what what our current culture deems important. I enjoy modern architecture but it doesn't make me weep with gratitude. Old buildings do. For all our extraordinary comfort and security, we all sense that vague discontent. We hoped prosperity would make us happy and it didn't because there's no soul in too much.

The Sun City's and Leisure Worlds are a big part of the problem. And the thousands of sprawl houses to be built near the San Pedro. And now the community of San Tan wants to buy water from Mohave farmers? Its all T.R.'s fault!

And Del got a pass that his buds Gus and Bugsy didnt get.
But then he was a carpenter?

Thanks for the responses; nothing better than a good ideological discussion. I do believe history matters, not sure everyone feels that way. That was the beauty of this site for me, Jon and those posting get it.

Better yet, words matter and we've lost at least in part the capacity to write in ways that impact people on an emotional level. Youtube and the plethora of all things visually animated have become all that matters to some.

And thanks to Cal, your comment has grounded in me what i was reading between the lines. Phoenix used to be a really cool place until "you people" came along.

I'm not from Arizona, Minnesota was my home for 55 years. Arizona is where i will die and my ashes spread. I care about the state, but more so about the community i live in. I spent my work life trying to fix the "big picture" when in reality that was a fools game.

Sun City is unique; no one was born here. Our history and that of Del Webb is spectacular. They (DEVCO) built a community based on self-governance. It was a concept where ownership of the process was an essential part of their success. There were no people who held allegiances based on some birthright, it was earned and learned.

It's why history matters. I long for those old days when people cared. I would argue it is more generational than anything else. Boomers are different than the Greatest Generation and Gen X will be even more so challenging.

As much as i want the "good old days" back, they are yesterday's news. That said, sites like this with the photo's, the well-written comments and brilliant stories help keep it alive. While not a native Arizonian, i get it. Hopefully i can do my small part in pushing the narrative of why history matters and how we are better off if we understand the commitment to the process of "ownership."

No offense Bill, glad you’re here. I posted briefly to try and bring attention to the real issue. Eight (8) Billion humans, WTF? That old saying “go forth and multiply” was likely just some juiced up coco berry polygamist sex addict. Confession time. I was born in 1940 in the July sweltering humidity in a farmhouse in the black soil river bottom of Middle River just off highway 69 about 16 miles south of Des Moines Iowa. No doctors and birth certificate. In 1950 we moved to Sunnyslope Arizona so my dad wouldn’t die from Iowa winter pneumonia and I would not have to spend the summer in the hospital because of ragweed and other crushing allergies. We joined the many other asthma and tubercular folks in the dry Slope of North Mountain. It’s not lost on me why folks come to the desert. Fire, ice and snow, for a start. But everyone on this blog knows that. But as Greta points out, you don’t know a “crisis” when you see one, and if you do, what are you doing about it. Greta for President for life? No I am not a commie, I have been a registered Republican since I was 21. As a result of noticing at ten that Roosevelt Democrats (my parents) were poor. So here we are millions of folks eating up the Great Sonoran Desert. What we going do?

PS great photos here as usual by Jon and others. I am familiar with many of those structures back when Phoenix was just moving from being a village to a town, not a big ugly city. The motels near 15th and 17th Avenues and Buckeye and Lincoln bring back memories of spent time chasing dopers and armed robbers and walking the walking beat back in the day. King Fongs grocery store and Big Georges Social club are gone but Tops is still there housing the Soul Brothers Motorcycle club. Tops bouncer was a favorite of mine as I always knew you were safe with her in charge. She was six foot, 300 pounds with a giant opal protruding from her nose. I miss folks like that!
Thanks Jon for the Column. My Spaniard Amigas de Espana that grew up near 13th Street and Van Buren in the 30’s and 40’s recall even more.

Bill If you haven't, have a go at Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire and Charles Bowdens, Blue Desert.

I am looking forward to summer when 90 percent of my current winter Soil Bankers and Winter visitors from everywhere including
Canada will leave by May 5th.

From Jon's Front pages Arizona news section.
Water replenishment.

Thanks Cal, just ordered Blue Desert and Jon's A Brief History of Phoenix. I've got several books ahead of them but they will be in the pile. I probably will try and get Desert Solitaire at the library.

