1926 | The Guy Chisum House

910 W. Moreland St.

Built in 1926, this was one of the first houses west of 9th Ave. in the F.Q. Story Historic District and certainly the grandest. The house now faces the I-10 freeway but one positive of that is that it has killer, unobstructed views of the downtown Phoenix skyline, which are particularly outstanding at night.

Guy Chisum was the president of McKean’s Model Laundry and Dry Cleaners, located at Third Avenue and Madison Street and he had this impressive Spanish Colonial Revival house built for him and his wife Lillian. One of the unique and outstanding elements of the home is its U-shaped floor plan with a living room in front and two wings on either side — the east wing containing the kitchen, dining room and maid’s quarters and the west wing containing the main bedrooms and bath.

Clearly a formal home, the floorplan and decorative accents are largely symmetrical with the exception of the beautifully arched front door, which is offset in the corner of the west wing, and a porte cochère, also on the west side. The front of the home is accented by three large sets of palladian windows — a set of three windows where the center one is larger and capped by an arch. Indicative of Spanish Colonial architecture, the flat roof is accented with areas of red tile. The U-shaped plan creates a courtyard in the rear of the house that was originally flanked by an open, arched arcade on three sides, creating a shaded space for resting or for children playing on hot summer days. I can almost hear the playful cries of children echoing off the courtyard walls. Today the arches are glassed in, creating additional living space in the main house.

The kitchen has been remodeled and, lucky for us, the owner (who is a friend of mine) provided some photos of the original kitchen. It’s very small, rustic and almost Western in style, with exposed brick walls and simple wood cabinetry. Check out the old stove and great tile on the counters and walls! The kitchen also had a breakfast nook and it looks like it had wormwood walls? I can’t say I blame the owner for updating the kitchen; after all I am not a purist and I understand that we live differently than people did in 1926. One part of the home that is original is the main bathroom, which retains its pink and green tile and original pink pedestal sink and bathtub. This I would never change!

In addition, the home sits on a double lot with a pool and guest house (original carriage house), making it a great place for parties (I’ve been to a few). The owner has back yard chickens just as I would imagine the Chisums may have had.

Fireplace tile relief

The first time I was invited to this home I was immediately struck by the ceramic tile fireplace surround depicting covered wagons traveling across the desert. I had never seen anything like it – it’s a beautiful pictorial relief of a very specific subject. The owner told me the relief depicted the Chisholm Trail, which was used by ranchers to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas, and that the trail’s namesake was Guy’s ancestor. But the spelling of the trail name is Chisholm not Chisum and this called the theory into question, so I did some digging.

My research into the name Chisum led me to John Chisum who was a famous cattle rancher in the New Mexico Territory. He was involved in the 1878 Lincoln County War, which was a conflict between two rival factions who wanted to create a monopoly on the dry goods business in the area. Chisum backed the infiltrating party along with Billy the Kid, who John knew personally. I thought the relief on the fireplace may represent one of John Chisum’s cattle drives and that possibly Guy and John were related. However, more digging led me to the conclusion that John and Guy were not related at all — I would welcome any additional info that may clarify this issue.

I’ve included this house on my bike tour of historic homes and it’s a always a favorite. I am so happy the Chisum house didn’t experience the wrecking ball as so much of the FQ Story neighborhood did during the building of I-10.

Photos courtesy of the owner.

1930 | Carter Gibbes House

2233 N. Alvarado Rd.

Look at this amazing story-book home! It looks like the set for a British period film — I can almost imagine Mr. Darcy coming to call for Lizzy Bennet. But it’s right here in central Phoenix, and yes, it’s undeniably the best example of Tudor Revival/Elizabethan Revival/Eclectic architecture we have.

I have written a lot about the period revival movement of the early 1900s — Spanish Colonial, Tudor, English Cottage, Cottswold, etc., which was a response, some believe, to the modernization and industrialization of America. Wealthy (and not-so-wealthy) homeowners wanted comfortable homes with romantic touches that harkened to a “simpler” time before industrialization caused a mass influx of people from the country to cramped city living.

