More Phoenix Jewels

This week’s post features two more illustrations in my Mid-Century Modern Architecture series, which pays homage to landmark structures from the ’50s that continue to grace the Valley of the Sun:

Valley Ho

Valley Ho

This cool jewel of modern architecture in downtown Scottsdale — designed by architect Edward Varney — was built in 1956. Hollywood celebrities flocked to the hotel in the ‘50s and ‘60s, but it had lost a bit of its shine by the 1970s. Happily, Westroc Hospitality purchased the property and reopened the Hotel Valley Ho in 2005 after extensive restoration, and the building is now as Mid-Century marvelous as ever.

David Wright House

David Wright House

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this unusual spiraling home for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys. Built in 1952 in a former citrus grove at the base of Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain, the house offers 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and Arcadia neighborhood. Thanks to historic preservation efforts, Wright’s final residential masterpiece now serves as an educational and event space.

Mid-Century Jewels

I love Mid-Century Modern architecture and design, and I’m lucky to live in Phoenix, Arizona, where many fine examples of such buildings remain standing to serve as artistic inspiration. This series of original illustrations pays tribute to some of the landmark structures that continue to grace the Valley of the Sun. This week’s post features new illustrations for two iconic bank buildings:

Stone-Age Bank
Stone-Age Bank

Designed by Frank Henry of architectural firm Weaver & Drover, this 1968 former Valley National Bank building (now a JPMorgan Chase Bank branch) looks like something right out of the Stone Age. Sitting at the corner of 44th Street and Camelback Road, this beloved building’s “peanut brittle” stone work, curvilinear floor plan, and mushroom-like concrete shade parasols in the parking lot and adjacent green space wow architecture aficionados, bank customers and passersby alike.

From Greenbacks to GreensFrom Greenbacks to Greens

W.A. Sarmiento’s building — a blend of Expressionist and popular roadside architecture —started life in 1975 as the Metrocenter Branch of the now-defunct Western Savings and Loan. Still standing but now housing greens instead of greenbacks, a Souper Salad restaurant currently occupies this iconic building. Its distinctive ribbed, conical, vase-like tower topping a round base encircled with arches can be seen and enjoyed by drivers on I-17 on Phoenix’s west side.


Sleek and Chic: Mid-Century Desert Jewels

Here are two new original illustrations from my Mid-Century Modern collection. The now-demolished Tiny Naylor’s drive-in restaurant that used to grace the corner of Sunset and La Brea in Hollywood inspired the first design, above. The Googie-style building made customers and passersby feel like they were part of the jet age.

I drew inspiration for the second design from another Googie-style jewel, the still-standing City Center Motel on West Van Buren in Phoenix, designed by William Knight and built in 1959 by Ben Paller. While I can’t vouch for the sleekness or chicness of the motel nowadays, here’s hoping there are enough Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts to keep buildings like this from disappearing.

Lounge Lizard in the Desert

lounge lizard

Do blondes have more fun? Maybe when a lounge lizard picks up the tab. And where better to find a lizard than in the desert? The setting for this original illustration (and for my blog banner) was inspired by the quintessential desert playground from the mid-century, downtown Scottsdale’s Valley Ho. This modern architecture jewel of a hotel was built in 1956 but lost a bit of its shine in the 1970s. Happily, it reopened in 2005 after extensive restoration and is now as gorgeous as ever — just like our barefoot blonde sipping summer cocktails. Be sure to check out happy hour at the ZuZu Lounge.

What Cool America Looked Like in the Late 50s

American Look is an awesome Technicolor short film commissioned by the Chevrolet division of General Motors in 1959 celebrating American mid-century lifestyle and design. The film showcases design of everything from dinnerware and furniture to automobiles and public art murals. Produced by the Handy “Jam” Organization, this film is fabulous right down to the music, the hairstyles, and the narrator’s voice. The evocative video and audio will make you wish you had a time machine to go back and live in the mid-century era. Enjoy!

Simply Marvelous: Phoenix’s Mid-Century Commercial Architecture

Published by the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office in January 2011 (and now in its second printing), the coffee table book “Midcentury Marvels: Commercial Architecture of Phoenix, 1945 – 1975” is features a great collection of photographs and details about the history of mid-century commercial architecture in Phoenix. It also profiles the architects who shaped modern Phoenix — Frank Lloyd Wright, Ralph Haver, Al Beadle, and Bennie Gonzales among them. In some cases, photographs (and the memory of long-time locals) are all that’s left of these architectural desert jewels. But despite some lamentable tear-downs, the Phoenix area still boasts some fine examples of high-style Modern and Googie architecture in everything from banks and offices to restaurants and hotels. This book covers just commercial structures, so we’re hoping a companion book on Phoenix’s residential mid-century marvels will come out some day. Meanwhile, this book is a must-have for anyone fascinated by the Valley of the Sun’s mid-century modern architecture like we are.