1940 | The Daniel and Clara Boone House

A rendering of the home by R.M. Eskil that was published in the Arizona Republic.

1720 W. Elm Street

There aren’t many adobe homes in the Valley, and there are even fewer with exposed adobe exteriors. One article I read suggested there were only four, but I already know of four so my guess is there are likely a few more out there. Exposed adobe is unusual because adobe is made of unfired mud bricks, which will melt if too much water gets on them. Usually adobe homes are plastered with either a concrete stucco material or mud plaster, to add an extra layer of protection.

This particular home is pretty cool because it was designed and built for Daniel Boone and his wife Clara. Daniel was a descendant of THE Daniel Boone — American folk hero and frontiersman. The later D. Boone was the assistant general manager for the Salt River Power District. Though I tried, I couldn’t dig up much more on the Boones, especially Clara, so if you have some information, please enlighten me!

In 1940 the Boones built an adobe home on a very large parcel outside the Phoenix city limits. It was designed by architect Rolf M. Eskil and built by T.Y. Leonard. Eskil studied architecture at Berkeley and worked in L.A. before moving to Phoenix for a brief time. He was successful here and his designs were often featured in the Arizona Republic. At this time, adobe was not a primary building material in Phoenix, and when it was it was mostly used for Spanish Revival homes. So it is unusual that in 1940 the Boones would elect to use adobe and use it for a ranch-style house. If you are a reader of this blog, then you likely read about the Stewart Howard House, another exposed adobe ranch-style house built in 1937 just a few miles away.

The Boone house has steel casement windows, thick wood lintels over doors and windows, and a combination of exposed adobe, knotty pine paneling and plaster on the interior walls. The original floor was stained concrete but is now covered in wood laminate. The living room has an unusual fireplace that is referred to as a “pueblo hanging” design in an Arizona Republic article from 1940. The exterior is completely built of mud adobe with a low-pitched roof, originally covered in wood shingles. A rectangular bay window, clad in redwood siding, creates a focal point at the front of the house.

Daniel died in 1954, but Clara continued to live in the house until she died in 1987. The house has changed hands a few times since then, and minor changes have been made to the interior but the floorplan remains unaltered. The large lot, which the Boones used to raise cattle as a hobby, was subdivided during their lifetimes. Now the house, while still on a large lot, is surrounded by newer houses in the Elm Acres subdivision. The Daniel and Clara Boone House was added to the Phoenix Historic Register in 2005.

Historic rendering courtesy of the Arizona Republic

1885 | Sahuaro Ranch

9802 North 59th Avenue

I have only been in Phoenix 10 years, so there are many hidden gems I don’t know about, and that makes this blog hobby all the more exciting to me. I just discovered one of those hidden gems — Sahuaro* Ranch, a Glendale city park that includes what remains of a once thriving fruit farm and ranch. Established in the years following the completion of the Arizona Canal in 1885 by Illinois business man William Henry Bartlett, who was attracted to the new agricultural possibilities in the Salt River Valley.

*Bartlett’s spelling

Bartlett owned over 2,000 acres, 640 of which comprised the fruit farm. He did not live here, but hired a superintendent to manage the farm, which grew citrus, pecans, olives and date palms. Eventually grapes and dairy cows were added. The farm changed hands several times until it became a commercial dairy in 1927 at the hands of Richard W. Smith. Eventually Smith’s descendants sold 80 acres of the ranch to the city of Glendale, which set aside the area that includes historic buildings as a park. The city began restoring the buildings on the site in the late 1970s and the historic ranch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The first building on the site is the Adobe House. It was built in 1887 as the home of the farm’s superintendent. Originally the adobe bricks were exposed to the elements, but sometime before 1930 it was covered in plaster and remains this way today. The wood-frame addition was also added later.

The large, rectangular brick building was purpose built in 1891 as a fruit packing shed. Once fruit was no longer the main product of the farm, it was used for tools and grain storage. The veranda is a reconstruction but all the other exterior features are original.

Two additional Victorian-style homes sit next to each other on the farm and are connected by a veranda. The larger house, known as the Main House, was originally a small office built in 1891 that was expanded in 1895 to create a home for the superintendent’s family. In 1898 William Bartlett’s son was diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctor recommended the family relocate to Arizona for the dry air so Bartlett had a second house, now known as the Guest House, built that year to serve as a winter home for the family. Also that year, a second story was added to the Main House. These houses, along with the smaller Foreman’s House, were occupied by ranch families and workers well into the 1960s.

An interesting aside here is that Bartlett hired J. L. Silsbee, an important Chicago architect and one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s first employers, to design the Guest House.