This is exactly what we have in the Carter Gibbs house. But don’t let the image of a country cottage fool you — this is a purposefully designed and complex building. It was the creation of Carter Gibbes, a successful interior designer, as a showplace for his talents. The 6,000 sq. ft., 2 bedroom, 2 bath house (plus maid’s quarters) was built by Neil Gates in 1930 on a corner lot in what is now the Alvarado Historic District — a small neighborhood just to the east of the Heard Museum with large homes on estate-sized lots originally developed by Dwight Heard.

The L-shaped house maintains it’s original floorplan with the exception of the garage on the east side of the home, which was converted into a guest suite. The main living area is on the west side of the home and is accented by a two-story, leaded glass bay window that looks like it was repurposed from an English castle. This wing also contains the dining room and 2 bedrooms with private baths, one of which has a unique, free-standing bathtub/shower combo with a glass enclosure. Along the north wing is the kitchen, breakfast nook, family room basement/wine cellar and a portcullis entrance to an interior courtyard. Portcullis is a fancy word for a medieval gate that opens and closes vertically, like on a moat — you get the picture.

The exterior of the home is amazing and eclectic with a combination of building materials and techniques. This is where Gibbes’ genius shows through. By combining masses of different heights and different combinations of materials, the house takes the appearance of a humble cottage that was added to over time. The two-story western facade consists of locally quarried cut and dressed tufa stone on the first story and half-timbering with plaster infill on the second story. The north facade is about 1 ½ stories tall and is built of half timbering infilled with red brick configured in alternating patterns, making it look like a separate construction. As for the roof, interesting hip angles make a perfect palette for randomly colored and sized clay roof tiles imported from England — lending to the charming cottage feel of the home.

From what I have read, the interior of this house is just as impressive as the exterior. The owner has maintained the home in its original state with the exception of a few updates to the kitchen and baths. The open height two-story living room, which is accented by a natural limestone floor and hand-hewn ceiling beams, was designed as the perfect acoustical setting for a large Wurlitzer pipe organ that sadly no longer exists on site. Imagine living room walls clad of cut travertine to a height of ten feet with plaster and half timbering above. A grand Tudor-style fireplace dominates the wall opposite the bay window and I can only imagine the romance of sitting in front of that fireplace on a cold winter day. In the northwest corner of the living room, a wrought-iron spiral staircase leads to a second-story balcony where you can get a closer look at the gargoyles peaking out from each corner of the room (yes, I said gargoyles!). Finally the formal dining room has an ornate carved plaster ceiling in the rococo style with double french doors that open onto a now glassed-in porch with tufa walls, stone fireplace and an inlaid chess board.

I love this house even though it looks completely out of place in Phoenix. There just isn’t a Tudor anywhere in town that is this impressive, in my opinion. The current owner has worked for years restoring and preserving this historic treasure and I hope it stays just the way it is now under the stewardship of an owner who loves and appreciates it.

This home is on the Phoenix Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

1937 | Stuart Howard House


301 W. Oregon St.

I have ridden my bike by this house many times over the past five years or so and I have always been intrigued by it. The first couple of times I rode by it was just empty and neglected. Then I noticed that some work was being done on it, albeit slowly. Now I understand why — this house has been restored beautifully and is now for sale (not my listing)!

Adobe is my favorite building material, and while I have never lived in an adobe home, I remain hopeful. I love the hand made, practical and earthy nature of adobe. The simple mud and straw recipe dates to the prehistoric era and you can see the ancient hand prints of the people who used mud mortar to build their cliff dwellings in places like Canyon De Shelly & Mesa Verde. I love how the thick adobe walls insulate against the heat and cold, but also how they are the spirit—the personality—of the house. Exposed adobe, whether painted or left raw, becomes the focal point of the home and the main decorative feature. This home is no exception.

