Blog Archives

Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike

Visiting the murals in the alley behind 5th St. near Roosevelt (photo source: Tony Arranaga)

[Source:] — I took my neighbors on a hour long bike tour of downtown Phoenix.  Mike and Jane were not too familiar with the backstory to some of the historic sights in our urban core, so it was fun to give them some background on the landmarks in the heart of the city.

We started in the Evans Churchill neighborhood near 4th Street and Fillmore.  We visited the community garden near Conspire Coffee and the murals in the alley behind 5th Street near Roosevelt in the arts district.  Mike, Jane and I then went to the Phoenix Public Market, the Westward Ho and Civic Space Park.  Our tour then continued south on 1st Avenue to see the Orpheum Lofts, 44 Monroe and the old City Hall.

Next. we made our way over to Hanny’s Restaurant, which used to be home to a high end department store back in the day.  We then stopped by St. Mary’s Basilica where Pope John Paul II visited several years ago.  Our trip ended at Heritage Square and then we stoppped for a bite to eat at Front Row – TGIFriday’s restaurant inside Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks play ball.

How did I do?  Where would you take friends or out of town guests to explore the heart of Phoenix?  [Note: Read the full blog entry at Touring downtown Phoenix… by bike.]

ASU students delve into history of Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix

lion[Source: Rebekah Parsons, Arizona State University] — Graduate students at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication developed a comprehensive podcast on the history of downtown Phoenix’s Westward Ho Hotel — its architecture, tunnels (yes tunnels!), broadcast tower, celebrities (yes celebrities!) — and the people who live there today.  Click here to view.

“Icons of Phoenix” premieres March 6


Local artist Jason Hill will premiere “Icons of Phoenix,” his latest series of handcrafted prints during Art Detour in March at Practical Art in Phoenix.  View Jason Hill’s new hand-printed silkscreen editions of iconic architectural landmarks in Phoenix, including Arcosanti, Taliesin West, Luhrs Tower, Westward Ho, Security Building, Rosson House, Hanny’s, Phoenix Towers, and the Phoenix Financial Center. Each image will be available in signed & numbered editions of five, printed with pearlescent pigments on 21″ x 17″ 80 lb. Neenah Environment paper.

A reception for the artist will be held Friday, March 6, 2009, beginning at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.  The event is free and open to the public.  No RSVPs are necessary.  The exhibition will continue until March 31.  Practical Art is located at 5070 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, just a block and a half north of Camelback. During this show, Practical Art will be a stop on the annual Art Detour route, March 6 -8, 2009, sponsored by ArtLink.

How a Salt Lake Tribune reporter sees downtown Phoenix

Political figure Mary Rose Wilcox will soon open another outlet of her family's restaurant on ASU's downtown Phoenix campus (photo: Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune)

In a lengthy Salt Lake Tribune article on proposed commercial development around Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus, reporter Brian Maffly reports on similar urban revitalization efforts by Arizona State University in downtown Phoenix, Ohio State University, and the University of Pennsylvania.  The full article can be read here, but one thing that stands out is the reporter’s description of the area surrounding downtown Phoenix:

…Still, downtown Phoenix remains an island surrounded by urban decay.  The once-glamorous Westward Ho is now a senior center with a transmission tower clinging to its top floors.  Blocks of abandoned real estate sprawl north of the new campus, filled with shuttered businesses and dilapidated apartments, fenced-off cinder-block compounds with names like The Edgewater.  In the midst of this wasteland is a tiny bustling cafe, Matt’s Big Breakfast, where the sight of diners waiting on the sidewalk offers a glimpse of what could be in the downtown.

ASU downtown Phoenix campus supports Westward Ho neighbors

Photo of the outside of the Westward Ho building[Source: Arizona State University] — The ASU community is getting into the holiday spirit through the gift of giving back to downtown Phoenix residents on fixed incomes.  The Downtown Phoenix campus recently kicked off its Third Annual In The Spirit of Giving Campaign, a yearly drive intended to help residents of the Westward Ho enjoy a joy-filled holiday season.   “As the holiday season commences and we begin our shopping, we have an opportunity to share our good fortune and support the folks living at the Westward Ho,” said Ronald Briggs, coordinator for residential community education in Student Engagement.  “During these difficult economic times, we all know that those with little seem to have even less.  Residents often find themselves running short on items by the end of the month.”

The Westward Ho, located at 618 N. Central Ave., was one of the city’s premier luxury hotels until it closed in 1979.  Two years later the 16-story building was converted to housing for senior citizens.

The Department of Student and Campus Community Development and ASU Downtown Phoenix campus police with support from Theta Nu Xi Grad chapter are collecting household items to support more than 300 people residing in the facility, all of whom are on a fixed-income.  Items needed include toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning wipes, men and women’s deodorant, razors, fabric softener sheets, body soap, crossword puzzle books, shampoo and conditioner, handkerchiefs, Kleenex, blankets, shaving cream, laundry soap, men’s socks, sheets, dry dog food, cans of cat food ,and kitty litter.  ASU will deliver all donated items to Westward Ho residents on Dec. 19.

Drop off locations are located at the following sites:

  • University Center, 411 N. Central Ave., security booth, first floor
  • University Center, 411 N. Central Ave., Suite 300
  • Downtown Phoenix Post Office, 522 N. Central Ave., Suite 104
  • ASU Wells Fargo Student Center, 455 N. Third Street, Suite 265
  • College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, 500 N. Third St., fourth floor
  • ASU Mercado, 502 E. Monroe St., Suite C-100
  • Taylor Place, 120 E. Taylor Street, Suite G036

For more information on the Third Annual In The Spirit of Giving Campaign, contact Kimberly Novak at 602-496-4111 or e-mail.

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.]

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.

Ho radio to go?

City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office staff recently met with the owners of the Hotel Westward Ho to discuss the possibility of removing the 1949 radio tower from the roof of the building.  The HP Office supports the removal of the tower, and is encouraging the owner to also complete other work to return the building to its historic 1948 appearance.  This would include the removal of 1949 penthouse (north and south) additions, re-activating the rooftop neon signage, and restoring the southern Moorish street entry.  The owners also discussed possible changes to the south and east storefronts to add new retail uses to serve downtown users.  Further analysis of options and costs are underway by the building owner and architectural team.  Because the building’s recent rehabilitation for elderly housing had federal involvement, including a historic preservation tax credit, the scope of work also will require state approvals.