Vintage photo from the ASU McCulloch Brothers collection

Let’s go history adventuring to an area of downtown Phoenix that should look familiar to you – looking south on Central Avenue from Monroe Street. Of course, this photo came from 1926, so there are some differences.

Central Ave looking south from Monroe Street in 1926
Central Ave looking south from Monroe Street in 1926 – Photo from the ASU McCulloch Brothers collection

To avoid confusion, the trolley tracks at the lower edge of the photo run along Monroe. No track existed down Central until the new Light Rail went in.

Beginning on the left side of the street you see the Western Auto Supply Company, which used to be the old Post Office. Next to it, with the rifle above the sign, sits Pinney and Robinson, Sporting Good Exclusively. Just beyond that you see the Builder’s Exchange. In 1931, the Professional Building — originally the headquarters for Valley National Bank and now the Hilton Garden Inn — replaced all three.

Just past the Builder’s Exchange you see an alley — originally referred to as Melinda’s Alley — and the Adams Hotel. That particular building went up in 1911 after the first hotel there burned down in 1910, and it lasted until 1973. The next hotel to inhabit that spot still exists. Originally it bore the name Adams Hotel, but eventually Marriott bought it and renamed it the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

Staying on the left side of the street, and as you look farther in the distance, you can see the First National Bank of Arizona building on the southeast corner of Central and Washington. Just behind it, across Jefferson. you can barely make out the Jefferson Hotel. Nowadays we call it the Barrister building, and you might recognize it as the building in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho.”

Across Central from the Jefferson Building, you can see the balconies of the Commercial (Luhr’s) Hotel sticking up. The Luhrs Building hasn’t changed a bit since it was built in 1925 and today it houses the Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlor.

The modern Luhr's Building
The modern Luhr’s Building

Moving back up the street toward Monroe, the interesting building with the spires was originally the old Opera House. In 1926, however, it housed Hanny’s Menswear, and would until they moved to their new building in 1949.

Continuing on our way, the tall building on the right is the Heard Building, named after the owner, Dwight Heard — yes, the guy who started the museum. Built in 1919, the Heard Building still looks pretty much the same today, although it went through some face lifts since 1926.

Next to the Heard Building, you see the Occidental Boarding Rooms and its two signs. The top sign says “Layner and Bowler Corp., The World’s Largest Water Developers,” and the bottom sign says “Schick and Fagan, City Homes, Ranch Lands.” This building was razed in 1929 and the current 130 N. Central, which now holds Valley Bar, went up not long afterwards.

Finally, we come back to the corner of Central and Monroe with the original Central Methodist Church, where Michael’s Jewelers and the Subway are now.

Thank you for history adventuring with us! Watch out for traffic! Aaa-ooo-gahhhh!

Want to compare 1926 Phoenix and 2016 Phoenix? Take a look at the photo below.

Looking south on Central from Monroe in 1926, and modern day Phoenix, Arizona.
Looking south on Central from Monroe in 1926, and modern day Phoenix, Arizona.

– Brad Hall, History Adventuring / Edited for Phoenix.org