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Grand opening set for Phoenix Steele Indian School Park’s restored Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall built in 1922 as it is todayThe city of Phoenix will celebrate the grand opening of the newly restored Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park on Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m.  Memorial Hall is one of three buildings remaining at the park from the Phoenix Indian School, a federally run school for Native Americans that previously occupied the site of the park.  The grand opening celebration will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m., followed by self-guided tours from 6:45 to 7:15 and performances by the Phoenix Boys Choir, Phoenix Chorale, and other local musicians at 7:30 that will showcase the hall’s acoustics.  All events are free and open to the public.

After its opening, Memorial Hall will be available for rent as a space for musical performances, special arts presentations, and community meetings.  Originally designed as a musical performance space, the Hall is uniquely suited for choral and musical presentations.  Detailed facility and rental information is available online on the Arts, Culture, and History page of the Parks and Recreation Department website.  The Hall’s renovation recently earned the Valley Forward Crescordia Award for Historic Preservation for 2008.

Memorial Hall, a two-story Mission Revival style building, was constructed in 1922.  The school used it for general assemblies, graduation ceremonies, and theatrical activities.  In the 1930s, students began carving their names in the red brick outside the main entrance, a tradition that students continued over the ensuing decades.  Because the buildings red brick exterior was preserved, those carved names are still visible.  To this day, former students of the school return to the site to find the names they carved decades earlier.

During rehabilitation, the original building fabric was restored to preserve as much of the structure as possible and reduce the need for new materials and increased landfill waste. The original maple floor was refinished and reinstalled, most of the windows were rehabilitated rather than replaced, saving the original wood that was used to make them in 1922, and the standards for the chairs on the balcony level were all reused in the restoration of the seating.  Although many of the tin ceiling panels had been damaged when heating and air conditioning duct work was put in place after the 1940s, many of the stunning ceiling tiles were salvaged in the restoration.  Great care was taken in planning the new heating, cooling, and ventilation system for the building.  A central plant was installed, ductwork was concealed under the crawlspace and in the attic to minimize detrimental effects to the historic character, and insulation was added under the floor and in the attic to improve energy efficiency.  New electrical and plumbing systems were designed with energy efficient lighting, low flow fixtures, and state of the art control systems to reduce long term energy consumption.  The restoration cost just under $5 million, 75% of which came from 2001 and 2006 bonds. The remaining funding came from grants from the National Park Service and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.

Westward Ho modifications discussed

[Source: Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix] — City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office staff met with representatives of the historic Hotel Westward Ho and the State Historic Preservation Office about the possibility of removing the 1949 tower from the roof of the building due to liability concerns and new safety requirements that will trigger additional stairways/landings on the rooftop.  The owner is also interested in removing the 1949 penthouse addition on the north and south sides, reactivating the historic neon signage, removing the front non-historic canopy, and rehabilitating the historic storefronts for new retail uses.

The project will need approval from the National Park Service and SHPO first given that federal historic preservation tax credits were recently used on the building.  The city historic preservation office would need to approve any changes as well, and is willing to consider a matching grant application for the proposed rehabilitation work other than the tower removal.

Alternatives to "facadism" exist right here in Phoenix

According to the National Park Service, responsible for maintaining the National Register of Historic Places, no property listed on the Register would stay on the Register if descrecrated as originally proposed for Phoenix’s historic Sun Mercantile. 

That doesn’t mean creative architectural design or adaptive reuse of historic properties can’t occur.  Examples exist right here in Phoenix.  For example, the rehabilitation of the Phoenix Union High School Buildings at 7th Street and Van Buren blends the old with the new.  City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Downtown Development Office staff, University of Arizona staff, and project architects have worked closely together to carefully meld historic and new.  The rendering above shows the historic building on the left and new construction glass entry, elevator, stairwell, and restrooms on the right.