Monday, November 29, 2010

Quartzsite Was In the
Center of Everywhere

The small town of Quartzsite is sprawled out about 5 miles along Interstate-10 in western La Paz County, 19 miles east of Ehrenberg. It extends another five miles north and south of the freeway along State Route 95, which follows Tyson Wash across the La Posa Plain north to the Colorado River. The open desert sizzling in summer heat, surrounded by jagged mountains, gives the impression of a way station in the middle of nowhere, but the estimated 1.5 million yearly visitors suggests Quartzsite is the center of everywhere. Residents have been able to make the location on a well-traveled route pay off in a big way while providing visitors with a memorable experience.

History tells us Charles Tyson built a non-military fort at the location in 1856 to protect the water supply from Mohave-Apache (Yavapai) raids. That was the year of the first rush to the gold placers in Yuma County, and very early in the area’s history, leaving little documentation now. Arizona Territory was not separated from New Mexico until 1863. A historical marker at the site gives 1864 as the probable date Tyson hand dug his well. The Quartzsite Historical Society believes Tyson built the still extant adobe stage station in 1866. That year, the California & Arizona Stage Company began running passengers, mail and Wells Fargo express from the end of the Southern Pacific track in California to Ehrenberg and Wickenburg. Ehrenberg, Arizona was a steamboat landing on the Colorado River, supplying the interior via freight wagons. The river towns of Ehrenberg, Olive City and La Paz served miners during the 1860s Colorado River gold rush. Gold had also been recently discovered around Wickenburg and in the mountains south of Prescott. The stage road forked at Wickenburg, with stages going north to the territorial capital at Prescott and south to Phoenix and Florence.

There are four or five types of desert in Arizona. Quartzsite is near the northern limit of the Sonoran Desert, with the Mohave Desert to the northwest. To the southwest, the landscape differs from the desert around Phoenix and Tucson. Traditionally, this sparse cover in Yuma County and southern California has been called the Colorado Desert, though some authorities say it’s still part of the Sonoran. The Chihuahuan Desert also extends into Arizona around Douglas and San Simon. And parts of northern Arizona along the Utah border resemble the Great Basin Desert. Burton Frasher of Pomona published this Real Photo Post Card, likely in the 1940s.

Frasher also preserved this view of Tyson’s Well stage station looking SE with the highway in the foreground. It may not have been called a fort until the 20th Century. Plaster on the walls and a metal roof has helped preserve the long-abandoned adobe structure.

This photo of Tyson’s, looking northwest at the back of the building, probably dates to the 1940s. Additions without the metal roof are crumbling. The tip of the saguaro cactus in Frasher’s photo is visible above the roof at right. Photographer Glenn Edgerton carefully documented much of the Mohave Desert of California and Arizona.

Tyson’s Well stage station continued to provide rest and refreshment to travelers and freight drivers until the railroads came in the 1880s. Martha Summerhayes, wife of an Army officer stationed in Arizona, described travel in those days. Transferred with her husband from Camp Verde to Ehrenberg, she found way stations along the road primitive but welcoming, with one exception. After three days, the Army wagons entered the Colorado Desert and stopped for the night at Desert Station in Bouse Wash. She again found accommodations “clean and attractive, which was more than could be said of the place where we stopped the next night, a place called Tyson’s Wells. We slept in our tent that night, for of all the places on the earth a poorly kept ranch in Arizona is the most melancholy and uninviting. It reeks of everything unclean, morally and physically.”

Tyson’s Well revived in the 1890s when more efficient gold mining methods were introduced to the area. Several families opened stores, taverns and hotels to serve nearby mines. A post office was established as “Tyson’s” in the summer of 1893 but discontinued in the fall of 1895. A year later the post office reopened under the name “Quartzsite.” Quartzite (without the “s”) is a rock of firmly cemented quartz grains. Lacking experience in prospecting, the postal service apparently registered the name as a place where quartz is found.