Enjoyed my years in Minnesota (actually as i aged i couldn't wait to leave it), but that was then, this is now. I do envy those of you with the fond memories of early AZ years. Probably why i so enjoyed the Mapstone series.

One of my favorite authors was Nelson DeMille and his ability to weave history into his novels. Jon used the technique extraordinarily well.

I give away copies of Desert Solitare.
Happy to send by snail mail. My email address is [email protected]

Awesome Cal, address sent.

Best commenters in the blogosphere.

Have to agree Rogue; when i first logged on i began reading old posts and comments and was stunned; "damn, these guys are good." Been playing on boards for near on 20 years and this is easily the most unique.

Quick story i suspect you will enjoy. One of my cohorts on the board of the museum and a long time friend has spent the past 5 years researching Sun City newspapers (we had 2) at the AZ state archives.

I suspect you know they have on file a goodly number of old newspapers from across the state. The problem is they are on microfilm. A tedious process and the one time i did it i said i would pluck my eyes out with a spoon before i go back.

He on the other hand has captured 25 years (5 large folders) with stories of the day. Much of Sun City's history was a best memory. Newspapers of the day contained information that was fresh and closer to the truth.

Yesterday, we did a class on 1976 back page stories. Lessor known news items about the community. Damn, it was fun to recreate those oddities no one knew about.

It is tragic to think about. As newspapers die and people stop reading, other than net news, we dumb down America. Those small community/town newspapers were our connection to our way of life.

Perhaps this site was special to me because in a way, it helps us stay connected to the past; to the stories that should have been told that weren't/aren't.

Evolution can be a bitch and technology (as good as it has become) may well be adding to our demise. Clearly, social media is an assault on humanity when it is used so cavalierly. In this case Jon, you've helped us understand its upside value as it brings us together.

Saving Cities?
Clifford Simak in 1976 in an an introduction to adding a final chapter to his Novel CITY from the late forties and early fifties.

“I believed then and I believe even more strongly now, that the city is an anachronism we’d be better off without. Even more so now than at the time I wrote the tales the decay of the city can be noted. Today’s typical city is a glittering downtown business section surrounded by growing rings of ghettos. At one time, when communication and travel were slow and primitive, there was reason for the city. Men first huddled in it for safety, later stayed huddled in it to conduct their business. The city is no longer a defense structure; in fact, in most cases, it is safer outside the city than in it. With our present communication capability there is no longer any need to be just down the street from the man with whom we want to transact business. Today we can do business with a man a thousand of miles distant as easily as with the man just down the street. The city has outlived its usefulness and purpose; it is costly to maintain; it is a stifling place to live. There is no longer any reason for it.”

Clifford Donald Simak (/ˈsɪmək/;[1] August 3, 1904 – April 25, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. He won three Hugo Awards and one Nebula Award.[2][3] The Science Fiction Writers of America made him its third SFWA Grand Master,[4] and the Horror Writers Association made him one of three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.[5]

My turn:

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities," by Jane Jacobs.

"The Geography of Nowhere," by James Howard Kunstler.

"The City in History," by Lewis Mumford.

Essential to understanding what I write about on this city centric blog, in a world where more and more people live in cities for obvious reasons (economy, scale, infrastructure, etc etc).

Too realistic!

After man climbed out of the slime and gathered and hunted, earth was doing fine. However some mentally unstable genius dude invented god and the fight was on. We went from the jaw bone of an ass to steel swords. Then along came the “advent of agriculture” that allowed man to dwell in the same place he shit, Cities. Technology came and now we have social dumb down media and reckless dictators with virtually no respect for life. Human, Animal, Plant or mineral. Now that the planet “targeted killing” drone war is on big time, no telling what crazed idiots will decide on what person or city to murder. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/10/qassem-suleimani-and-how-nations-decide-to-kill?utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_source=nl&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=TNY_Magazine_Daily_020320&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd67d4224c17c104802a222&cndid=48614199&esrc=&mbid=&utm_term=TNY_Daily
Born on a farm 79 years ago with no electric, running water and an outhouse with corncobs. It was rough but quiet. No street lights and freeway noise. One could see the stars and hear the croaking frogs. So in the near future I hope to pass into the sands of the Great Sonoran Desert, leaning up against a mighty Sajuaro, with no human lights in view. Maybe somewhere South of Ajo!
Meanwhile I’ll stay on the edges of cities in my 320 square feet on wheels.
'pity this busy monster, manunkind'
pity this busy monster, manunkind,

