History of Victoria Place Historic District

Origins of Victoria Place Historic DIstrict

The Victoria Place Historic District was developed from a portion of the Dennis Addition, a quarter section of land platted in 1883 and annexed into the City in 1899. The Dennis Addition was named for John T. Dennis, one of the earliest pioneer homesteaders of the desert adjacent to the Phoenix townsite.

In 1895, the Brill Street trolley car line was extended through the Dennis Addition, making the area readily accessible to the central commercial core or Phoenix. The area remained undeveloped and rural in character until Roosevelt Dam was completed in 1911 and Arizona was granted statehood in 1912. Both events, together with agricultural development in the Valley, sparked a boom in real estate development and residential subdivision.

The Development of Victoria Place

Victoria Place was initially a pair of two-acre lots, each individually owned by FX O’Brien and Eric Hanson. The lots were positioned back-to-back and surrounded by larger five-acre parcels, which had, been platted before the housing demand at the turn-of-the-century. Population growth after 1912 necessitated denser urban neighborhoods be established closer to the Phoenix townsite. O’Brien’s and Hanson’s lots measured 200 x 875 feet, however, only the two shorter sides had street frontage. Neither of the parcels was large enough to be developed into the standard pattern of the area, so the two men merged their lots into a single subdivision. They laid out McKinley Street, which was initially lined with Ash trees, to run east west down the center of the parcel. This enabled lots with a standard 50-foot width, but only an 80-foot depth. The street right-of-way could be only 40 feet wide, narrower than the surrounding streets. This configuration of a narrow street and smaller lots established the unique site and spatial characteristics that distinguish Historic Victoria Place today.

Although F.X. O’Brien and Eric Hanson platted the land, the primary developer of Victoria Place was the Valley Construction and Realty Company. Due to a slowdown in the Phoenix economy during World War 1, the subdivision developed in two distinct phases, the first from 1913 to 1920, and the second from 1924 to 1930. All of the homes in the second phase were completed after the war and before the effects of the Depression hit Arizona in 1930.

Victoria Place was a typical middle class neighborhood for early Phoenix. The residents were a mixture of many segments of society. Occupations of residents ranged from sales clerks and service sector employees to Southern Pacific Railroad workers.

Homes in Victoria Place originally cost between $2000 and $2500, compared to $5000 and up in the wealthier historic Phoenix neighborhoods developed in the same period. The appearance of Victoria Place illustrates the rapid shift in architectural design and styles that occurred before and after World War I. The west end of McKinley Street, built prior to the war, is almost entirely Bungalow Style homes. The houses constructed after the war are in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. This second phase of Victoria Place also illustrates the growing prominence of the automobile; almost every home has a carport, while the earlier Bungalows do not. The contrast in the architectural styles, and the feeling of density created by the narrow street, is a unique characteristic of Victoria Place.

The Architecture of Victoria Place

At the time Victoria Place was first subdivided, the Bungalow was the prominent architectural style in Phoenix. Bungalows are typically one-story homes with a simple, functional floor plan and one or more broadly pitched roof gables with deep overhangs. Broad front porches with tapering porch columns are a typical feature. Bungalow was the common architectural style, which emerged from the Craftsman movement at the turn-of-the-century. The Craftsman philosophy reflected the increasing informality of twentieth century lifestyles oriented to comfort, utility and convenience. Individual contractors using mail order blueprints or mass-produced plans constructed most Bungalows. By the time construction in Victoria Place resumed after 1924, the Spanish Colonial Revival had overtaken the Bungalow as the prevailing local style. Stylistic elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style include low-pitched roofs with little or no overhang, red tile roof shingles, prominent arches over doors, windows and porches, and an asymmetrical stuccoed facade.

Significance of Victoria Place

Located in one of the earliest additions to the Phoenix Townsite, Victoria Place is historically important for its association with the subdivision of the Dennis Addition as the Phoenix townsite expanded, and, as a vestige of neighborhood development in Phoenix in the first decades of the 1900’s. The distinct lot and street size set it apart from its surroundings and document its unusual development pattern. Architecturally, Victoria Place is important for its representation of the two predominant residential building styles in the community during the early twentieth century: Bungalow and Spanish Colonial Revival.

Victoria Place Historic Designation

The Victoria Place Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in April 1989 and listed by the city in the Phoenix Historic Property Register the same month. The city designation is an Historic Preservation overlay zoning category that establishes an architectural design review process for exterior work requiring building permits. The designation also qualifies properties for participation in other city-supported preservation programs. For information on the benefits of listing a property in the National Register of Historic Places call the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office at (602) 542-4009. For information on city programs call the Phoenix Historic Preservation Office at (602) 261-8699.

Timeline

1865 – Civil War ends

1867 – Swilling Irrigation and Canal Co. reestablishes settlement in the Salt River Valley

1870 – Phoenix town site surveyed, population 240

1881 – Transcontinental railroad through Arizona completed

1886 – Geronimo surrenders, Apache Wars end

1889 – Phoenix selected as permanent territorial capital, population 3,000

1893 – First electric streetcars in Phoenix

1899 – Dennis Addition annexed to Phoenix

1903 – First transcontinental automobile trip

1911 – Roosevelt Dam completed; Victoria Place subdivided

1912 – Arizona admitted as 48th state

1913 – First home constructed in Victoria Place

1917 – U.S. enters World War I

1918 – World War I ends

1920 – Women’s suffrage; Phoenix population 29,000

1921 – Second phase of Victoria Place begun

1929 – Stock market crashes; Phoenix population 48,000

1933 – Prohibition repealed

1941 – U.S. enters World War II; Thunderbird Field opens to train wartime pilots

1945 – World War II ends

1950 – Truman authorizes development of H-bomb; Phoenix population totals more than 100,000

Historical Information Provided Courtesy of:
Historic Preservation Office of the City of Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department

200 West Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
(602) 261-8699

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