Country Club Park Historic District of Phoenix
The early growth of Phoenix proceeded north as the residents moved away from the flood plain of the Salt River. Channeled by the streetcar lines, development clustered along Center Street, now Central Avenue, expanding west as streetcar line spurs were added.
The city’s growth also was checked by the vagaries of the river’s flows. Periods fo drought would frustrate development as the economy receded in response to the dwindling water.
The year of 1902 marked a pivoted event for the Valley. Passage of the National Reclamation Act established federal programs that led to construction of the Roosevelt Dam in 1911. Completion of the dam harnessed the waters of the Salt River, which in turn produced the initial wave of rapid growth and prosperity in the 1910’s for Phoenix and surrounding communities. The project also foreshadowed the role that the federal government would play in the continued growth of the city –a role that would lead directly to the development of Country Club Park.
The year was 1939 and Phoenix was experiencing a third wave of new growth. The first wave, blunted by World War I, returned to crest in the 1920’s. Knocked back again by the Great Depression, growth would be restored by the New Deal economics.
Of particular impact in the area of housing were the programs sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Created in 1934, the FHA was charge with rejuvenating the nation’s sagging housing industry. The federal agency encouraged and promoted home construction and ownership through the generous provisions if its loan insurance programs.
In return for these incentives, the FHA required that qualifying projects meet an array of standards designed to stabilize the housing market. Large projects were favored for their economies of scale and rapid impact on the available housing. Uniformity in design and residential styles were promoted based on the prevailing theory that consistency in design would bolster value.
Still undeveloped the Pemberton land was an excellent candidate for an FHA project. The parcel passed to Pemberton’s daughter who in 1918 sold it to a Du Pont Family heiress. Resisting all offers until 1937, Ecurtheria L. Du Pont sold 30 acres to the City for construction of North High School. Two years later, the remaining parcel bounded by Thomas Road, Virginia Avenue, Dayton and 7th Streets was sold to the Aetna Investment Corporation, the original developers of County Club Park.
Consistent with FHA policies and standards, Country Club Park was laid out with curved, non-through streets; three way intersections; consistent building placements’ and the focal point of the neighborhood a 2 ½ acre elliptical park. In short, Country Club Park was a mode FHA Community.
Opening in October of 1939, the debut of Country Club Park coincided with the plunge of Europe into World War II. For the next two years, the development thrived despite the war as 50% of the lots were developed through speculative sales and the efforts of numerous builders. Country Club Park was one of the last large residential subdivision s in the city to be developed in this manner. Before the project’s completion, increased scrutiny by the FHA, teamed with the effects fo war, would bring an end to conventional development for the remainder of the War years.
AS with all other features, the architectural style of Country Club Park was dictated by the standard of the FHA. Simple, functional, and inexpensive, the Ranch Style home emerged as the predominant architectural style in Country Club Park. In fact, various versions of the Ranch Style home became the prototype for FHA construction and would dominate the landscape of the country for the next three decades. Ranch Style would eventually account for 97 percent of the 142 homes within the Country Club Park subdivision. Complementing the French Provincial, California, and transitional Ranch styles are several examples of Spanish Eclectic and Art Moderne Ranch Styles. Basic features and forms are common to most of these variations of the Ranch Style, although Art Moderne ranch homes are particularly distinct. In general, they are one-story residences with low to medium pitched gable or hipped roofs, brick walls which are sometimes stuccoed. They also have metal framed windows and often a porch over the entry to shade the entry walkway. The Spanish Colonial Ranch often has a hallmark red tiled roof, white stucco walls and a massive stucco or brick chimney stack.
With America’s entry into the war in 1941, the construction of homes across the nation was dramatically curtailed. But intervention by the federal government once again would counter the natural economic downturn to the benefit of the Valley. Safe from coastal attack, Phoenix was considered an excellent site for the location of war production plants. Six additional military facilities were in the Valley, giving rise to the need for housing.
All “non-essential” construction was halted, and development was put under direction of the War Production Board (WPB) with the interaction of three federal agencies. Local businessmen formed the Eureka Investment Company to continue the development of Country Club Park under the auspices of the WPB. Still attempting to honor the uniformity of the FHA guidelines, the architectural firm of Lescher and Mahoney was retained to match the style of existing residences and plan of Country Club Park. Despite the limitations posed by wartime rationing, the substitution of materials allowed for construction of modest homes with only minor architectural adjustments. By the end of the war, in 1946, the subdivision of Country Club Park was complete – only seven years since its inception.
With its roots in the pioneer West, the Country Club Park Neighborhood transcends time to tell the story of wartime America. Its form, its style and the materials that comprise it speak of the spirit and ingenuity of a nation and the triumphs of its people through adversity.
Today Country Club Park is not a museum. It is a vibrant neighborhood that draws strength and pride from its history to take its place in the fabric or a revitalizing midtown community.
Information and history provided by the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation office.