1923 | Frank and Sarah Hilgeman House

333 W. Loma Lane

Good luck trying to see this house. The only photo I could get is from the back corner, showcasing the storage room that was a later addition. This home was unknown to me until I saw a reference to the “Rock House” while researching another property. Thanks to its recent addition to the Phoenix Historic Property Register, it is now officially named the Frank and Sarah Hilgeman House and was built around 1923 by Frank Hilgeman and his son.

The Hilgemans moved to Phoenix from Indiana in 1919 because Frank’s wife, Sarah, had tuberculosis. The story is that Frank, Sarah and their three children lived in a tent near the canal at 7th Ave. and Dunlap for several months to make sure the hot, dry weather would help Sarah’s health. She started to improve and the family moved into a wood-frame house near 15th Avenue and Butler. In 1923 Frank bought 20 acres of citrus groves on the north side of Northern Avenue between 3rd and 7th Avenues. Soon he started to build a home of his own design out of local malapai stone hauled from Sunnyslope mountain in his old truck.

It was fairly common at the time for people to design their own homes, whether or not they were built by hand. Homes of this type are known as Vernacular, an architectural term meaning native to a specific area — also known as folk architecture. The house took 3-4 years to build, with the basement acting as temporary housing for the family until the first floor was complete. Frank used Salt River stone for the foundation and the chimney to contrast with the dark malapai stone. In 1941 the 20 acres was divided into two plots, and Frank sold off the Eastern half containing the Rock House. Sometime after his death in 1944 the plots were further subdivided into multiple lots. As a result, the Rock House lost its Northern Avenue frontage and now has a Loma Lane address. The current owner successfully petitioned for the property’s inclusion on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2015, preserving an interesting piece of Phoenix history.

Historic photos: Phoenix Historic Preservation; AZ Central

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