Presidents in Tempe

Knowing that I am probably in over my head, let me state at the outset this is one of those columns I am reluctant to write. Nonetheless, I’m diving in anyway knowing full well that I will be called to task for omissions.

After being bombarded with months of electioneering, I got to thinking about Tempe’s relationship to national politics ─ namely the presidency.

For a city of modest size we have had our share of attention in the national spotlight ─ bowl games, movie locations, entertainment, celebrity visits like Pope John Paul II in 1987.

But what about Presidents?  How many have visited Tempe?

For mostly obvious reasons there is no record of a Presidential stopover during the 19th century.

After all Arizona was merely a Territory ─ sparsely populated, besieged with Indian difficulties and a challenge to reach and travel within. Rail didn’t get to Tempe until 1887.

The 20th century is another story altogether.

In May 1901 William Mckinley, became the first known president to visit Tempe.

Mckinley arrived with a group of businessmen to survey the possibility of constructing a dam up stream of the Salt River to irrigate the valley.

On his way to the dam site, Mckinley spent one night at the Atwood Hotel (now the Casa Loma) on the corner of Mill and 3rd Street.

Tragically McKinley was killed by an assassin’s bullet just four months later.

Not long after taking office in 1909, William Howard Taft made a whistle-stop speech from the rear of his Pullman car to a crowd of more than 3000 who came to Tempe’s train depot to hear him speak.

Theodore Roosevelt was the third president in Tempe. On his return from the dedication of Roosevelt Dam in March 1911Roosevelt gave a rousing speech to a large audience from the majestic steps of Old Main at the Normal School.

Although there is no official account Calvin Coolidge may have passed through town on his way to the dedication of Coolidge Dam in March 1930.

Similarly no documentation exists for Herbert Hoover who made multiple visits to Chandler’s San Carlos Hotel. He too might have come through Tempe.

Although Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush made no official appearances here, it is likely they passed through our city during their frequent visits to the Valley.

Long after Jimmy Carter’s presidency ended he made a visit to Changing Hands Bookstore on December 12, 2006 to promote his controversial book “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.”

Bill Clinton was in town several times. At a campaign rally at Gammage in October 1996  he invited the Tempe High School Marching Band to play.

As a former president Clinton returned in again 2006 and 2008.

The coup de grace of presidential visits came October 14, 2004. After months of preparation Tempe took the world’s center stage when the media swarmed on Gammage Auditorium for the final, decisive debate between George Bush and John Kerry.

Regardless of who wins this election Tempe will be able to add another president to the roster. John McCain once had a home at the Lakes. And Barack Obama has spoken here on several occasions.

Not a bad record for little town.

Theodore Roosevelt addresses a large gathering from the steps of Old Main on March 20, 1911.                            Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

Theodore Roosevelt addresses a large gathering from the steps of Old Main on March 20, 1911. Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

What’s in a Name? The story of ASU’s nicknames

Since opening day February 8, 1886, following the ASU name changes has been more challenging than keeping score in a Pachinko game. Not to mention the nicknames, mascots and school colors.

So today I thought we would try to sort out all these identities and the reasons behind so many transformations.

Let’s start with the school’s name. When Tempe Representative John Samuel Armstrong convinced the Legislature to establish a college at Tempe in 1885, the official name was ArizonaTerritorialNormal School. But it didn’t remain that for long.

In fact during the first twenty years the name changed four times ─ TerritorialNormal Schoolat Tempe (1898-1900), Normal School of Arizona (1900-1903) and the Tempe Normal School of Arizona (1903-1925).

“Normal” was the word used to describe a teacher’s college ─ referring to a curriculum taught according to established standards or “norms.”

For the next thirty-three years name changes reflected the expanding courses and degree programs ─ TempeStateTeachers College (1925-1929), ArizonaStateTeachers College (1929-1945) and Arizona State College at Tempe (1945-1958).

Replacing “Normal” with “Teachers College” in the 1920’s followed a trend that phased out the less descriptive “normal.”

On December 5, 1958 the school became ArizonaStateUniversity ─ more accurately reflecting the institution’s academic growth. That name has stuck now for almost a half-century.

While school names represent founders, location or mission, nicknames are an unpredictable lot that typically evolves through athletics.

Baseball was the first competitive sport on campus ─ beginning in 1891. Five years later the first football team was fielded.