There are several old exposed-adobe homes in this general area of town (this one is in Medlock Place Historic District) and I often wonder about what type of people chose to build with this plain material. This house was one of the first built in the new South Orangewood subdivision in 1937 by E. Stuart and Frances Howard. Nothing I have read indicates why they used adobe but one account stated that the house was built from the earth on site by “Mexican laborers.”

Stuart was a pharmacist and Frances was a homemaker. They had one child, Llewellyn, who eventually inherited the house when both of her parents died. Llewellyn lived in the house and raised her children there, and only recently left to live with her daughter. This means that the house was owned by the original family for 80 years! Unbelievable, right?

As I mentioned, this house has been restored with skill and care. The adobe blocks on the exterior were exhibiting significant deterioration in some places, so they used mud plaster to seal the outer surfaces. I have only seen mud plaster used in Tucson, so this was a builder who knew something about adobe. They also refinished all the hand-made doors and wrought iron hardware. The original floorplan remains, but they did turn the garage into a master suite (the house was originally 2 bedrooms and 1 bath), One of my favorite parts of the restoration is that they left the old garage doors on the outside – nice touch!

This home is offered by Chris Bianco of Weichert Realty. For additional info, check out the listing. You can see more high-quality photos there too.

1910 | Stoddard-Harmon House

801 N. 1st Ave.

I have driven past this house hundreds of times and thought little of it except that it’s a beautiful example of Mission Revival architecture from a past era of grand homes located in central Phoenix. This, and a similar home across the street are now law offices, which seems to be the characteristic modern use of these stately old homes.

The other day when I drove by I was surprised to see the house against a backdrop of the newly completed Stewart apartments — a 19-story luxury highrise. The sight made me wonder about the person who built this house and what they would think of the glass and steel structure looming over it, so I did some digging.

Celora Martin Stoddard, 1886 – 1943, was born in Binghampton, New York and moved to Phoenix with his father, who founded the Stoddard-Binghampton copper mine in Yavapi County. Celora was involved in mining, but also in finance and development. He was president of Stoddard Investment Company and the Stoddard Incorporating Company. A state Senator from 1921 to 1923, Stoddard lost a bid for the Arizona governorship in 1928. In 1919 he sold the house to Lon Harmon, a successful cattle rancher.

After WWI, Stoddard knew that returning service men would face a housing shortage, so he built a 10-unit apartment complex a few blocks away from his home on 1st Avenue. Alexandria Court was a “modern, up-to-date bungalow court,” according to an ad in the Arizona Republic. This makes me think that Stoddard may have approved of the “luxury” apartments built to accommodate Phoenix’s growing population. He may have even helped finance it!

About the house

Built in 1910 the 2-story house is accented by a hipped Spanish tile roof and surrounded on 2 sides by a covered porch accented with arched openings and a curvelinear parapet wall indicative of the Mission Revival Style. The main entrance to the home is distinguished by the prominent decorative feature on the parapet wall above.


Historical images and photo of Stoddard grave courtesy of AZCentral.

1925 | Rancho Ko-Mat-Ke

1346 E. South Mountain Ave.

In 1925 the population of Phoenix was just over 30,000 and the city limits lay over 6 miles north of what is now South Mountain Park. In that year, John and Helen Albrecht purchased 36 acres of citrus and date groves south of the Highline Canal and began construction of their two-story Mission Revival home. The house has 5 bedrooms — each with its own bathroom — and is built of tufa, a volcanic stone that is lightweight and soft, making it a good building material. The fireplace in the main sitting room and the archways are also made of tufa.

The Albrechts called their home Rancho Ko-Mat-Ke, and I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to find the origin or meaning of that name. An AZCentral article states that the phrase means “hump-turtle’s back” in the O’odham language. However, a small town in the Gila River Indian Community is called Komatke (Komaḍk in O’odham) and according to its Wikipedia page the name refers to the Sierra Estrella Mountains. I also found a 2017 article in the Arizona Republic that suggests the name refers to “a blue hazy mountain” and may have been an early name for South Mountain Park, which brings us full circle, doesn’t it? If any of you have additional info on the meaning of Ko-Mat-Ke, please leave a comment!

