The greater downtown Phoenix area was a cultural and entertainment hub, with shopping destinations like Woolworth’s and Hanny’s and movie palaces like The Fox and The Paramount (now the Orpheum). It was also a major draw for people around the country to come for their health. The dry temperature and clean air were major draws, especially with cool nights and the lack of the urban heat island effect that we have today. Arizona was a relaxing vacation destination, and Phoenix became a winter mecca and a draw for Hollywood celebrities.
To serve the winter visitors and tourists in the Roosevelt Neighborhood, enterprising developers built Gold Spot Marketing Center (corner of 3rd Avenue and Roosevelt St), one of the first shopping centers in Phoenix, built to serve a specific residential area. This marketing center was an early development in a trend that has continued throughout the city’s history, and has had a marked effect on the commercial development of the city. The trend has emphasized the development of smaller neighborhood shopping centers rather than a centralized commercial shopping district.
Architecturally, the Roosevelt Neighborhood has some of the finest examples of early 20th century residential architecture in the City of Phoenix. Among the relatively simple California bungalows, which dominate the landscape, are finely detailed Craftsman bungalows and Period Revival houses (including Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Italian Villa Revival, French Provincial Revival, and English Cottage Revival). Many of these are the most notable examples of their styles in Phoenix.
The neighborhood includes important assemblages of vernacular Neoclassical Revival cottages and Prairie school buildings. Trinity Cathedral, Kenilworth School, and the Hotel Westward Ho are also outstanding examples of their building types and styles in the City of Phoenix. The area contained two gems of the City Beautiful Movement, the Moreland Parkway and Portland Parkway. Both were full of lush shade trees and grass, and lined with apartments and Victorian houses.
In addition to its importance to the development and architectural history of Phoenix, the Roosevelt Neighborhood was home to much of the city’s elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A governor, mayors, city commissioners, Supreme Court justices, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs all made the neighborhood their home. Both Barry Goldwater and Paul Fannin went to Kenilworth School.
The Gold Spot evolved. By the 1960s, it had a Rexall Drugs and Otis Kenilworth’s barbershop, among other shops. Many Roosevelt residents shopped at the A.J. Bayless on the southwest corner of Moreland and Central.
Street cars were replaced by buses in 1948 after the trolley warehouse went up in flames. But the automobile had already taken over — gas was cheap and car ownership ballooned. Development began to scatter, moving northward along Central Avenue into a commercial thoroughfare in replace of the stately homes. You can still some surviving homes in the Old Spaghetti Factory and Ellis-Shackelford House. Anything new became exciting and promising. Downtown quickly faded into the background.