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

1910 | The Evans-Sexson House

The house as it originally appeared.

1824 W. Whitton Ave.

I happened upon this house while delivering a Historic Homes in the Heart of Phoenix book to a person I had never met. Her house, sitting casually in a neighborhood of ranch homes, was clearly much older than its neighbors. Curious, I asked her about it and she told me its interesting story.

The story began in 1885, when the Millers bought a 160-acre quarter section of land from the government. By 1907, 20 acres had been split off and sold to Elliot Evans, who ran a dairy farm on the land. At the time, the house faced what is now 19th Avenue, but the address at that time was Route 2, New Black Canyon Rd., a gravel tract with irrigation ditches along each side. Another irrigation ditch ran diagonally across the property — generations of kids used it as a swimming hole.

Evans sold the property to the Smiths in 1909 who renamed the dairy the “Moo Kow Creamery.” I had hoped that the dairy had a cute logo with the smiling face of a “Kow” but unfortunately all the ads I found had only type. The farm changed hands in 1912 to a state senator from Indiana, J.O. Sexson and his wife Daisy. The Sexsons moved to Arizona for J.O.’s health (he had asthma) but Daisy hated living so far out of town. The farm was 1 ½ miles from the city boundary and had no electricity or indoor plumbing. She insisted they move the family back into town, so in 1914 or 1915 they moved into a new house in town that had a bathroom, telephone and electric lights (swanky!). Sexson grew vegetables and corn on the farm, but eventually his civic duties were so many that he leased the land to another dairy farm.

Eventually the farm changed hands again, to the Wheats this time. Mrs. Wheat wanted an old house far out of town in a rural setting. One day while driving up the road they saw the “for sale” sign and stopped. The house was not locked and so they walked in. Mrs. Wheat loved it and insisted they buy it. In almost 30 years of living there, they never had a key to the house. In the mid 1940s, Mr. Wheat decided to add some commercial property to the land, so, as the current neighborhood grew up around them, they repositioned the home 90° to face a new road, Whitton, and also built some commercial buildings along 19th Ave. It was during this time, I believe, the wraparound porch was enclosed and the exterior was covered in “Permastone,” a fake stone facade that was more durable than the old wood siding.

All of this great information is courtesy of the current owners who have lovingly restored their house and researched its history.

Historical photo courtesy of the owners.

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

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.