But the mining boom soon faded and there were less than 20 residents by 1900. Location again came to the rescue about ten years later when the Atlantic and Pacific automobile road was routed through Quartzsite. Cross-country travelers could avoid the Imperial Sand Dunes west of Yuma by heading from Phoenix to Wickenburg, Quartzsite and Ehrenberg. There, they crossed the Colorado River to Blythe on a small ferry boat and went on to Los Angeles. Every year after 1911 more and more cars made the trip.

Looking east about 1915 along the Atlantic & Pacific Highway through Quartzsite, the Hagely Hotel is on the left. German immigrant Anton Hagely (1844-1928) worked as a butcher in town during the 1890s mining boom and stayed on to become owner of a store and hotel. Upon his death, his wife Victoria continued the business. Their son John George (1894-1977) became a Quartzsite Justice of the Peace. Down the street on the same side, with windmill and water tank out front, is Charles V. Kuehn’s general store. Kuehn (1886-1930) was a former stage driver who came to own a store and saloon. He was also postmaster 1914-1923.

Looking west along Highways 60/70, part of nearby Granite Mountain is visible at left behind the store. The Hagely Hotel is the building in center, not with the Shell sign. It has a sign that says “Motel.” Quartzsite had declined a bit when this photo was taken about 1933 by Burton Frasher. By then automobiles made fewer stops on long trips. Maybe just gas and soda pop at Quartzsite before speeding on to Ehrenberg where a through-truss bridge had replaced the ferry in 1928. By then the Atlantic & Pacific Highway had been numbered state route 74. In the 1930s the highway became part of US60 and US70.

In 1856 the US Cavalry imported 33 camels as an experiment to see if they should replace horses and mules in the southwest deserts. But the animals ended up at the relatively high altitude of Fort Verde and were used during construction of the Beale Wagon Road across the plateaus of northern Arizona. The camel corps was disbanded in 1864. One of the camel drivers, a Greek-Syrian going by the name Hadji Ali, a.k.a. Phillip Tedro (1829-1902) but informally known by the more pronounceable “Hi Jolly,” settled in Quartzsite as a prospector. In 1935, in order to publicize US 60, the Arizona Highway Department built this pyramid tombstone to honor the Muslim who was “over thirty years a faithful aid to the U.S. government.” Hi Jolly’s grave is still a popular visit in Quartzsite. Hollywood cowboy actor Buck Conner (1880-1947) is also buried there. Conner was the brother of Mrs. W. G. Keiser (1877-1939) who with her husband operated Beacon Hotel and store for about 15 years in Quartzsite. Highway Color postcard by Bolty, published by Frye & Smith Ltd. of San Diego.

This view of the old adobe stage station about 1965 shows some restoration work, though half of the building has collapsed into ruin since the older photos were taken. The Quartzsite Historical Society completed additional restoration work and opened Tyson’s Well Museum in the building in 1980. Photo by Bob Van Luchene published by Petley Studios of Phoenix.

Quartzsite’s population of a few hundred in the 1930s had declined to just 50 by 1960. In 1965 residents formed the Quartzsite Improvement Association which sponsored the first Pow Wow Gem & Mineral Show in 1967 drawing 74 exhibitors and vendors and about 1,000 visitors. This postcard shows the event a few years later when it drew crowds estimated at more than 12,000. The view is to the southwest with the freeway crossing Tyson’s Wash at upper right, just after passing under Highway 95. South of the freeway are some of the RV camps. The Quartzsite experience blossomed and now offers winter visitors a number of gem and mineral shows in addition to a gigantic flea market. The town incorporated in 1989 and includes a public library, bank, medical centers, golf course and more than 70 RV and mobile home parks. In 2006 more than 2,000 people there were working for the government, with another 2,775 employed in the services industry. The “dry camping capital of the world” and “rock hound paradise” hosts an estimated 250,000 temporary residents each winter.