Apparently lacking creative ingenuity in those early years the nickname was simply the “Normals” ─ a name that didn’t invoke much of a fighting or winning spirit or connote an aggressive athletic program.

After an 1899 team photo on the steps of Old Main revealed an unidentified teammate’s pet owl standing next to the championship trophy, there was a modest movement to change the nickname to the “Owls” ─ some saying it represented intellect and concentration.

But to no avail ─ the Normals with an occasional try at Teachers and Jackrabbits prevailed until 1922 when as The Normal Student paper observed: “Our team was defeated 14-6 by the Mesa Farmers, but was not beaten. A team made of the stuff that ours is made of cannot be beaten. It was inexperience and not Mesa that defeated it. Indeed, it deserves the name given it by a prominent spectator … ‘the Bulldogs.’”

The first logo showing the Bulldog nickname adopted in 1922.                                 Courtesy ASU Archives

The first logo showing the Bulldog nickname adopted in 1922. Courtesy ASU Archives

The name quickly caught on ─ anticipating by three years Teachers replacing Normal in the school’s name.

Bulldogs first appeared in the campus paper a week later on November 22, 1922 when it was reported that although the team tied the Phoenix High School Coyotes “the Bulldogs certainly showed that they deserve their (new) name when the Coyotes came over … confident that they would give the school teachers a trouncing.”

Thereafter accounts of school athletics referred to the teams as Bulldogs. A logo soon followed featuring a fearsome bulldog peering aggressively out from a center circle.

“Pete the Bulldog” soon emerged as a mascot.

It seems that the local media may have tried with little success to later modify the name. A headline in the September 27, 1940 campus paper declared: “Sun Dogs Open Season With Grid Triumph.”

But Bulldogs it was and Bulldogs it would remain ─ at least for another six years when at long last the school would achieve a permanent nickname and mascot ─ the Sun Devils and Sparky.

But that’s a whole other story for next time.

One of several bulldogs used over the years between 122 and 1946, this Pete the Bulldog is seen with Barbara Benson secretary to Ira D. Payne Dr. Ira D. Payne, professor of education at the college and director of the training school for 42 years.      Courtesy: ASU Archives

One of several bulldogs used over the years between 122 and 1946, this Pete the Bulldog is seen with Barbara Benson secretary to Ira D. Payne Dr. Ira D. Payne, professor of education at the college and director of the training school for 42 years.
Courtesy: ASU Archives

Tempe & San Pablo: A Tale of Two Towns

Knowing Tempe’s founding is virtual required reading for anyone who lives here.

Charles Trumble Hayden (Don Carlos) establishes a ferry service at the base of Tempe Butte in 1871 ultimately creating a dynasty that included a flour mill, land investments, freighting, commercial businesses and a son Carl who became at the time the longest-serving Senator is U.S. history.

And that Englishman, “Lord” Darrell Duppa is credited with naming the new community “Tempe” for the Butte’s resemblance to the Vale of Tempe in Greece.

Now legendary, these stories are all essentially true.

San Pablo as it appeared from Tempe Butte in this circa 1950 photo taken by Art Clark.                                    Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

San Pablo as it appeared from Tempe Butte in this circa 1950 photo taken by Art Clark. Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

But there is more to Tempe’s formative period than most appreciate. For example San Pablo and the Hispanic influence.

Even before Charles Hayden surveyed the nearby countryside from atop Tempe Butte, Hispanics had been settling and farming in the area. The 1880 U.S. Census reported that 85% of the small community was Hispanic.

When William Hudson Kirkland and James McKinney began in 1870 digging the first irrigation canal to supply water to the land south of the Salt River, Hispanics, seeing an opportunity, moved in to help with the construction.

Influential Anglos like Hayden and Kirkland were known for their largesse’s like employing and often generously supporting both the Hispanic and Indigenous and populations.

But with frenzied growth and activity relations between Anglos and Hispanics were often strained.

According to Larry Dean Simkins who researched the development of the Southeast Valley for a doctoral thesis in 1989: “The beginnings of Hayden’s empire disturbed part of the early Hispanic settlement. Some Hispanics had been in the area for a long time, and they found the new developments difficult to integrate into their culture.”

Sensitive to their concerns, Kirkland was instrumental in helping the Mexican contingent create their own community.

In exchange for labor constructing his canal, Kirkland donated eighty acres just south of Tempe Butte. Present day College Avenue marks the center-line of San Pablo ─ University Drive, the southern boundary.