not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victim (death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
--- electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange; lenses extend
unwish through curving wherewhen till unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born --- pity poor flesh

and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

a hopeless case if --- listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

E. E. Cummings

I'm a print news hound - always have been (Chicago Daily News, et al) and always will be. I just subscribed to The Epoch Times, print and online. Great reads, but admittedly, not for most of this blog's readers.

"Too realistic," How about "too dark." It all begs the question: As we age, do we become more morbid? Not necessarily about death, but about the future of this country?

I read more fiction, because i love great storytellers. I find most of the non-fiction, while enlightening, lends itself to tragic ends rather than hopeful beginnings. Maybe i just don't read the right ones.

Thanks to Cal for the 4 books, nice surprise, i was expecting 1. Now Jon has supplied 3 more titles to search out. I guess this summer i will try and get smarter rather than lazing about with the less intellectual fiction.

Curious? Do you focus on fiction? Non? Both?

Bill. When you are taking a break from reading you can break out your Kitty for one of three Lawn Bowling clubs in Sun Cities. Or as some call that small ball, Jack. (Not Kerouac.) Dont forget to press your required all white pants and shirt

Tough Teri de Tucson. Your Drodge report and Epoch Times reading should keep you informed. Although to achieve Tao i find it more likey to find that spirituality deep in the quiet desert.
Should the natural order of the Universe's keep me here for a while longer. I'll be in Tucson for a week in July. The offer of lunch is still on.

Bill. When i was very young i vowed to not be like the old bench sitters, complaining about the present and predicting dire consquences about the future. Alas i seemed to have succumbed to that disease.
I read mostly non fiction.
Just finished Greta's speeches.

"I used to like this town" Phillip Marlowe

Growth vs loss.
The city-LA and China town.


One of history's great films.

From the above piece.
"It was a city inclined to growth, inclined to loss. “So great is the rate of change,” wrote Richard G. Lillard in Eden in Jeopardy, “and so rapid is the increase in land values, that the life of many structures is from fifteen to thirty years, and it is a rare landmark building that can survive the crane.” “Planned or unplanned,” Lillard wrote, “the Southern California cities gave way to the motor vehicle. Men tore down buildings to make way for parking lots or service stations. Men chopped down trees lining streets, broke up curbs, scraped up lawns, and widened streets to the front steps of houses.” Elsewhere the freeways were developed to tie cities together, but in Los Angeles, freeways were developed to solve congestion inside the city itself, ironically creating more congestion: More roads led to more traffic, more traffic to more roads, “which smash,” Michael Davie wrote, “the city to pieces.”

Teri, thanks for the heads up on the Epoch Times. I like it.

Cal, teri is not going to go to lunch with you, ever. I'm sure she has built up a quality reputation in her community and she would gain nothing by going to lunch with the guy who dated every waitress and the cashier in the photo of the Saratoga café above.

Hell, you brought a blind date to one of our coffee gatherings once and the group's reputation went down hill from there.

Jon, new fill-in homes on Frontier street in Payson are going for $350k. A bit more than the home you stayed in.

As a young man, I thought Arcosanti was the way of the future. Missed on that one.

Bill, Fiction, westerns. The good guys always win and the bad guys die hard, real hard.

Cal, my brother, there are 5 lawn bowling clubs in Sun City and only one that mandates whites these days. Praise the lord, no more ironing.

BTW, Sun City has lawn bowling because of Walt Disney. He was an avid lawn bowler and told Webb to add a bowling green. Seems they needed to add to the mantra;"a new active way of life.

It worked because by 1974 they had 1400 lawn bowlers in Sun City. Go figure.

Moved to PHX from Billings, MT in 1944. Loved going to downtown Phx to window shop with my sister. Going to movies at Fox and Orpheum was a real treat !

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