Arizona Centennial Series: 10 Historic Buildings Still Standing

Real Estate | 1 Aug, 2011 |

Historic Buildings – Arizona has a history that ranges from historic wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, to remarkable buildings. Each year the Arizona Preservation Foundation releases their Arizona Most Endangered Historic Places List which informs the public and increases awareness.

The following includes 10 historic buildings still standing, significant from Arizona’s past:


Strawberry Schoolhouse – Built in 1884

Located on Fossil Creek Road, Strawberry Schoolhouse was built in 1884 in Strawberry Valley, Ariz. Families that lived in the Yavapai County wanted a school and petitioned for one to be built. After the petition, District #33 was established, as was the school.

A change in the county boundary in 1889 moved the school from Yavapai county to Gila County making it District #11, were it stayed until 1916 when it closed. The school furniture was removed and the building became a temporary residence for newcomers to the Valley.

By 1961, the remains of the structure included just a log frame.

Fred Eldean, an official in the Page Land and Cattle Company, purchased the building and donated it to Payson-Pine Chamber of Commerce.

In 1967, local residents restored the old structure and now it belongs to the Arizona Historical Society. On August 15, 1981, the building was dedicated as a historical monument.


Pyle House – Built in 1938

The Pyle House was built around 1938 for J. Howard Pyle, governor of Arizona from 1950 to 1954, and his wife, Lucile Hanna Pyle. They lived in the home for 27 years.

This building is one of the larger ranch houses in the neighborhood. Special features include steel casement windows and a low-pitch roof. The landscape obscures much of the front view of the home.

On November 29, 1987, Governor Pyle died at the age of 81.

After his death the house, located just minutes away from the Arizona State University Tempe campus, was abandoned and those living around it for years wanted it to be bulldozed and build a new structure.

The house was going to be torn down, but property owner Ronald A. Davidoff, through his representative Emilio LoCascio of Gemini Development Corporation, put in a petition to keep the house and refurbish it.

Today, it is deemed as a Tempe historic property.


Empire Ranch – Built in 1860

Empire Ranch is a 22-room adobe, built in 1860, located southeast of Tucson and 10 miles north of Sonoita. The ranch sits at the heart of the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Consercation Area, public land acquired in 1988 by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The building was owned by Edward Nye Fish, a Tucson businessman, then acquired by Walter L. Vail, a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Herbert Hislop, an Englishman, in 1876.

Empire Ranch, Arizona's Historic Buildings Still Standing

The family received many historic expansions by Vail and his family until 1928, when the ranch was purchased by Boice Gates and Johnson partnership, cattlemen known for their promotion of the Hereford breed of cattle in the Southwest. In 1951, Frank Boice and his family became the sole owners of the property. They hosted Hollywood production company parties and allowed for the filming of western movies on their land.

In 1969, the land was sold to the Gulf American Corporation for real estate development then resold to Anamax Mining Company for mining and water potential.

In 1988, a series of land exchanges put the property in public ownership under the administration of the Bureau of Land Management and considered it a historic building and land space.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress officially designated these 42,000 acres to be the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.


Nicholas Saloon – Built in 1889

Nicholas Saloon was built in 1889 for John Nicholas, a French rancher, farmer and saloonkeeper, who came to the town in 1880. This building has been registered as a national historic place. He moved into this building in 1889 and used it as a beer hall and saloon.

This is one of the few buildings in the historic district that includes a basement, steam-powered fan and wood floor.

Originally, there were three entrances, two on 11th Street and one on Bailey Street. The building has been used variously as a residential dwelling and rental and currently as an office.

Designed by prominent Arizona Architect James M. Creighton, this is the oldest standing fired-brick building in Florence.

The current owners of the building are Paul and Diane Marchand and John and Laura Bolognino.


Florence Woman’s Club – Built in 1929

The Florence Woman’s Club was constructed of adobe in Spanish Colonial Revival Style by architects Lescher and Mahoney, who had prison inmates doing the work.

T.F. Weedin, who wanted to improve and beautify the town of Florence, established the club in 1897. Members paid 25 cents to her each month to come to the meetings held under her porch. They were one of five original groups to form an alliance for a cause.

In 1914, the club bought the land where the building stands. They raised $9,420 through fund-raisers to build the club, and the building was completed in 1929, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During World War II, the building was rented to USO for $75 per month. Soldiers were able to enjoy a reading center, phonograph records and Saturday night dances.


