Blog Archives

Viewpoint: The rise of a desert city (Phoenix)

[Source: Marshall Trimble, Special for the Arizona Republic] — “Ask anyone about why Phoenix is here.  Most people can’t answer that. Why do 4 million people live here?” – Michael Crow, Arizona State University president, meeting with The Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board in April

OK, why is Phoenix here?  In fact, what explains the tremendous growth of Phoenix, a desert city, over the past 65 years?  And where is this sprawling, go-go city headed?  We posed those questions to Arizona’s official state historian, Marshall Trimble, and Philip VanderMeer, an ASU historian and authority on Phoenix.

Today, Trimble explores the birth of Phoenix.  Next Sunday, VanderMeer will examine the factors that have contributed to Phoenix’s growth since World War II.  And, on June 14, VanderMeer will look at what the future may hold for the city.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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Downtown Phoenix’s Westward Ho once hosted rich and famous

[Source: Maria Konopken, Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, Inc.] — The Westward Ho’s pool, shimmering outside Reynaldo Torres’ door, once was a place where Marilyn Monroe swam, Elizabeth Taylor sunbathed, and Paul Newman filmed a scene heaving a television from a balcony. The lobby of the former hotel still has grand touches, including tiled pillars supporting a soaring ceiling, from the days when Torres would see U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater and Valley socialites heading to events, dinners, or drinks.  “The hotel was always really busy with people coming in and out,” Torres said.  “You never knew who was staying here; that was the exciting part.”

Torres saw the Westward Ho’s former glory from his position as a janitor here during the 1960s.  But the rich and famous have long since left, and now Torres is one of about 300 low-income senior citizens who call it home.  The Westward Ho, with its 268-foot television tower, which no longer is used, is an iconic part of the downtown skyline.  And it remains a place of memories for many Arizonans who came here for wedding receptions, fine meals, and entertainment before it closed in 1979.  “It was full of character, rich in history and rife with personality,” said Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s state historian.  “It is where the rich and the famous came to play.”

At 16 stories, the Westward Ho was the tallest hotel in Phoenix when it opened in 1928.  At the time, it boasted a room rate of $2; most of its competitors charged 25 cents a night.  The hotel’s stature and star-studded clientele have led to legends and ghost stories.  Trimble said he doubts a claim made by some that Al Capone’s car was buried by a cave-in in the Westward Ho’s now-closed underground parking garage and is still down there.  Another legend, Trimble said, has Monroe making late-night swims without a bathing suit.  Like other establishments downtown, the Westward Ho suffered as residents and visitors were attracted to other places in the Valley.  “People didn’t want to be downtown so much anymore; the action wasn’t downtown,” Trimble said.  “You had golf courses and all of these things on these resorts.  There was just more to do.”  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]