Arizona Good Roads Assoc., Tour Book (1913)
“Genealogy of the People of Quartzsite” website
Richard J. Hinton, Handbook to Arizona (1877)
Hirum C. Hodge, Arizona As It Is. . .1874-1876. (1877)
Palo Verde Historical Museum & Society, Blythe & the Palo Verde Valley (2005)
Martha Summerhayes, Vanished Arizona (1908) quote is from pp. 145-6 of 1911 edition.
Roanna H. Winsor, “Monument to Hi Jolly,” Arizona Highways May 1961.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Phoenix Was Both
Oasis and Mirage

Part Two: The Struggle To Maintain Paradise
(Part One is below, posted 22 Oct 2010)
When the economy crashed at the end of 1929, Phoenix was facing a long hard slog to try to maintain a lifestyle that had only been attained by higher income families. Though Phoenix fared better than most eastern localities, by 1933 almost 10,000 people in the city of about 50,000 were receiving some kind of welfare benefits (p.103, Luckingham, Phoenix, 1989). And there was little money to improve social conditions or infrastructure. Even after war industries brought wealth into the valley, poverty remained a problem. In 1950 the Los Angeles Examiner found a family of seven starving in a labor camp near Phoenix. The father was “a cripple” and sold his blood for food, which ran out before he could sell more. African-American residents in Phoenix were often denied welfare benefits during the Great Depression and had to form their own charitable organizations. Franciscan Father Emmett McLoughlin came to Phoenix in 1933 and spent his life working to improve the south side. He founded a hospital and advocated slum clearance and construction of low-cost public housing. By the 1960s, Phoenix was still unable to provide a decent living for all its residents.

Phoenix could measure up to any American city when it came to bootlegging, drug abuse, illegal gambling, prostitution and public corruption. “Every conceivable kind of illegal activity seemed to flourish in the rapidly emerging metropolis, including white-collar and organized crime” (p.209, Luckingham, Phoenix, 1989). Just before World War Two, the military came to the valley for its good flying weather and built five Army air bases: Luke Field, Williams Field, Falcon Field, and Thunderbird No. 1 and 2. The Navy, in partnership with Goodyear tire opened an aircraft factory and air station. Phoenix and other valley cities were suddenly flooded with jobs and government contracts. But the Army, in order to protect its soldiers, demanded Phoenix clean up vice, and especially, end prostitution. As a result, city leaders at least made their community appear more respectable. But the war did bring lasting change. Factories without smoke stacks, predominately aerospace and electronics plants, began replacing the agricultural economic base.

Looking west along the Grand Canal toward St. Francis Xavier Parish church (1928), probably in the 1930s, illustrates the pastoral landscape created upon application of large amounts of water to the fertile desert soil. When the supply of water ran short forty years later, shady but thirsty cottonwood trees were cut down and the canal lined with concrete. St. Francis, located on Central Avenue south of Camelback Road and a few blocks north of Phoenix Indian School, was also home to Brophy College Preparatory School, still the valley’s leading Catholic high school.

Development of railroads offered the possibility of growing a lucrative tourist industry in the valley. Phoenix got a Southern Pacific railroad mainline in 1926 to replace the branch line from Maricopa, bringing winter visitors without a change of trains. Winter resorts like Ingleside Inn (1910) and Arizona Biltmore (1929), shown here in 1936, catered to an upscale clientele. The Biltmore, located about 8 miles NE of Phoenix, was built by the McArthur Brothers who owned a Dodge dealership on Central & Madison. Albert McArthur, who once worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the building in Prairie School style, constructed of decorative cast concrete blocks. The economic downturn forced the brothers to sell to chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. who built a huge mansion nearby. (See: “A Biltmore Myth,” by Avis Berman, Western Interiors Jan-Feb 2005, pp.57-65)

By 1937, despite the Depression, middle-class families were taking to newly paved highways on cheap vacations. By 1935, Phoenix was located on two cross-country highways, numbered 70 and 80, and two more federal highways crossing the state, north-south Highway 89 and west-east Highway 60. This 1937 ad in Better Homes and Gardens offered a blooming oasis and recommended permanently relocating to Phoenix. The “Valley of the Sun” moniker was adopted in 1934 (p.110, Luckingham, Phoenix, 1989).

