Phoenix Landmarks you won’t Want to Miss

Architecture is a good keeper of time and history.  We often hear the saying, “if these walls could talk”.  Through brick and mortar, these places are tangible, visible reminders that connect us with our past.

Through these historical landmarks we are blessed to be able to learn about our history through discovering and celebrating the structures that our city has to offer.

Today we will take a look at five charming locations that have a rich history to our area and take a glimpse at the past.

Wrigley Mansion

Named after the chewing gum mogul, William Wrigley, Jr., who bought the Biltmore Hotel and built the Wrigley Mansion between 1929 and 1931, for his wife Ada for their 50th wedding anniversary.

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Wrigley Mansion

The Mansion incorporates Mediterranean, Spanish, and California Monterey architecture.  The mansion is nearly 17,000 square feet, and has 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms, 11 fireplaces, balconies, terraces, and decorative tile.

In 1992, George A. Hormel (now deceased), heir to the Hormel meat packing fortune, purchased the mansion to preserve it as a landmark. Thanks to his detailed restoration efforts, most of the original work is still intact.

Today, the Wrigley Mansion is known as the Wrigley Mansion Club.  They offer tours of the mansion and if you’re looking for Sunday brunch, there is no better spot.  With magnificent views, you can’t go wrong with choosing a better place to enjoy a piece of Phoenix history and enjoy the sunset.

St. Mary’s Basilica

Locals know it simply as “St. Mary’s.”  Officially named The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The church was founded in 1881, it’s the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix, and because it’s the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix it was the only parish until 1924, and is the only Basilica in Arizona.

St. Mary's Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica has often been called one of the most beautiful buildings in Phoenix. It houses one of the largest collection of stained glass windows in Arizona.

Great care was taken with the architecture, works of art, landscaping and the creation of a healing garden.

Within the church, four statues of the Evangelists Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John were designed specifically for the pulpit area.  The Healing Garden also has life-sized bronze statues memorializing important religious figures and significant events at the Church.

According to Otis E. Burnett, parishioner and tour guide at St. Mary’s, “many of the church’s decorative elements are symbolic representations of concepts deeply important to Christian worship.” They are designed to educate and inspire the faithful through visualizations and unspoken recollections.

The Rosson House Museum

If you would like to have an idea of what life was like for the well-to-do in early Phoenix, a visit to the Rosson House Museum is your cup of tea.

The house is a fully-restored 1895 Queen Anne Victorian house museum which interprets the history of Phoenix.

Heritage Square | The Rosson House

Heritage Square | The Rosson House

The house was originally built by Dr. Roland Lee Rosson in 1895 and cost $7,500.

One of the most historic pieces of furniture left in the home is the old Wooten desk.  They were a mark of the affluent until production ceased in 1884. A Wooten desk cost about $400, which was a lot of money considering the average wage in Phoenix in 1895 was $10 a week.

The Goldberg’s bought the house from the Rossons in 1897 and lived there for five years. Hazel Goldberg was the first bride wedded in the state of Arizona.

The Higleys, once part owner of The Arizona Republican and namesake of Higley, Arizona, then lived in the house from 1902 until 1914, when it was sold to the Gamul family, who resided in Rosson House until 1948.

Throughout the 1960s it became a boarding house.  Restorations began in the early 1970s and in 1980 the Rosson House reopened as a museum.

Today, tours of the house include all living areas and offer visitors a glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich early Phoenix families.

Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre is one of the most beautiful theaters in the country.  Its history, even within the theater industry is fascinating.  Starting in the 1920s through today the building has never been far from its roots.

Construction for the building began in 1927 and was completed in 1929 for a total cost of $750,000, designed by the architectural firm of Lescher & Mahoney for Harry Nace and J. E. Rickards, who managed theaters across Arizona.

Orpheum Theatre

Orpheum Theatre

In the 1940s the Orpheum was purchased by the Paramount Pictures chain and renamed, “The Paramount.”

In the 60’s Nederlander purchased it to add it as a stop on the Broadway circuit. Throughout the ’60’s until its restoration, it was renamed Palace West.

Throughout the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, the theater was leased to a local Mexican family, the Coronas, who presented Hispanic events and movies.

After falling into disrepair for some years, the Orpheum Theatre was purchased in 1984 by the City of Phoenix and after a lengthy restoration re-opened in January 28, 1997, with a performance of Hello, Dolly!

If you can make it early to a show, schedule a tour to learn about the rich historical past of the theater.

Mystery Castle

The Mystery Castle is really no mystery, but more of a father-daughter love story.

Mystery Castle

Mystery Castle

Boyce Luther Gulley, who thought he was dying from tuberculosis, left his wife and daughter behind and drove to Phoenix from Seattle in a Stutz Bearcat in 1929.

His wife, Flora, and his little girl, Mary Lou Gulley had no idea where he went or what he was doing until he died in 1945 — not from tuberculosis, but cancer.

What they later found out, was that Gulley was in Phoenix building the Mystery Castle.

Gulley was an ingenious man.  By the time Gulley died, he’d constructed a castle that included 18 rooms and thirteen fireplaces, using primarily recycled materials.  The secondary living room was built around a saguaro, which still stands in the middle of the room today, now just a wooden skeleton.

There are antiques and collectibles throughout the castle, including the original deed to the property, signed by president Franklin Roosevelt. There’s also a letter signed by president Bill Clinton in the bedroom.

Mary Lou Gulley, who lived in the castle for 65 years began giving tours of the castle in 1948.  She has since passed away, but tours are still given at the home.

Make sure to schedule enough time for a thorough tour of the inventive dwelling and keep an eye out for the windshield of the Stutz Bearcat.  See if you can find out where it ended up?