The only stipulation that Kirkland put on his gift was the income from the sale of lots must be used to erect a Catholic Church. Our Lady of Mount Carmel was dedicated in 1873 becoming Tempe’s first public building.

Unlike the Anglo part of Tempe that was platted on a grid, San Pablo which had been variously called East Tempe, Mexican Town, Chihuahua and Sonora Town was described in 1883 as “…a lot of scattered adobe buildings without symmetry or comeliness.”

Another portrayed San Pablo as an impoverished place with “…a keen pungent odor of damp earth, garlic, onion, chili, wood-smoke and faint overtones of human droppings.”

Along with homes and the Catholic Church, San Pablo also had the Perez Saloon and stores operated by “Old Jim” Murphy, Harry Bernard and Ben Goldman.

Further distinguishing the two cultures, most homes and buildings in the Anglo areas were frame or brick construction while San Pablo structures were adobe, a material much better suited to cooling during the intense summer heat.

Although contributing materially to the development of Tempe, Hispanics were frequent victims of discrimination and stereotyping that lasted into the 1950’s.

By the mid-20th century San Pablo had been entirely absorbed into burgeoning Tempe.

Scattered San Pablo structures lasted until ASU began expanding north of University Drive in the Fifties.

Recent archeology along the Light Rail line and site of the Transit Center has unearthed new information about San Pablo ─ stories that will be told in the coming months.

Today regrettably nothing remains of San Pablo ─ only the faint memory of a nearly forgotten but important part of Tempe’s Past.

A view of San Pablo from Tempe Butte looking to the southeast. In this c1900 photograph Old Main appears at the right center.  Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

A view of San Pablo from Tempe Butte looking to the southeast. In this c1900 photograph Old Main appears at the right center.
Courtesy Tempe Historical Museum

Tempe’s Upside-down pyramid

Tempe has had a long-standing association with Egyptian-influenced architecture going all the way back to 1912.

The Tempe National Bank building at 6th and Mill was the city’s introduction to the then emerging Egyptian Revival style. And in 1971 we got our very own pyramid ─ albeit upside-down.

How and where it got built is a wild, woolly world “word” III tale of controversy and contentious debate.

Last week we learned that Tempe built its first City Hall ─ a little neo-Classical gem ─ in 1914. As the town grew so did its needs. Substantial wings were added in 1930’s.

By 1960 Tempe’s population had multiplied nearly 17 times from Statehood days to nearly 25,000. Meanwhile land area increased from a mere 1.8 to 17.5 square miles.

Obviously Tempe had outgrown its antiquated, deteriorating City Hall ─ or so thought some city leaders.

The original structure had declined to a point where it was no longer feasible to maintain or restore the fifty-three year-old building.

In 1968, about the same time the city was planning to move the library three miles south of downtown to a new community complex at Rural and Southern, the council decided to demolish the old City Hall ─ even before a replacement was identified.

A temporary City Hall was set up in DaniellePlaza ─ a “modern” strip center at Mill and Southern.

As Tempe began expanding south from the downtown, the city center, like City Hall, was suffering from age and deterioration ─ leaving leaders with a conundrum ─ should the city reinvest in the downtown or follow growth south?

That’s when local father and son architects Kemper and Michael Goodwin proposed building an entirely unique new municipal building on the site of the just demolished city hall.

The Goodwin’s believed that the best stimulus to saving Mill Avenue was to keep city offices downtown. Buttressing their argument was the fact that Kemper lived in a unique concrete home of his own design just east of the City Hall site.

Not only were the Goodwin’s advocating keeping city business in downtown, they were proposing housing it in a radically “ungovernmental” structure ─ a glass-walled inverted pyramid rising out from a sunken garden plaza.

Downtown or Rural and Southern? ─ a decision that became a heated battle which raged for several months.

After one of the most divisive debates in city history when the council vote was finally recorded, four voted in favor, three against. The new municipal building would be built in downtown.

The design was awarded to the Goodwin’s, whose family traced back to 19th century Tempe ─ think Garfield Goodwin, Kemper’s father ─ proprietor of the Goodwin Indian Store.

The Goodwin’s promised their controversial design would serve as a “lantern to the community.” Additionally they assured skeptics the building would be a piece of “’timeless architecture” that would retain it its identity in a changing environment;” would completely respect the Arizona sun; provide “an ‘open space vista’ at the heart of a tight site; (offer) open citizen access emphasized by a ‘walk-in’ environment; (and provide) “…’community integration’ be having the overall plan ‘radiate’ into the immediate surroundings.”

Construction began late in 1969. Tempe’s new MunicipalBuilding was dedicated in time for the city’s centennial in early summer of 1971.

Since then Michael and Kemper Goodwin’s radical design has been validated by a number of industry awards.

In the end Tempe sadly lost its original City Hall but by its commitment to keep downtown vital, gained a new iconographic feature that is now becoming historic in its own right.

Tempe Teepees

An early 1960s postcard of the Wigwam Auto Court, later called the Wigwam Lodge located at Apache Boulevard and McAllister.

An early 1960s postcard of the Wigwam Auto Court, later called the Wigwam Lodge located at Apache Boulevard and McAllister.

A Pyramid and teepees. Not many cities can boast having both architectural styles in their communities. Tempe can.

Virtually every local resident is familiar with out “inverted pyramid” on 5th Street inhabited by the city administration. How City Hall came to be built is a story in itself. But that is for another time.

Today we are recollecting a nearly forgotten piece of Tempe’s past ─ what may have been in its day the town’s most distinctive architectural icon. Affectionately nicknamed the Tempe Teepees, it was officially the Wigwam Auto Court and later the Wigwam Lodge.

Never mind the historical inconsistencies ─ that wigwams never looked like teepees. And even if they did indigenous cultures of Arizona never built such structures.

That didn’t bother either Frank Redford of Horse Cave, Kentucky who patented his “Wigwam” design in 1936 or Maurice Barth (1896-1973) who built the oddities in Tempe.

As America’s paved highway system grew in the twenties and thirties a new style of roadside architecture emerged ─ imaginative and sometimes outrageous buildings designed to attract the attention of travelers in their “fast- moving” automobiles.

When the Federal Highway system was created in 1926, four national highways and State Route 93 converged in downtown Tempe on Mill Avenue and then traveled east on the Mesa Highway along East 13th Street ─ renamed Apache Boulevard in 1950.

Relics of that wonderful era still dot the American countryside. Some even remain in Tempe as reminders of those early highway days.

One that is unfortunately lost is the Wigwam Auto Court.

Frank Redford was the father of the “Wigwam.” In fact he received a Design Patent for it.

Redford was a lifelong collector of Native-American artifacts looking for a unique way to house and display his collection.

His inspiration was a consequence of a visit to a Long Beach, California teepee-shaped drive-in. Returning to his home in Cave Horse, Kentucky, Redford applied for and was granted a patent for his unique “Wigwam” design in 1936.

Between 1937 and 1939 Redford built several Wigwam Villages across the country ─ one of which apparently caught the attention of Maurice Barth who must have thought Tempe would be a fine place to build “Wigwams.” And so he did in 1945-1946.

Tempe’s teepee’s actually predate by four or five years their better known still-standing cousins east of Holbrook.

Barth was a member of a pioneer family that settled in St. Johns. We don’t really know why he came to Tempe.

The six 35’ tall structures were the only two-story “wigwams’ ever built. Research by the TempeHistoricalMuseum reveals that the 23’ diameter units each “…had a vertical protrusion resembling the fold of teepee skins. Several ‘branches’ protruded from the top of the cones to imitate lodgepoles.”

Located on the northeast corner of the present alignment of McAllister and Apache Boulevard, the teepees were ultimately doomed by ASU expansion.

By the mid-1960’s the Wigwam Auto Court which had all the necessary tourist amenities ─ swimming pool, shuffleboard court and accommodations for travel trailers ─ was converted to apartments.

Half of the diminutive, aging units were demolished in 1971. In 1982 ASU acquired the property. The remaining teepee’s saw their last occupants in 1983 when ASU bull-dozed an end to a special chapter of Tempe history.

Many former ASU students and long-time Tempe residents have fond memories of the funky little teepees. If you are one of them, why not share your recollections by sending them to ????? Maybe we will collect and put them into a future column.

Haunted Tempe

Arizona was built on the grit and determination of incredibly hardy souls who were daring enough to begin a new life under very difficult circumstances in some of the remotest regions of the country.

Their struggles and hard work on the far reaches of the frontier eventually led to the settlement of the state. The tough life of these pioneers often led to tragic and violent death.

For those that believe, the souls of those who have died untimely often stay in the present world trying to find peace and solace from their unfortunate demise.

That’s why places like Tombstone, Bisbee and Jerome are full of tales of ghosts haunting their streets and buildings.

But ghosts here in Tempe?  You bet.

There are plenty of stories and sightings of those who have already departed.

What a perfect subject as we approach Halloween.

Tempe restaurants seem to be most favored by spirits ─ the ghostly kind. Although alcohol might have some influence on the numerous sightings.

  • Casey Moore’s Oyster House at 9th Street and Ash is Tempe’s most celebrated haunt. The converted home was built in 1910 by William A. Moeur for his wife and six children.

It is said that both William and his wife Mary died of natural causes in the house ─ albeit two decades apart. Now their apparitions are frequently seen moving about the second floor.

Adding to the eerie nature of the place is the story of young woman who was murdered by her partner. It is said her unsettled spirit remains to create troubling disturbances.

You can learn more about these happenings on a You Tube video ─ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXl1iiPSBtA.

  • Tempe’s earliest building is said to be haunted.

Completed in 1871, La Casa Vieja, now Monti’s, has been the home of Charles Trumble Hayden, a boarding house, and a restaurant for the past 83 years. Which means there have been many years of opportunities for the place to become haunted.

Michael Monti and has staff have reported sightings through the building. Steak and a ghost. Who could ask for more?

  • It seems than even Tempe’s schools are visited by the spirit world ─ auditoriums in particular.

TempeHigh School’s Elmer A. Row Auditorium which opened in 1959 is said to be visited periodically by Theo, a long-departed custodian.

Over at Marcos de Niza High School a tale is told of a worker who fell to his death on the stage. Now his apparition occasionally appears trying complete his unfinished task.  Just to be safe, people say it is best to stay away after 9pm.

Students in ASU’s Palo Verde East dorm tell of seeing a freshman girl dressed in white walking the sixth floor halls. It seems that this poor lass committed suicide in her room and resides now permanently in the dorm. She is sometimes heard humming.

  • Some stories go back more than half-a-century. Clara Urbano who grew up in the Barrio al Centro ─ in roughly the area along College Avenue between University and 5th Street was interviewed in 1992.

She recalled her neighbors telling her “Did you know somebody saw a green hand in your trees . . . and nobody wants to come over here?”

If you want to discover more about the outrageous frightful side of Tempe, consider the 4th Annual Haunted Halloween Boat Tour at Tempe Town Lake ─ tall tales told by Ol’ Sailor Randy.

The Friends of Rio Salado present this free event October 27th at 7pm at Town Lake. Seating is limited. Call for 480-838-2414 for information and reservations.

 

The windows of the south bedroom of the W.A. Moeuer house, now Casey Moore’s, where it is said the ghost of a murdered young woman still occasionally haunts employees and guests.

The windows of the south bedroom of the W.A. Moeuer house, now Casey Moore’s, where it is said the ghost of a murdered young woman still occasionally haunts employees and guests.

The W.A. Moeuer house is now home to Casey Moore’s Tempe’s ─ most celebrated haunted house. Numerous sightings, incidents and disturbances have been reported over the years.

The W.A. Moeuer house is now home to Casey Moore’s Tempe’s ─ most celebrated haunted house. Numerous sightings, incidents and disturbances have been reported over the years.

The upstairs bedroom in the W.A. Moeuer house, now Casey Moore’s, where it is said a young woman was murdered by her partner in the corner where a floor lamp now stands. There have been many eyewitness accounts of her ghost disrupting diners in this small room.

The upstairs bedroom in the W.A. Moeuer house, now Casey Moore’s, where it is said a young woman was murdered by her partner in the corner where a floor lamp now stands. There have been many eyewitness accounts of her ghost disrupting diners in this small room.

A different story behind Tempe’s name

Butte City, San Pablo, Chihuahua, Sonora Town, Old Town, El Mickey Mouse. Do any of these names sound familiar?

They should. Because these are just some of the more than dozen names that over the past 136 years or so have been used to identify what we now call Tempe.

The reason for the various labels arises from the fact that in the beginning Tempe was not a homogenous community. Instead separate and distinct settlements co-existed essentially in the vicinity of today’s downtown.

The earliest name for Tempe was Butte City because of the most prominent geographic feature in an area farmed by Hispanics long before Charles Trumble Hayden’s arrival.

That was followed by Hayden’s Ferry acknowledging Hayden’s river crossing enterprise.  In 1872 the U.S. Post Office officially accepted Hayden’s Ferry as the name for the fledgling village.

Hayden’s presence and acquisition of about 300 acres ─ between the Salt River and 13th Street and College Avenue to the Railroad tracks ─ disrupted the already settled Hispanics.

The sudden Anglo influx led to the creation of San Pablo, the Hispanics own 80-acre community south and east of the buttes. Most Anglos referred to San Pablo as “Mexican Town.”

Larry Dean Simkins who did graduate research in 1989 on Tempe’s past asserts: “Apparently, ‘Mexican Town’ quickly became known as Tempe while Hayden’s developments continued under the name Hayden’s Ferry.

Over the years San Pablo was also was known variously as East Tempe, Chihuahua, Sonora Town, Old Town and El Mickey Mouse.

Simkins says the first recorded use of the name Tempe appears in 1871 when a group called the Hardy Irrigating Canal Company voted to change the name to Tempe Irrigating Canal Company.

That was the same year Hayden set up his general store.

Although some have suggested that Charles Hayden or Jack Swilling was responsible for naming our city, there is generally little dispute “Tempe” was proposed by a somewhat mysterious and eccentric character ─ 46 year-old Englishman  Bryan Phillip Darell Duppa ─ locally known as “Lord” Duppa because of his aristocratic manner.

It was the same Lord Duppa who a couple of years earlier proposed calling the fledgling settlement to the west another Classical name ─ “Phoenix.”

Duppa’s inspiration for Tempe came from the resemblance of the “saddle” between the two riverside buttes to an area in Greece called the Vale of Tempe. The “saddle”, by the way, is now the site of Sun Devil Stadium.

A third community called Johnson Settlement was established after Hayden sold 80 acres ─ bounded by present-day 5th Street, University, College and the railroad tracks ─ to Benjamin Franklin Johnson for $3000.

Johnson brought more than 300 family members from Springlake, Utah in what Simkins believes was “…probably the largest relocation of any single extended family in Latter-day Saint Church history.”

As the name Tempe came into general acceptance, the Johnson Settlement was soon known as West Tempe.

Because of confusion between the earlier registered Hayden, Arizona (a name unrelated to our C.T. Hayden) and Hayden’s Ferry the Post Office eventually required the newer town to rename itself.

So in May, 1879, the settlement of about 130, mostly Hispanic, people officially became Tempe.

It would still be more than 4 years before the three settlements would at last combine into a one cohesive community that would by 2008 become Arizona’s 8th largest city.

So there you have it. Enough information about all of Tempe’s names to impress anyone in a trivia contest.

A detail of the Buttes in downtown Tempe taken from an expansive birds-eye view                  map drawn by C.J. Dyer about 1885. It was the valley between that inspired                  Darrell Duppa’s to suggest “Tempe” as the name for the settlement established      by Charles Hayden.

A detail of the Buttes in downtown Tempe taken from an expansive birds-eye view
map drawn by C.J. Dyer about 1885. It was the valley between that inspired
Darrell Duppa’s to suggest “Tempe” as the name for the settlement established
by Charles Hayden.

Fires & Change

One of the most fundamental things people notice in downtown Tempe these days is how fast things are changing ─ high density development producing skyscrapers (a new word for Tempe) that tower over the one, two and three story buildings that have traditionally defined downtown’s modest skyline.

Exposed by the 1990 fire that destroyed the Chipman-Peterson                   building, the full-height John Hodnett Hardware Store sign is seen                  for the first time in ninety-two years.

Exposed by the 1990 fire that destroyed the Chipman-Peterson
building, the full-height John Hodnett Hardware Store sign is seen
for the first time in ninety-two years.

In years past fire was one of the most powerful, uncontrollable forces for change

Like virtually every other city Tempe during its fragile gas-lit era unfortunately saw too many fires consuming vulnerable wooden structures.

One of the first major blazes occurred in 1894 when the wooden Tempe Hotel ─ on the present-day site of the Casa Loma building at Third Street and Mill ─ was entirely destroyed by flames.

The first AndreBuilding just across the street from the Casa Loma was another victim. Erected in 1888, it was felled by fire in 1899.

R.G. Andre replaced it with a more substantial brick structure a year later.

Two modern-day restaurant fires have since challenged the Andre’s durability. Although a bit battle-scarred the building still stands as an elegant reminder of an earlier Tempe.

