What Phoenix looked like in the Roaring 1920s

Phoenix also underwent significant changes during the Roaring ’20s. Since the days of horses and buggies, it has grown from a small wild west town to a thriving city with automobiles and the nouveau riche. However, this was evident more than ever during the 1920s. With the war’s end, Phoenix’s cotton industry crashed, plunging the city into a recession sweeping the nation. However, the city recovered swiftly. In 1920, the new Heard Building was the tallest in Arizona at seven stories. A number of taller and more impressive buildings were built in the city’s downtown area in the next ten years. The Central Methodist Church moved to its new building at Central and Pierce, which is located in the heart of the city.

After the massive economic expansion of the 1920s, Phoenix quickly changed its fortunes, which American writer Fitzgerald described as the “greatest, gaudiest spree in history.” Phoenix, along with most towns in the West, saw little enforcement of prohibition during the ’20s. The large open area soon attracted bars, brothels, and gambling dens. Al Capone, a notorious mob boss, wasn’t too far behind. The city’s population was rapidly growing. Monroe Street still boasted the mansions of “Millionaire Row,” however, as the central business district expanded north, new elegant homes began popping up in its place.

The city commissioners and county supervisors issued a new bond for a grand building backed by the chamber of commerce. The building stood at the corner of First Avenue and Washington and was surrounded by a large city park. This iconic six-story building was designed by Edward Neild and the firms Lescher, Mahoney & Edwards and Wildey & Dixon. It features Phoenix birds rising on either side of the entrance. There were also notable buildings constructed during this time, such as the Fox Theater and the Orpheum Theater. Despite being reserved for the most luxurious, air conditioning was introduced in the 1920s. There was also a small focus on civic buildings other than the city-county building. In 1920, Phoenix Junior College became Phoenix College. Despite Phoenix’s rapid growth, the city did not attract any significant universities or liberal arts colleges during this time.

#2 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests on Golf Course, 1929

#3 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

#4 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

#10 This building was located at Seventh Ave. and Van Buren in Phoenix, 1929

#11 This building was located at First Ave. and Adams Street in Phoenix, 1929

#12 O’Neil Building on W. Adams Street, 1929. This building was located at First Ave. and Adams Street in Phoenix.

#15 Margaret McCulloch in Front of Home at 312 E. Fillmore in Phoenix, 1929

#19 Intersection of Washington St. and First Ave, 1928

#22 Southeast Corner of Third Ave. and Monroe Street, 1928

#27 First Presbyterian Church Building Exterior, 1927

#28 Y. W. C. A. Building Exterior and Grounds, 1927. This building stood at the intersection of Monroe St. and Second Ave. in Phoenix.

#36 Lake Pleasant Dam Reservoir Under Construction, 1926

#38 Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Under Construction, 1926

#40 Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Main Facility Under Construction, 1926

#44 Groundbreaking for Christian Science Church, 1925. This church was located at First St. and Roosevelt in Phoenix.

#45 Groundbreaking for Christian Science Church, 1925

#47 Landscape of an Old Road Near Phoenix, Arizona, 1925

#52 Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Train at Union Depot, 1923

#53 Heard Building Exterior, 1921. This building was located on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street in Phoenix.

#54 Heard Building Exterior, 1921. This building was located on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street in Phoenix.

#56 Heard Building Exterior, 1921. This building was located on the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street in Phoenix.

#57 J. W. Dorris House Exterior, 1920. This building is located at 7th Ave. and Windsor and is part of the Encanto Community Church.

#58 Norton House, 1920. This house was built in 1912 and is located at 2700 N.15th Ave. in Phoenix.

#61 Construction Crew Digging the Basement for the Orpheum Theatre, 1920

#63 Pacific Gas and Electric Company Building at Night, 1920

#64 Original Addition Being Built Onto the Adams Hotel, 1920

#65 Original Addition Being Built Onto the Adams Hotel, 1920

#68 Southwest Corner of First St. and Adams St. Looking Northeast, 1920

#71 Out Wickenburg Way Rodeo on the Remuda Ranch, 1920

#76 Frank Luke, Jr. Medal Presentation Ceremonies at the State Capitol, 1920

#77 Open Air Lunch on Adams Street Held to Raise Reflief Funds for Europe Following World War I, 1920

#78 The McCulloch Brothers Commercial Photographers posing in 1928 outside the Arizona Republican offices.

#79 Kelly Printing at Third Avenue and Monroe Street, 1928.

#80 First Street and Washington looking north with the Anderson Building on the left in 1928.

#81 A skyline shot in 1929 of First Avenue and Washington, taken from the new City-County Building. The intersection shows the Fleming Building and the Monohon Building.

#83 The balcony of the Adams offered this view of Central Avenue and the South Mountains.

#85 Business was so good — even with new competition from the San Carlos and Westward Ho — that the Adams saw construction of a 10-story addition to the east of the main building.

#86 Looking south on Central in 1924 from the Hotel Del Rey at Monroe Street.

#87 The Jefferson Hotel at Central and its namesake street. To the north is the Hotel Luhrs. Alfred Hitchcock panned across the building at the opening of “Psycho.”

#88 The Carnegie Library was completed on west Washington Street.

#89 The decade saw completion of Phoenix’s first resort, the Arizona Biltmore.

#90 Swimming in the Town Ditch or Swilling’s Ditch. It ran to Van Buren Street in the old townsite but was paved over by the 1930s.

#91 A 1920s postcard shows the corner at Washington. The Heard and Security buildings are complete (the latter flies a flag). Phoenix leader Dwight Heard died in 1929.

#92 Here’s what it looked like when completed, next to the Hotel Reading and on the Kenilworth streetcar line.

#93 “Mosher’s Folly” at Central and Taylor Street. The mansion, a dream of the tragic heiress Hattie Mosher, was never completed.

#94 The O’Neill Building at First Avenue and Adams.

#95 It’s 1928 and the new Brophy College Prep’s surroundings give a sense of the agricultural empire of Phoenix.

#96 Miles of alfalfa fields framed by citrus groves and Camelback Mountain in 1923. The alluvial soil of the Salt River Valley made it one of the most fertile regions in the world.

#97 One of the gems of church construction in the decade was First Presbyterian Church at Fourth Avenue and Monroe Street. In 2012, it was purchased by a fundamentalist congregation.

#98 The AT&SF Railway ticket office on the northwest corner of Adams and Central. It’s still there, under ugly stucco. The city’s ubiquitous awnings were real “shade structures.”

#99 Adams and First Avenue looking northeast in the 1920s.

#100 The Phoenix Title and Trust Building is one of the impressive legacies of the Roaring ’20s.

#101 Grand Avenue in Glendale. Just below the photo are the Santa Fe Railway tracks and the depot.

#103 Downstream of Mormon Flat Dam (top) and Horse Mesa Dam, which were completed on the Salt River in 1925 and 1927 respectively. Stewart Mountain Dam would be finished in 1930.

Avatar of Aung Budhh

Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *