Alvarado Historic District of Phoenix
Architectural StylesSpanish and American Colonial, Elizabethan/Tudor and Georgian
BoundariesIntersection of Monte Vista and Alvarado roads, North to Oak Street alignment, east to 3rd street and south to Palm Lane.
Period of Significance1907 – 1933
Historic DesignationSeptember 1992
Arriving in Phoenix in 1895, Dwight B. Heard quickly assessed the Valley’s great potential and grasped the limitations imposed by the cycle of floods and drought which plagued the Valley. Motivated by investments in land and agriculture, he became an active force in efforts to promote federal projects that would harness the Valley’s water. With successful passage in 1902 of the National Reclamation Act, Heard applied his efforts locally where he served as a county water commissioner, helping to lay the groundwork that led to construction of the Roosevelt dam. Completed in 1911, the dam tamed the waters of the Salt River, transforming the Valley by providing both stable irrigation and protection from the dangerous floods.
In 1903, Heard and his wife Maie, constructed a 6000-square foot Spanish Colonial Revival mansion they named “Casablanca”. Located at the corner or Monte Vista and Central Avenue, the home was the cornerstone of future Alvarado and was a frequent stop for visitors and dignitaries from throughout the US. Sensing the promise this north central location held, Heard purchased the entire quarter section of land. In 1909, he subdivided the 160 acres, which ranged from Central Avenue to 7th Street and from McDowell Road to Oak Street, into 32 parcels of 5 acres each. Intended for upscale, estate sized homes, the project, named Los Olivos, was the most prestigious of the early suburban home site subdivisions with the largest lots available. Preparing the project for sale, Heard provided numerous plantings throughout the subdivision, including hundreds of palm trees. Early development in Phoenix was characteristically hindered by a lack of outside investment. In 1912, Heard purchased the Arizona Republican newspaper, where he used his position as publisher to tirelessly promote and proclaim the virtues of the Valley to the nation and beyond. Heard’s enthusiasm, however was not matched by the market, even in burgeoning Phoenix. Slightly ahead of the true economic boom Los Olivos was resurveyed and replatted many times between 1909 and 1919, splitting the lots to meet the market demand for more economical parcels. Two units from these subsequent replattings make up today’s Alvarado Historic District.
By the mid-1920’s, the momentum created by the reclamation projects erupted into an explosion of growth in agriculture, leading to the expansion of general business, population and residential construction. Los Olivos attracted a wealthy clientele who built large custom-designed homes, which was a sharp departure from the nature of homes and subdivision design taking place in adjacent neighborhoods. The original Los Olivos subdivision contained but two interior roads, Palm Lane and Buena Avenue, present-day Third Street. The early replattings added two new streets, Coronado to the South and Monte Vista to the north. In 1925, Alvarado Road was extended north from Palm Lane to Monte Vista with subsequent extensions farther north and finally east. It was around this framework that the Alvarado Place subdivision was created recorded in 1927.
Although falling short of the grand scale that Heard originally envisioned, the compact size of Alvarado Place did not distract from an exclusive atmosphere that encouraged the elite of the community to build custom homes designed by the prominenet local architects of the time. Lescher and Mahoney, Fitzhugh and Byron, and Wallingford and Bell were among the firms that gave Alvarado Place form and style.
The styles were varied as the development of Alvarado coincided with the trend of Period Revival architecture during the mid to late 1920’s. This era revisited the forms, materials and decorative elements reminiscent of past styles, notably from medieval Europe and Colonial America.
The Alvarado Historic District consists of 30 properties constructed between the mid-1920’s and mid-1930’s. The homes are typically set towards the front of large lots with shallow and unfenced front yards. The narrow streets and diminished setbacks accentuate the architecture allowing it to dominate and provide a cohesive tone to the district. Twenty-one of the structure present some variation of the Period Revival styles in an outstanding array including Spanish Colonial Revival, American Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Georgian Revival.
The Heards themselves provided only non-residential contributions to the district when they constructed the Heard Museum, completed in 1929. Designed by Herbert Green, the Spanish Colonial Revival structure was originally built as part of the Casablanca estate to house the Heard’s extensive collection of artifacts. Since that time, the museum has grown to become internationally recognized as the premiere institution for the Southwest American Indian cultures.
The imagery of Alvarado resonates even more strongly today than at its birth. Towering trees, a legacy from Dwight Heard, line the aptly named Palm Lane. Monte Vista Road is graced by columns of olive trees, the inspiration for Heard’s dream.Information and history provided by the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation office.