Despite the worst economic conditions ever seen, a number of new industries first developed in the 1920s continued to grow in the 1930s, including the highway system, scheduled airline service, bus transportation, motor hotels, radio, cinema with sound and color, self-service supermarkets, iceless refrigeration, and air conditioning. Various air cooling methods began to appear in the 1920s in larger hotels. Some theaters were cooled by blowing air over tons of ice in the basement. Evaporative coolers became common on Phoenix homes in the 1930s. Refrigerated air conditioning, called “dry” air conditioning at the time, was installed in all the Luhrs office buildings in 1932. The Luhrs Hotel became the first refrigerated-AC hotel in Phoenix in 1936. Air conditioning made life in Phoenix enjoyable year-round. “Picture yourself actually leading the sort of leisurely, tranquil, do-as-you-please existence you’ve always wanted, and you’ll have some faint idea of what life is like in this happy, carefree Valley of the Sun Vacationland,” enticed a 1942 Phoenix tourism promotion.

Following World War II, Americans took to the highways in greater numbers and Phoenix was transformed. The main highway from the east, Van Buren Street became lined with a seemingly endless supply of neon marked auto courts, color flagged gasoline stations and cafes surrounded by cars. US 80 left Phoenix on two lanes of concrete with expansion joints along West Van Buren in those days, while US 60 went up Grand Avenue toward Glendale. Today, the site of the Park Lane is a parking lot for the Arizona Dept. of Revenue building.

South Pacific ambience was popular after Hawaii became a state in 1959 and the hospitality industry in Phoenix continued for many years to play upon Hawaiian or Polynesian themes. Examples include Samoan Village, Coconut Grove Motel, Trader Vic’s restaurant in Scottsdale and the Kon Tiki Hotel at 2463 E. Van Buren, shown here about 1962. “A little bit of Waikiki in the heart of Phoenix” opened in 1962 and was popular for decades. Freeways, nationwide chains and franchises eventually depressed the Van Buren hospitality corridor and Kon Tiki was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a parking lot. (See: “Lei’d To Rest. . .” by Dewey Webb, New Times, 15 Dec. 1993; “No Vacancy at Log Cabin Motel,” by Robert L. Pela, New Times, 18 Mar. 2010)

This photo of PHX Sky Harbor about 1965, looking SE shows the $850,000 Terminal One (1952) with circular parking lot and $2.7 million Terminal Two (1962) to the east. Across the runway is the Arizona Air National Guard, Boeing C-97 tanker base. In the middle of landlocked Arizona, a harbor for aircraft officially opened September 2, 1929. The City of Phoenix purchased the facility in 1935. In 1946, largely due to good flying weather, Sky Harbor was the busiest airport in the nation. And there were no accidents of any kind that year. By 1947, TWA was operating 21 flights a day into Phoenix. Terminal One was demolished in 1990, though the tower was saved and relocated.

This photo from about 1957 of the intersection of Washington and Second Streets looking west shows the original City Hall Plaza now occupied by J. C. Penney’s (1953) and Fox Theatre (1931). Within ten years, the big chain stores would begin moving away from the downtown and Washington Street would empty. Today, the block on the left is a parking lot, just as it was during the Depression, 1928-1953. Suburban shopping led to deterioration of the downtown, followed by several attempts to revitalize the urban core.

