Blog Archives

How a historic downtown Phoenix shop became a famed pizzeria

Pizza Bianco, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — In a downtown Phoenix block full of historic buildings, the Baird Machine Shop might be the richest one.  And it is a story that continues to be written.  The 1928 square, brick building was one of several buildings from Phoenix’s original townsite days that was spared demolition by a Phoenix mayor.  Another man, who would become Phoenix mayor, had the vision that the building could become an iconic restaurant that would draw tourists from around the nation.

That second mayor, Phil Gordon, might have been ahead of his time by proposing the restaurant in the late 1980s.  But his vision came true, as the Baird Machine Shop houses the nationally renowned Pizzeria Bianco.  “I just always knew there would be that attraction to the physical uniqueness of the building,” Gordon said of his 1987 proposal to remodel and revitalize the Baird building.  “We saw the potential of (Heritage Square) being so unique,” he said.

So did then-Phoenix Mayor John Driggs.  When he took office in 1970, he decided to save the buildings that still remained from Block 14, one of the first created in the city that still had original buildings on it.  The Rosson House, which Driggs remembered seeing as a child, had been subdivided into apartments and had air-conditioning units hanging from its windows, said Darla Harmon, executive director at the Rosson House Museum.

The Baird Machine Shop, whose previous tenant was Milt Ponder’s Sign Shop, was one of the buildings bought by the city.  It was just luck that a deal didn’t go through that would have leveled the old structures, Harmon said.  “We’re a great place to put a parking garage, don’t you think?” she said. “(Developers) were looking around licking their lips.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]