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – Built in 1882

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built 1882, under direction of Endicott Peabody. Located in Tombstone, Arizona this is first Episcopal Church in Arizona.St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Arizona's Oldest Building

The building is hand formed by adobe brick that was stuccoed in 1970 to protect the adobe. The ceilings and roof were made of timber that was hauled in by ox carts from the Chiricahua Mountains.

According to the website, “the stained glass windows, the pews, altar rail are all the originals unchanged over the years. The light fixtures, although now electrified, are the originals that came off a chipper ship anchored in San Francisco. The piano dates from 1891, and the altar cross was donated in 1905.”

The building was made a historic landmark, although it has never closed, and continues to serve people today.


Niels Petersen House – Built in 1892

The Niels Petersen House, a Queen Anne style brick building, was built in 1892. Owned by Niels Petersen, a Danish immigrant, prominent local farmer and entrepreneur, and his wife Susanna, this is the oldest Queen Anne building in the Valley.

James Creighton, a well-known Arizona architect, built the home.

When Peterson died in 1923, he was buried in the Double Butte Cemetery, a site he had donated to Tempe. He was later reburied on the Petersen House property. When Susanna died in 1927, her nephew, Rev. Edwin Decker, inherited the house and property. He made modifications to the house in 1930 and lived there until his death in 1948.

In 1968, the house was turned over to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, who cared for it until it was donated to the City of Tempe in 1979. The Niel’s Petersen House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

The building has a steep multi-gabled roof, decorative shingles, balconies, dormers and chimneys. The asymmetrical structure has a one-story kitchen wing on the west and a bungalow-style porch on the south and east, which replaced a wood Victorian porch in 1930.

The interior has 13 rooms, with a foyer, study, parlor, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, enclosed breezeway and kitchen downstairs; and three bedrooms, a bathroom and sitting room upstairs. Original features included three stained glass windows, brass door hardware, doors, windows, moldings, balustrade posts and some wallpaper.


Mystery Castle – Built in 1930

Mystery Castle, built in 1930 by Boyce Luther Gulley, is located in SoArizona's History: Old Buildings That Are Still Standing, 2011uth Phoenix, Arizona. The Arizona landmark that has moldings donated by famous people, such as John Wayne, is still lived in by the builder’s daughter, Mary Lou.

The story is Gulley lived in Seattle with his wife and daughter and was diagnosed of Tuberculosis. When he found out he refused to allow his wife and daughter see him suffer and decided to leave, taking off to Phoenix, AZ in the night. He decided he would build a castle for his “little princess” so she could have a place to inherit from him.

After 15 years of building the castle was done. He used adobe, mortar calcium, and even goats milk to build the home. After he passed away from cancer his wife and daughter came to Arizona to live in the home.

Today, Mary Lou gives tours of the castle, when she is up to it. The 8000 square foot home is has 13 fireplaces, eighteen distinct rooms, and a myriad of interesting features. A wide variety of southwest antiques also round out the interesting decorative style of the castle.

Mary Lou, Gulley’s daughter, did not see her dream home until 1945; the construction and her father’s whereabouts had remained a secret up until that point, hence the name Mystery Castle.


Rosson House – Built in 1895

The Rosson House was built in 1895 and is the last remaining residential house of the block. The 28,00-square-foot Eastlake architectural style Victorian home has 10 rooms and five fireplaces.

The house was built for Dr. and Mrs. Roland Lee Rosson at a cost of $7,525 and stands in its original location. The home was one of the most famous homes in Phoenix. Purchased by the city in 1974, it has been authentically restored.


A E English Building – Built in 1926

Clinton Cambell, an employee of A.E. England Motors, Inc. /Electrical Equipment Co, built the A E English Building in 1926. Located in Phoenix’s Civic Space, the Spanish Renaissance Revival style building features three large storefront windows, decorative molding and six original bow-string trusses.

In 2006, the Historic Preservation Bond Committee, Phoenix residents who voted for the 2006 Bond Program, local preservation advocates, the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office and Commission, Mayor Gordon and City Council voted against the building being demolished.

The building was an automotive dealership in the midst of “auto row,” located on Central and Van Buren, where Cadillac, Ford, Studebaker and DeSoto dealerships were until the end of the 1960s.

Now the building is used to have classes, orientations, meets and art shows for Arizona State University. The building was listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 2006 and rehabilitated by the City of Phoenix in 2008-2009 as part of the downtown Phoenix Civic Space.

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