Phoenix was always a low-density city. But, as the spacious lifestyle attracted more residents, subdivision and strip-mall development spread out for miles. Air pollution, heat islands, bumper-to-bumper traffic and long commutes would eventually threaten the leisurely lifestyle. Phoenix sold its buses to a private company in 1959, only to buy back the failing system in 1971. George Luhrs, Jr., an early high-rise developer and director of the Chamber of Commerce, said in later years that he “preferred gradual growth and was not anxious to see it become a large wicked city, sprawling over a large part of the county, destroying much of the desert, eliminating much of the agriculture and the citrus land.” The population of Phoenix increased 311% during the 1950s, boosted by aggressive annexation.

Black Canyon, the first freeway in Phoenix opened in November 1960 but extended for only seven miles. In this photo, looking south, by Herb McLaughlin, probably from 1963, the McDowell Road overpass can be seen in the distance, before there was an I-10 stack. In the 1950s, Phoenix’s straight and wide streets seemed ideally suited to automobiles while traffic was still light. Freeways were built relatively late, too late some said at the time. In 1973, Phoenix voters said no to an inner loop freeway. Two years later government convinced voters to change their minds. Still, there were only 32 miles of freeway in 1980.

Another building boom downtown began about 1962 and this view looking NE about 1966 shows some of the early projects. At left is First Baptist Church (1929) with the red roof, on the NW corner of Third Avenue & Monroe. Panning right, on Adams Street are two buildings (1928 and one with tall windowless tower 1953) of Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph (now Quest & AT&T), then the tall, black First American Title (1964), 111 W. Monroe, with First National Bank (Phoenix Title & Trust Bldg., 1931) in front, then older buildings along Central Avenue. In the foreground are government buildings along Jefferson Street, the Municipal Complex (1963) with round council chambers, the old City-County Courthouse (1929) with orange roof, and two blocks between Jefferson and Madison filled with Maricopa County Complex (1965). The slim Luhrs Tower (1930) and the Luhrs parking garage are to the right. Hotel Westward Ho with TV tower is at upper center. Uptown Business District high-rise buildings around Central & Osborn can be seen at upper left.

The Salt River Valley really isn’t a valley. The many square miles of wide open and fairly flat land that offered early settlers the prospect of easy farming is actually a series of flood plains along stream beds and alluvial slopes coming down from the mountains. As development expanded floods threatened. Heavy rain flooded Phoenix homes twice in 1963. A deluge of rain came in June 1972, draining away down Indian Bend Wash. Large areas of Scottsdale submerged under five or more feet of water. Storm runoff broke the banks of the Arizona Canal flooding Phoenix neighborhoods all the way to the north Central Avenue business district. A 1993 flood in the Salt River virtually cut off transportation between Phoenix and Tempe. Despite the appearance of an abundance of water, flood irrigation, ornamental fountains spraying into the air, homes on the shores of artificial lakes, Phoenix has long suffered from a water shortage. As Phoenicians worked to build the lush oasis, sometimes their goals remained in the distance, staying just out of reach, like a shimmering mirage on the desert.

Despite all its problems, Phoenix still seemed to have fewer difficulties than other urban areas in the 1950s and 60s. For many middle class families during those years life was good. New homes, mid-century modern designed churches, schools and commercial buildings were going up everywhere. Cheap recreational opportunities abounded. In Papago Park you could climb Hole In the Rock, tour the botanical garden, play golf, go to the zoo, or go just across Van Buren Street to enjoy the rides at Legend City amusement park or watch Major League baseball practice in winter. During those decades, even lower income residents could believe life was improving and civilization progressing. Arizona Highways magazine observed in 1964, “when men like builder John Long appeared on the scene offering three-bedroom homes with swimming pool for $11,600, housing in Phoenix started to change. There is no other city in the United States that, dollar for dollar, can offer the value to be found in Phoenix. Low cost housing remains one of the strongest factors in the changing face of Phoenix.”

Park Central Shopping Center opened in 1957 at 3418 N. 7th Avenue, two miles north of the state capitol, and became the city’s first mall. It was later called Park Central Shopping City, then Park Central Mall and is now known simply as Park Central, with mixed use by offices and small shops. It began a change in the way city dwellers shopped, moving away from the previous practice of walking sidewalks among storefronts and instead, driving a personal automobile to a parking lot in front of a strip mall. Then in the 1960s, enclosed walking malls became the ideal. Now, shopping seems to be returning to strip malls—and something different, big box stores. Phoenix has seen it all, and can serve as an object lesson.