Charles Trumble Hayden’s first adobe flour mill completed in 1874 was ravage by flames in 1917. It was succeeded by a virtually indestructible cast-in-place concrete building that was tested by an avoidable vagrant-started, stubborn, three-alarm fire October 1, 2002.

Suffering little structural damage, the old concrete Mill proved its resilience.

Modern-day firefighting technology has been responsible for saving several downtown historic buildings that might have otherwise been lost.

The TempeHardwareBuilding, MaricopaCounty’s oldest three-story structure, completed in 1898, stood proudly for 79 years before almost being lost by a nearly-disastrous conflagration in 1976.

The Chipman – PetersonBuilding wasn’t quite as fortunate, however. Completed in 1898, the building changed its appearance over time. It underwent a complete renovation in 1983 ─ not enough though to save it from an inferno seven years later.

It succumbed to a late-night restaurant grease-fire December 27, 1990.

The aftermath of the December 27, 1990 fire that entire destroyed                   the 1898 Chipman-Peterson Building.

The aftermath of the December 27, 1990 fire that entire destroyed
the 1898 Chipman-Peterson Building.

The Vienna Bakery building, its neighbor to the south heavily damaged by the flames and water ─ survived to become the present-day home of Restaurant Mexico.

The building takes its modern name from the structure’s longest–running tenant the Vienna Bakery which occupied the 1800 square foot space from 1904 to 1963.

Local businessman and political leader John S. Armstrong completed the building in 1893, five years before Neils Peterson erected his structure to the north.

Fire is never a good thing. But the Chipman-Peterson loss surprisingly revealed an intact intriguing piece of Tempe history that had not been seen since 1898!

It was a building-height hand-painted sign on the north wall of the Vienna Bakery advertising “Jhn Hodnett  Dealer in Hardware, Ranch Tools, Pumps, Stoves, Tinware, etc. Furniture and Coffins” ─ everything needed for life (and death) in a small Arizona town.

John J. Hodnett is a bit of a Tempe mystery. We know he opened his hardware business in 1896 in Armstrong’s building after the first tenant T.F. Hudson’s Drugstore moved out.

As was the case in many rural towns, citizens often held several titles. Hodnett was appointed postmaster in 1897 allowing him to also add for the next three years a post-office to the numerous services of his business.

For the few who got a chance to see it, the wonderful Hodnett sign gave an albeit ever so brief glimpse into an early Tempe enterprise.

When the Chipman-Peterson replacement was completed in 1991 the old Hodnett sign was once again sadly covered over never to be seen again.

Unless of course…

History of the “A”

Ever look at the colossal “A” on Tempe Butte and wondered how it got there? Well, here is the story.

For nearly 90 years, Tempe Butte has served as a giant billboard for ASU which began as the TempeNormal School in 1885 after the Territorial Legislature created Arizona’s first teachers college.

Since then the school has been renamed seven times ─ meaning Tempe Butte has been busy keeping up with the changes.

The first appearance of a letter on the Butte came in 1918 when energetic students assembled an “N” from local river rock. The “N” reflected the nickname of the school — the “Normals.” Considerably smaller than today’s “A” the whitewashed “N” measured 36 by 36 feet (1290 sq.ft.).

When the school became Tempe State Teachers College in 1926, the “N” was modified into a “T.” To save labor and reuse material previously carried up the Butte, students kept one side of the original letter and used the remaining rock to form the cross of the “T.”

Three years later the name changed to Arizona State Teachers College. But it wasn’t until 1938 that the “A” made its first appearance on the Butte. Like its predecessors, it was constructed of whitewashed river rock that had to be repaired and repainted annually.

Other than frequent repainting, the only recorded act of serious vandalism in the letters’ long history occurred at 2:08 on the morning of September 16, 1952.

It was reported that most of Tempe was awakened by “thunderous blasts” that obliterated the bar of the “A.” Students from “a rival college” were blamed for the prank. That damage resulted in the eventual construction of a permanent concrete “A.”

Led by the efforts of Dale Clarkson, ArizonaStateTeachers College student body president, the new “A” was completed in 1955. But the larger, smoother surface became an easier target for painting.

The long-standing rivalry between the Sun Devils and the Wildcats has resulted in the “A” often being painted U of A colors. Colors of other schools can also be frequently seen.

