When thinking of iconic architecture, your mind likely goes to New York, Chicago, or Seattle. Not Phoenix. When many think of Phoenix, they think of stucco houses and strip malls. However, the city is much more than that. From art deco to Midcentury Modern, Phoenix is filled with unique architecture and landmarks.
Built in 1929, the Biltmore Hotel was designed by the architect that worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright. This piece of Phoenix architecture has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Great Hotels” and has been named as a Phoenix Point of Pride. Some of its highlights include the Mystery Room which was once used as a speakeasy and the Gold Room, a ballroom complete with gold leaf ceilings.
Valley National Bank (now Chase Bank)
Located on 44th Street and Camelback, the building that now houses a Chase Bank branch was once the home to the Valley National Bank. Designed by the Weaver and Drover firm, the building was complete in 1968. A visit will have you feeling as if you’ve been transported back to the ’70s.
In the heart of ASU’s Tempe campus lies Gammage Memorial Auditorium, a multipurpose performance art space and a unique piece of Phoenix architecture. Though the building has been around for a while, it wasn’t until the roof collapsed in 1956 that Frank Lloyd Wright became a part of the project and made the center what it is today. Wright based the design off an opera house that he had conceptualized for Baghdad (those plans fell through after King Faisal II’s assassination).
First Christian Church
In 1949, the president of Phoenix’s Southwest Christian Seminary commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to create a new church. By 1950, Wright had the designs drawn up which included a chapel, administrative buildings, seminar rooms, a theater, and more. However, operations were seized and construction did not begin until 1970 when the church received the rights from Wright’s widow.
You don’t need to visit Egypt to see a pyramid. Simply travel to north Phoenix (near Tatum and Shea). Neal Frisby, the architect behind the cathedral, claimed that he was commanded by God to build the isolated pyramid.
Phoenix Financial Center
Consisting of a high-rise office building and two rotunda buildings, the Phoenix Financial Center is arguably one of the most famous buildings in the valley. Built in 1963, the buildings were designed by Peruvian architect, W.A Sarmiento. The center remains a focal point for the Uptown Business District and is a small reminder of what Phoenix was like in the past.
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The Evans House is one of the oldest homes still standing in Phoenix, having been built in 1893. It’s been dubbed the “onion house” due to its onion-shaped dome. The downstairs area was used as a living space by Dr. John Evans and his wife while the upstairs space was used as the doctor’s office. In 1976, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and while it is not accessible to the public, it’s worth driving by to see some of Phoenix’s earliest history.
Sitting on the corner of First Ave and Jefferson, the Luhrs Tower is an art-deco skyscraper that was built in 1929. Up until 1971, the penthouse served as the home of the prestigious Arizona Club. Since then it has been added to the Phoenix Historic Property Register. If it looks familiar, it might be because you spotted it in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”
Heritage Square consists of multiple buildings, dating back to the late 1800s. It’s one of the only original townsites of Phoenix left. Within the square, you will find the Rosson House, a home purchased by the surgeon Dr. Roland Rosson in 1882, the Baird Machine Shop, the Bouvier Teeter House, and more.
The Westward Ho, at 16-stories tall, held the title for the tallest building in Phoenix until 1960 when it was beat out by the Meridian Bank Tower. It served as a hotel from 1928 until 1980 and it had many celebrities stop by during its time as a hotel. From Nixon to Reagan to JFK, it was a hub for many presidents who were in town. It can also be spotted in movies such as “Bus Stop” with Marilyn Monroe, “Pocket Money” with Paul Newman, and the 1998 remake of “Psycho.” Today it is used as a home for the mentally and physically disabled.