While much of the hubbub of downtown Phoenix’s Civic Space focused on Janet Echelman’s public art piece, “Her Secret is Patience,” another important feature of the park is the historic A.E. England Building. Thanks to the 2006 Historic Preservation Bond Committee, Phoenix residents who voted for the 2006 Bond Program, local preservation advocates, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Commission, and Mayor Gordon and City Council, the building was spared from the wrecking ball (yes, it was threatened at one point).
The interior renovation is not quite done. While you’re waiting for it to be completed and the “grand opening” later this spring, sit back and read about its history, courtesy of the staff at the Historic Preservation Office:
Locally prominent builder Clinton Campbell constructed the A.E. England Motors, Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building in 1926. The Spanish Renaissance Revival style building features three large storefront windows with ornate cast concrete window surrounds and decorative course molding along the roof parapet. Six original bow-string wood trusses, sandwiched between new laminated beams, support the roof structure.
Originally an automotive dealership, A.E. England sold autos from the Hudson Motor Car Co. (1909-1954) and its less expensive Essex brand. Cars were featured prominently in the building’s large display windows. Central Avenue north of Van Buren Street became Phoenix’s first “auto row,” lined with Cadillac, Studebaker, Ford, and DeSoto dealerships well into the 1960s.
England left the auto sales business sometime in the early 1930s. The Electrical Equipment Co., purveyors of radios, batteries, and Kelvinator refrigerators, occupied the building for the next twenty-five years. The company’s “Gold Room,” decorated with gold drapes, gold walls and gold wicker furniture, provided an optimal radio listening experience for prospective buyers. Five Atwater-Kent cabinet radios were on display, ready for demonstration by company salesmen.
The Electrical Equipment Co., along with The Arizona Republican (now The Arizona Republic) newspaper, owned the KTAR radio station. Initially called KFAD and founded in 1922, KTAR was the first radio station in Arizona. The Electrical Equipment Co. provided the equipment for the radio station which was originally located in the Heard Building at 112 N. Central Avenue.
In its later years, the A.E. England Motors Co., Inc./Electrical Equipment Co. building hosted a stationery store and an art gallery. The building’s north wall, which was originally a party wall with another building, now consists largely of glass storefront panels in-filled between the original concrete columns. The building was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2006 and rehabilitated by the City of Phoenix in 2008-2009 as part of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space.