Today the “A” is painted for a variety of non-sports reasons, too — holidays, special events, expressions of love, and for purposes known only to those who do the painting.

A Trivia

  • The “T” was the only letter illuminated by a spotlight from the top of the Butte. An early expansion of SkyHarborAirport caused the light to be extinguished permanently.
  • Constructed of concrete the “A” is nearly the height of a six-story building. It measures 55 feet by 60 feet across the base. It is about 16″ thick
  • Each painting consumes approximately ten gallons of latex paint applied by brush, roller or good old-fashioned gravity.
  • ASU estimates that the “A” is painted more than sixty times a year or over 3000 times since 1955!
  • Because it is stripped infrequently, paint chips containing more than thirty layers have been recovered.
  • The school’s Greek fraternities were the first “guardians” of the “A.”
  • Since the late 1980’s keeping the “A” its appropriate gold color has been the responsibility of the ASU Student Alumni Association.
  • Today’s concrete “A” was completed three years before the opening of Sun Devil Stadium in 1958.
  • Although seldom noticed, two smaller “A”s are also on the Butte complex. Constructed before the height of the stadium was raised in 1977, one is located on the east butte and viewable from the west stands. The other is on the southeast corner of Tempe Butte and is now only visible from behind the press and skyboxes.

Circa 1950 postcard looking northeast from 6th Street along Mill Avenue. Tempe Butte with the river rock “A” is at the far right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy Jay Mark

Kerry Fetherston Selected as 2013 Don Carlos Humanitarian of the Year

Tempe Community Council (TCC) is pleased to announce that Kerry Fetherston of Tempe will receive the 2013 Don Carlos Humanitarian Award on Wednesday, October 16, 2013. Kerry was selected out of nine impressive nominees for her community impact, behind-the scenes efforts and impressive resume at such a young age.  Additional honors will be presented to local philanthropists and volunteers who work every day to provide a high quality of life for all in Tempe. The public is welcome to attend this community event. Reservations are required and tickets are $50 per person, $80 for two tickets or $400 for a table of ten. More information is available from the TCC website www.tempecommunitycouncil.org/don-carlos or by calling 480.858.2300.

Produced annually by TCC, the Don Carlos Humanitarian Award is considered one of Tempe’s most prestigious distinctions, and honors those individuals who give back selflessly to our community. Kerry will be recognized for her can-do attitude, her contagious spirit and for inspiring others to commit to positive change. Kerry is past president of Kiwanis Club of Tempe, where she actively supported efforts like the Annual Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, back to school shopping with Boys & Girls Club kids and the Fantasy of Lights Parade. For several years, she was the machine behind the Mayor’s Run and helped that event raised about $1.2 million for local charities. Kerry worked for Mill Avenue Merchant’s Association, Tempe Family Y, Fresh Start and Alzheimer’s Association.

Tragically, Kerry suffered a debilitating stroke in December of 2011. Her spirit and positive attitude through her rehabilitation have inspired a whole new group of people, and have reenergized her friends and colleagues to take up her torch. 2007 Don Carlos winner, Linda Spears, notes, “Kerry truly exemplifies all that is great about living in Tempe. An ordinary person, doing extraordinary things by joining with neighbors and friends to make life a little easier for others is the essence of the humanitarian effort”.

Don Carlos is a signature Tempe event that brings together the entire community to celebrate those who have dedicated their lives to giving back and serving people.  The award is named for Tempe’s pioneer founder Charles Trumbull Hayden who spent his life looking for ways to improve the lives of others.  The Don Carlos Humanitarian Award is special because it embodies Hayden’s legacy and spirit.  Kerry Fetherston joins an illustrious list of other Don Carlos Humanitarian recipients including: Dr. William Payne, Leonard Monti, Sr., Margaret & William Kajikawa, Jinnett B. Kirk, Peggy Bryant, Eliza Carney, Naomi Harward, Mimi & Mac Bohlman, Virginia Tinsley, Betty & John Waters, Pat Hatton, Lawn Griffiths, Rudy Campbell, Bobbie & George Overby, Sue & Bob Lofgren, Carol E. Smith, Sue Searcy, Zita Johnson, Bobbie & Don Cassano, David B. Cutty, Joseph Spracale, Jane & Dick Neuheisel, Gail Fisher & Mel Kessler, Linda Spears, Pen Johnson, Sue Ringler, Catherine May & Dan Abbott, Alice & Ralph Goitia and Harry E. Mitchell.