In addition to the historic portion of the ranch, the park has sports facilities, picnic areas and a multi use path. Some of the orange groves still exist as do the peacocks who have made the ranch their home. Tours are offered of the Adobe and Main houses, and the Guest house, which houses the offices of the Glendale Historical Society, also has rotating exhibits during the year. The Packing Shed is now used for special events such as art shows and weddings. Next time you are in Glendale, visit this gem of a park. It’s a great example of what can be done what a city values its history.

Historic photos courtesy of The Arizona Memory Project azmemory.azlibrary.gov

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.

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.

1936 | The Miracle House

306 W. Lewis

The New Deal was President Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression. It created a number of reforms and new administrative departments to put the economy back on track and get people to work. One of these new departments was the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The goal of the FHA was to improve building standards and make home ownership accessible through FHA-insured mortgages. The impact the FHA had on the housing market cannot be underestimated — the number of new homes built in the Phoenix area increased almost 900% from 1934 to 1936. Most of these homes were built according to the new FHA building standards for a “modern” home. To promote this new approach to home building, the FHA built demonstration houses (two in Willo and one in Palmcroft) showcasing the new standards. But the FHA wasn’t the only organization building demonstration houses…

In 1936 the Arizona State Firemen’s Association built their own “fireproof” demonstration house, which they called the Miracle House. This modernistic house was constructed of fire resistant materials including adobe walls, concrete floors, steel casement windows and an asbestos roof. The home also boasted a rounded dining area lined with windows on the south-facing side of the house designed for passive-solar heating in winter. The asbestos roof has been replaced, but otherwise this house remains generally the same as it was in the 30s.

1928 | The Indian House

2040 Encanto Drive SE

When land developer, Dwight Heard, started work on his new high-end community, Encanto, he envisioned it to be the “Bel Aire” of Phoenix, where local movers and shakers would build stunning homes on its curvelinear, palm-tree-lined streets. In order to attract buyers he built “model homes” that showcased the skill of his designers and builders. These were not model homes in the modern sense, they were demonstration houses that highlighted the quality, design and modern conveniences that could be incorporated into any of the custom homes built in Encanto. The “Indian House” as it was known, is one of these model homes. Built in the Pueblo Revival style, it provides us with a distinctive impression of the pueblos that dot the New Mexico and Arizona landscape. The house is constructed of block, but designed to look like plastered adobe with uneven surfaces and rounded corners and parapet walls. Originally wood beams, known as vigas, protruded from the roofline and rustic wooden ladders tied the various levels together.

The Pueblo Revival style grew in popularity largely due to hotelier Fred Harvey’s romantic view of the Southwest and its native people. In the late 1800s, Harvey started a chain of hotels along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad line, which helped spur tourism to the Southwest. His landmark hotels, such as La Posada and La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico and others including El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, provided visitors with comfortable accommodations and an idealized notion of local architectural traditions. His popular “Indian Detours” — coach tours that took visitors into Indian Country — showcased Native American arts and crafts that travelers of the time found irresistible. The fever for Indian art and design that spread across the West is epitomized by The Indian House, which stands as a noteworthy example of this style.

Side note: this house is right around the corner from the Joe Barta House I featured in another blog post.

1870 | The Duppa Homestead

115 W. Sherman St.

This dilapidated old adobe building is said to be the oldest standing structure in the City of Phoenix. It sits, rotting, in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by chain link but was built around 1870 by “Lord” Darrell Duppa, a Cambridge-educated gentleman from Kent, England who is considered one of the founders of Phoenix. He is also credited with naming the new town site. Duppa, along with Jack Swilling (another founding father) saw the agricultural potential of the valley and, taking a cue from the ancient Hohokam irrigation canals, devised a plan to irrigate the valley.

The building is made of mud adobe and covered with a roof constructed of Cottonwood branches and earth — typical construction techniques for the time. In fact, adobes like this would have dotted the fields near the Salt River before the turn of the century. Homestead is a misnomer however, since Duppa and his family probably never lived here — the building was most likely an agricultural out building on his ranch. It’s now managed by the Arizona Historical Society and at one time was open to the public as a sort of pioneer museum. Stop by and see it before it gets torn down or totally melts into the ground!

Historical photo courtesy of the Phoenix Museum of History.

1930 | Adobe Spanish Colonial Revival

58 W. Wilshire Dr.

I love this house because of that window! You should see it at night with a 10ft Christmas tree — stunning. The other thing I love about it is that it’s built of adobe (at least partially). Adobe is the natural building material of the Southwest — the thick walls keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter. The simple mud bricks are often made right on site from the earth that has been removed for the foundations. The owner of this home was so happy when she found the adobe walls while renovating the kitchen. Many adobe home owners have what is known as an “honesty window” where the adobe is visible and this owner left the adobe exposed after the remodel.