The 1960s building boom saw the first tall buildings on north Central Avenue close to Park Central Mall. This 1963 view of the intersection of Central & Osborn (lower left corner) shows (from left) Executive Towers apartments (completed 1964) at 22 stories (207 W. Clarendon, converted to condos in 1971), Guaranty Bank (1960) at 20 stories, and Del Webb Building (1962) at 17 stories (3800 N. Central, remodeled in 1989). In the foreground is Osborn School, soon to be demolished for the construction of Financial Center (1964, heightened in 1968). Part of Osborn School, half the two-story building in center, was built in 1892. Another high-rise, Del Webb Towne House at 23 stories was added in 1964 in the block north of the Del Webb Building.

This photo taken by Don Keller in September 1963 shows a small portion of the Arcadia neighborhood, looking west, with Arcadia High School barely visible at top (click on picture to see full size) and Indian School Road following the Arizona Canal at top right. Osborn Road is lined with trees, running in front of Ingleside Junior High and what will become Arcadia Park (at right). The “T” intersection at lower left is 56th Street (running left to right) and Earll with a nearly full parking lot at the Motorola plant. Arcadia, at the base of Camelback Mountain northeast of Phoenix and just west of Ingleside, was planted in citrus groves beginning in 1919. You can see remnants of citrus rows in the photo. It soon became an elite location for estates. When this photo was taken, it was an example of one of the finest neighborhoods for middle class families with good incomes, offering spacious lots and large ranch style homes with pools. The line of homes at bottom borders Arizona Country Club (1946). Motorola opened a research and development facility at 56th Street & Earll in 1950. It became an electronics factory 1962-1982. Today it’s an office. And an EPA Superfund Site since 1989, the origin of an underground water pollution plume of cadmium, chromium, arsenic and solvents that has migrated all the way to downtown Phoenix. There is a cleanup process now in place.

Construction continued downtown with more and taller buildings darkening streets. This view from about 1977 shows one of the last rows of old buildings along Washington opposite Patriots Square (1974). The intersection in the foreground is Jefferson and First Avenue. Facing the square (from left) is the former J. J. Newberry 3-story building (1937), a rebuild of the old Monihan Building, the 4-story former S. H. Kress store, the 2-story former site of J. C. Penney and the 6-story Goodrich Building. Looming over this block in the background are (from left) the high-rise Arizona Bank (1976, now US Bank), Valley Center (1972, now Chase), rebuilt Adams Hotel (1975, now Wyndham), and Hyatt Regency (1976) with revolving restaurant on top. There was another pause in downtown construction during poor economic conditions 1976-1986. Then the old buildings in this view were demolished for construction of Renaissance Square (1987 & 1990).

Arizona Development Board, The Arizona Story, (ca1962)
Arizona Highways, August 1943, “Phoenix. . .a frontier town that grew up” (entire issue)
Arizona Highways, April 1957, “Phoenix—City In the Sun” (entire issue)
Arizona Highways, March 1964, “The Changing Face of Phoenix” (entire issue)
Holy Trinity Greek History Committee, Greeks In Phoenix (2008)
Arthur G. Horton, An Economic, Political & Social Survey of Phoenix. . . (1941)
George H. N. Luhrs, Jr. (1895-1984), The George H. N. Luhrs family in Phoenix. . . (1984) manuscript at ASU Library.
Emmett McLoughlin (1907-1970), People’s Padre, (1954)
Lowell Parker, Arizona Towns & Tales, (1975)
Phoenix & Phoenix Union High School,
Phoenix - rising out of the ashes,
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Report on Flood of 22 June 1972. . . (1972)
Van Buren, as it used to be,