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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.

#1 Arizona Biltmore, 1929

Arizona Biltmore, 1929

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

Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests on Golf Course, 1929

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#3 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

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#4 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

Castle Hot Springs Hotel Guests Playing Croquet, 1929

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#5 Castle Hot Springs Hotel Grounds, 1929

Castle Hot Springs Hotel Grounds, 1929

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#6 Munger Olive Grove, 1929

Munger Olive Grove, 1929

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#7 Milk Processing Plant Interior, 1929

Milk Processing Plant Interior, 1929

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#8 Wigwam Resort Guests in a Stage Coach, 1929

Wigwam Resort Guests in a Stage Coach, 1929

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#9 Maricopa County Courthouse at Night, 1929

Maricopa County Courthouse at Night, 1929

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#13 View of Phoenix From the County Courthouse, 1929

View of Phoenix From the County Courthouse, 1929

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#14 Groundbreaking Ceremonies for Luhrs Tower, 1929

Groundbreaking Ceremonies for Luhrs Tower, 1929

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

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

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#16 San Marcos Hotel Guests on Grounds, 1929

San Marcos Hotel Guests on Grounds, 1929

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#17 San Marcos Hotel Guests on Grounds, 1929

San Marcos Hotel Guests on Grounds, 1929

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#18 Westward Ho Hotel Exterior, 1928

Westward Ho Hotel Exterior, 1928

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

Intersection of Washington St. and First Ave, 1928

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#20 Convent Alley, 1928

Convent Alley, 1928

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#21 Alexander Residence, 1928

Alexander Residence, 1928

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

Southeast Corner of Third Ave. and Monroe Street, 1928

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#23 Lake Pleasant Dam Headworks, 1928

Lake Pleasant Dam Headworks, 1928

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#24 County Courthouse Being Torn Down, 1928

County Courthouse Being Torn Down, 1928

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#25 Judge Phelps in Courtroom, 1927

Judge Phelps in Courtroom, 1927

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#26 Phoenix Courthouse, 1927

Phoenix Courthouse, 1927

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#27 First Presbyterian Church Building Exterior, 1927

First Presbyterian Church Building Exterior, 1927

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

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

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#29 Y. W. C. A. Building Exterior, 1927

Y. W. C. A. Building Exterior, 1927

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#30 Phoenix Streetcar No. 60, 1927

Phoenix Streetcar No. 60, 1927

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#31 Santa Fe Train Carrying Lettuce to Phoenix, 1927

Santa Fe Train Carrying Lettuce to Phoenix, 1927

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#32 Lake Pleasant Dam Power Station at Night, 1927

Lake Pleasant Dam Power Station at Night, 1927

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#33 Kay-El-Bar Ranch Guests on the Grounds, 1927

Kay-El-Bar Ranch Guests on the Grounds, 1927

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#34 Desert Surrounding Lake Pleasant Dam, 1927

Desert Surrounding Lake Pleasant Dam, 1927

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#35 Spillway Side of Lake Pleasant Dam, 1926

Spillway Side of Lake Pleasant Dam, 1926

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#36 Lake Pleasant Dam Reservoir Under Construction, 1926

Lake Pleasant Dam Reservoir Under Construction, 1926

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#37 Terrain Surrounding Lake Pleasant Dam, 1926

Terrain Surrounding Lake Pleasant Dam, 1926

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#38 Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Under Construction, 1926

Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Under Construction, 1926

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#39 Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Power Facility, 1926

Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Power Facility, 1926

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

Frog Tanks Diversion Dam Main Facility Under Construction, 1926

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#41 Masonic Temple Exterior, 1926

Masonic Temple Exterior, 1926

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#42 El Zaribah Shrine Temple Interior, 1926

El Zaribah Shrine Temple Interior, 1926

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#43 Phoenix Junior College Exterior, 1926

Phoenix Junior College Exterior, 1926

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

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

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#45 Groundbreaking for Christian Science Church, 1925

Groundbreaking for Christian Science Church, 1925

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#46 Hopi Dancers, 1925

Hopi Dancers, 1925

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

Landscape of an Old Road Near Phoenix, Arizona, 1925

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#48 Landscape of an Old Road Near Phoenix, 1925

Landscape of an Old Road Near Phoenix, 1925

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#49 Desert Along the Apache Trail, 1925

Desert Along the Apache Trail, 1925

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#50 Chandler High School Building Exterior, 1924

Chandler High School Building Exterior, 1924

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#51 Chandler High School Building Exterior, 1924

Chandler High School Building Exterior, 1924

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#55 Heard Building Exterior, 1921

Heard Building Exterior, 1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#59 O’Neil Building on W. Adams Street, 1920

O'Neil Building on W. Adams Street, 1920

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#60 Washington St. Looking East From First Ave, 1920

Washington St. Looking East From First Ave, 1920

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

Construction Crew Digging the Basement for the Orpheum Theatre, 1920

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#62 Streetcar No. 43 in Phoenix, 1920

Streetcar No. 43 in Phoenix, 1920

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

Pacific Gas and Electric Company Building at Night, 1920

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

Original Addition Being Built Onto the Adams Hotel, 1920

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

Original Addition Being Built Onto the Adams Hotel, 1920

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#66 Adams Hotel Lobby, 1920

Adams Hotel Lobby, 1920

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#67 Mosher Building Under Construction, 1920

Mosher Building Under Construction, 1920

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

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

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#69 Remuda Ranch Guests on Grounds, 1920

Remuda Ranch Guests on Grounds, 1920

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#70 Remuda Ranch Guests, 1920

Remuda Ranch Guests, 1920

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

Out Wickenburg Way Rodeo on the Remuda Ranch, 1920

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#72 Arizona State Capitol, 1920

Arizona State Capitol, 1920

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#73 Arizona State Capitol, 1920

Arizona State Capitol, 1920

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#74 Arizona State Capitol, 1920

Arizona State Capitol, 1920

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#75 Barn on the Robert Bruce Packard Ranch, 1920

Barn on the Robert Bruce Packard Ranch, 1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kelly Printing at Third Avenue and Monroe Street, 1928.

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

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

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#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.

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.

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#82 The Hotel Adams in its glory days.

The Hotel Adams in its glory days.

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

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

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#84 The vaulted ceiling of the Adams.

The vaulted ceiling of the Adams.

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#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.

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.

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

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

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#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.”

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."

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

The Carnegie Library was completed on west Washington Street.

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

The decade saw completion of Phoenix's first resort, the Arizona Biltmore.

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#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.

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.

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#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.

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.

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

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

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

"Mosher's Folly" at Central and Taylor Street. The mansion, a dream of the tragic heiress Hattie Mosher, was never completed.

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

The O'Neill Building at First Avenue and Adams.

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

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

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#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.

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.

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#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.

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.

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#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.”

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."

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

Adams and First Avenue looking northeast in the 1920s.

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

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

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

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

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#102 Mill Avenue in Tempe.

Mill Avenue in Tempe.

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#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.

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.

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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.

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