The family rented rooms in their “spacious country house” to vacationers from October through June for $35-$70 per week. The property had areas for shuffleboard, badminton and croquet, as well as glassed-in sun porches and views of the city to the north. John Albrecht died in 1945 and the property changed hands several times before being acquired by the city of Phoenix in 1972 and repurposed as the Southern Division of the Phoenix Parks Department. You can find the house today in Circle K Park at 13th St. and South Mountain Ave.

Historic photos by McCulloch Brothers Inc. 1940. Courtesy of ASU Libraries Digital Repository.

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

1935 – 37 | Phoenix Homesteads

I’ve discussed a specially-designed neighborhood before when I talked about Idylwilde Park. Phoenix Homesteads is another purpose-built neighborhood and one of our historic districts and a rare surviving example of one of the New Deal’s more controversial attempts to put the country back to work.

The Homesteads was a program of the Subsistence Farming Division of the US government, as part of the “back-to-the-land” movement. The program’s concept was to create low-income housing on one- to five-acre plots where families could grow vegetables and citrus and raise chickens and other small livestock. Families were required to have part-time industrial employment, so the location — north of Thomas and west of 28th St. — was chosen based on its relative proximity to local industries. These families applied to the program and rented the homes and land they worked. The program was controversial because some thought it sounded too much like communism. In total, only 35 such communities were developed nationwide and Phoenix Homesteads is the only one in Arizona.

If you’ve ever driven through it, even by accident, you would have recognized you were in a unique place. The flood irrigated neighborhood is lush with vegetation. There are many varieties of trees here — Washington Palms, Aleppo Pines and many types of fruit trees trees — and they are so large they touch over the street. The large trees and thick vegetation are a large part of what makes this area special. Homes were modest, Pueblo Revival style built of mud adobe bricks that were made on site. Floorplans were not standardized, so each of these homes is different.

Over the years the area has become a garden oasis in the middle of town. Owners paint their adobes beautiful colors, plant amazing wildflower gardens and add artwork to their yards. The Phoenix Homesteads have a great website with lots of historical material, and most of these historic images came from that site.

1895 | William J. Murphy House

7514 N. Central Ave./ 10 W. Orangewood

This imposing, but very well hidden, Victorian home is one of less than 50 pre-1900 homes that still exist in Phoenix. It was built by William J. Murphy, a businessman and developer who moved to Arizona from Ohio in 1880 and initially worked for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad before prospering as a developer. Murphy is credited with building the Arizona Canal in 1885, developing the city of Glendale, and introducing citrus and sugar beets to the area. Murphy is also responsible for building Grand Avenue in order to draw people from the growing city of Phoenix to the new towns of Peoria and Glendale.

In 1895, Murphy purchased 10 acres along along Central Avenue where he built a ranch for his family, including this large Victorian home. He saw the agricultural potential of land along the canal and planted over 1,800 citrus trees, imported from California, on his ranch — marking the birth of the citrus industry in Phoenix.

The 3-story home is built of painted brick with a wood shake roof and includes a long, shaded veranda where the family spent many afternoons. Typical of the Victorian style, it is adorned with “gingerbread” accents and dormer windows. The family had picnics and played croquet on a generous lawn that separated the house from Central Ave. This part of the property was later subdivided and a much newer residence now sits between Central Ave. and the Murphy house. In order to see the home, you must drive west on Orangewood Ave. and even then, it’s hard to see!

The distinctive streetscape along Central Ave. from Bethany Home Road to the Arizona Canal was Murphy’s creation and looks today very much as it did in the late 1800s. He was responsible for planting rows of Ash and Olive trees along the irrigation ditches that run paralleled to this part of Central Ave., and for establishing the Murphy Bridal Path*, a multi-use path that runs along the east side of Central Ave. The streetscape from Bethany to the Arizona Canal is on the Phoenix Historic Register, and has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

*The path was named for Murphy in the 1940s by the Arizona Horse Lover’s Club

Historical photos courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society and the Arizona Capitol Times.

1912 | The James C. Norton House

The Norton House today

2700 N. 15th Avenue

Dr. James Norton came to Phoenix in 1892 to become first territorial veterinarian of Arizona. In 1912 he purchased acreage north of town where he established a dairy and built this imposing home for his wife Clara and their children. I have seen the house referred to as Mission Revival, and I suppose it has some of those qualities, but I think it’s more Italianate/Renaissance Revival. In any case, it must have seemed an elegant and imposing structure, looking much as it does today, sitting alone on a large grassy lawn (a favorite place for croquet and picnics). The house had a large fireplace in the main living room and one in an upstairs bedroom, of which there were 5. Mahogany detailing and beamed ceilings made for an impressive interior. The ceiling beams were hand painted with vine tendrils to match the stained glass windows in the formal dining room. Along the back was a kitchen with butler’s pantry and maid’s quarters, while upstairs a large sleeping porch ran along the west side. The home was one of the first in the country to have a cooling system — a early version of evaporative cooling.

Norton saw the potential of his land for development, and in 1927 he platted a section to create Del Norte Place, a really beautiful neighborhood west of 15th Ave. that Norton called “the countryside west of town.” The homes were mostly small cottage revival styles on tree-lined streets and sold for $5,000 – $7,000. Of course, once the depression hit, the building boom slowed down and by 1934 Norton got out of the home building business. Times were hard, and so he sold his remaining 140 acres and the house to the city. With the addition of another 60 acres from other sources (including Dwight Heard) the city could create its first recreational park.

The plan for a “Class A” park.

The 200-acre Encanto Park opened in 1937 and was constructed largely by the Works Progress Administration — the New Deal program that built so many public works projects across the US. The park is now on the National Register of Historic Places and included 2 golf courses, a band shell (now gone), lagoons for fishing and boating, a club house, tennis courts, an archery range and plenty of room to run and play. Today the Norton house is used by the City of Phoenix Parks and Rec as administrative offices, and will be going through an extensive renovation soon.

Historic photos courtesy of Historic Preservation Office of the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department

1917 | The Ellis-Shackelford House

1242 N. Central Ave.

At the turn of the century, much of the small city of Phoenix was clustered just north of the Rio Salado’s wide flood plane. After the town suffered through several devastating floods those who could afford to moved to higher ground north of town. During the prosperous teens and twenties, the wealthy began to build Victorian and Queen Anne mansions along Central Avenue (then called Center Street) in an area once known as “Millionaire’s Row.” The Ellis-Shackelford House is the last remaining (intact) mansion in this area. There are a few other mansions left along Central — most familiar are the Cole Mansion and the Baker House, which together make up the Old Spaghetti Factory. But the Ellis-Shackelford house is the only mansion that remains true to its original form.

Dr. William Ellis moved to Phoenix from Ohio in 1907 and helped establish the Arizona Deaconess Hospital, now known as Good Samaritan. Dr. Ellis employed architect R. A. Gray to design the house, which he built for his wife Reba and daughter Helen. The home was completed in 1917, and employed a number of innovative technologies that were not common in Phoenix such as a cistern to catch rainwater coming off the roof, a solar water heater, central vacuum system, and electricity throughout the house. Stylistically the house is a combination of the Prairie Style* with Mediterranean touches, such as the tiled roof and double wooden brackets under the eaves. High quality detailing included a mahogany staircase and trim imported from the Philippines. The house is three stories with a full basement for a total of 6,600 sq ft. of living space and situated on an acre lot. Daughter Helen and husband Gordon Shakelford occupied the house until 1964. Afterwards it was converted into a boys home, the Arizona Historical Society Museum and now houses Arizona Humanities. Like “Frenchy” Vieux, this house was slated to be demolished during the construction of I-10, but was saved and completely restored in 2013. It can be rented for events — check here for more info.

*For more on Prairie Style architecture, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust

Historical images courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society.