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Then and Now: The Remarkable Rebirth of the Hotel Adams

At Optima®, we revel in opportunities to explore the layers of architectural history and cultural significance found in the places we reside. In the heart of Phoenix, one structure stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant evolution over time: the Hotel Adams.

The journey for this architectural gem began in 1894, during Arizona’s territorial days, when Phoenix was a city of merely 5,000 residents. Attorney J.C. Adams, a recent arrival from Chicago, sought to enrich the city’s modest accommodations. Leveraging his financial connections, Adams constructed the city’s first luxury hotel, a grand Queen Anne-style building that immediately elevated Phoenix’s stature.

Adams lobby (pictured in 1920) (Photo: McCulloch Brothers Inc. / Arizona State University Libraries)

With balconies, private bathrooms in many rooms, fireplaces for heat, and an innovative cooling system featuring electric fans blowing air over giant ice blocks, the Adams Hotel wasn’t just elegant, but innovative for its time.

In 1910, the Adams Hotel succumbed to a devastating fire, and rose from its ashes as a five-story, Mission Revival-style structure, rebuilt on the same site with fireproof, reinforced concrete. Reopened in time for the statehood celebration in 1912, the Hotel Adams once again became a hub of social, political, and cultural activity.

The Hotel Adams located at Central Avenue and Adams Street,
1960. (Photo: Douglas C. Towne)

From its storied lobby, which housed Arizona’s first commercial radio station, to its altruistic pledge during World War II to always have a room available for servicemen, the Hotel Adams remained a symbol of the city’s community spirit.

As Phoenix evolved, so did Hotel Adams. In 1973, the decision was made to replace the aging building with a modern hotel to support the new Civic Center. The result was the 17-story, 538-room hotel that today is known as the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Yet, within its modern shell, the Renaissance Phoenix retains the spirit of the Hotel Adams.

The now Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

The basement area is a testament to the hotel’s tenacious spirit. Encased by concrete walls poured back in 1910, it’s now home to Melinda’s Alley, a clandestine hangout known for its rotating cocktail menu.

As we celebrate the extraordinary journey of the Hotel Adams, we are continually inspired by such symbols of resilience and reinvention. These architectural narratives speak to the enduring power of creating spaces that carry forward the spirit of evolution, community, and cultural significance. We’re proud to be a part of Arizona’s rich architectural history, and we look forward to the stories yet to be told.

Phoenix Architecture Spotlight: The David and Gladys Wright House

At Optima®, we have an unending fascination for architectural masterpieces, especially those that have shaped and defined the Modernist movement. Today, our focus rests upon an extraordinary residence, the David and Gladys Wright House, designed by none other than the father of architecture himself, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, this house stands out as one of Wright’s most innovative residential designs. Constructed in 1952 for his son David and daughter-in-law Gladys, this home reveals the intimate connection Wright shared with his family, articulated in his distinctive architectural language.

Crafted towards the end of his prolific career, the David and Gladys Wright House reflects Wright’s refined understanding of organic architecture and his remarkable ability to adapt to the character of the site. The house, built with native concrete blocks, rises in a spiral form from the desert landscape, its curvilinear design echoing the shape of the nearby mountains.

David and Gladys Wright House, Photo: Andrew Pielage

The unique spiraling form of the house is a significant departure from the typical linear construction seen in many of Wright’s works, and it manifests his deep reverence for the natural world. The spiraling design ascends gracefully from the ground, turning 360 degrees to provide panoramic views of Camelback Mountain and the surrounding landscape.

Inside, Wright’s naturalistic design philosophy continues — the interior floor plan unfolds like a nautilus shell, with rooms radiating from the central hearth, embodying the hearth’s symbolic role as the heart of the home. The characteristics Wright touches—built-in furniture, extensive use of natural light, and harmonious color palettes—are in full swing here, creating a seamless dialogue between the exterior and interior spaces.

David and Gladys Wright House interior

Notable, too, is the home’s thoughtful integration of modern technology for its time. It was designed with innovative features such as energy-efficient passive solar heating, natural cooling, and a functional, open kitchen that was ahead of its time.

Despite facing threats of demolition, the house has been preserved thanks to the concerted efforts of preservationists, historians, and fans of Wright’s work. Today, the David and Gladys Wright House stands as a testimony to Wright’s genius and his enduring influence on Modernist architecture.

At Optima®, we’re continually captivated by such Modernist masterpieces that speak volumes about the era’s architectural ethos. Frank Lloyd Wright’s David and Gladys Wright House, with its distinctive design blending built form and natural environment, remains a profound source of inspiration and a vivid embodiment of Wright’s creative brilliance. 

Ralph Haver: The Unsung Brilliance of A Mid-Century Arizona Architect

Ralph Haver’s work may not have gained the same international recognition as his contemporaries Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, or Eero Saarinen, but there’s no mistaking his defining influence on Arizona Mid-Century Architecture.

Haver was born in Pasadena in 1915. He attended Pasadena Junior College and later studied architecture at the University of Southern California (USC) before the United States entered World War II. After a stint in the military with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, he moved to Phoenix, and started his own architectural practice. In 1945, he founded Haver, Nunn & Associates, partnering with fellow architect, Jimmie Nunn. The duo focused on designing affordable tract homes that were stylish, functional, and suited to the desert climate.

Northwood Haver Home in Phoenix. Photo: ©2016 Modern Phoenix LLC

His passion for simple, affordable, and elegant design made him an instant hit among Arizonans who were seeking a fresh architectural perspective.

While Wright’s organic architecture and luxurious designs were the talk of the town, Haver was working diligently behind the scenes. He envisioned a world where every family could live in a well-designed, modern home without breaking the bank. And thus, the “Haver Home” was born.

Haver Homes For All

Haver’s homes were designed for the average family. Their clean aesthetic and open floor plans allowed homeowners to bask in the natural beauty of Arizona while having a comfortable, stylish abode.

Marlen Grove Haver Home. Photo: ©2020 Modern Phoenix LLC

With the thousands of Haver Home designed and built, their iconic design elements included low-sloping roofs, expansive windows, and a post-and-beam construction, similar to that of another Arizona contemporary we wrote about recently, Al Beadle. These elements allowed for a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, maximizing both beauty and functionality.

Ralph Haver and his firm didn’t limit themselves to residential projects. They also designed schools, churches, and commercial buildings, leaving their mark on many aspects of Arizona’s mid-century architectural landscape. Many of their projects were concentrated in neighborhoods like Marlen Grove, Town and Country, and Windemere.

Windermere Haver Home. Photo: ©Modern Phoenix LLC

Although Ralph Haver passed away in 1997, his work continues to influence architects and homeowners, and his designs have become highly sought-after by those looking to own a piece of Arizona’s unique modernist architectural heritage. In fact, many neighborhoods throughout Phoenix and Scottsdale still boast a high concentration of Haver Homes, lovingly maintained and restored by their proud owners. These communities serve as a testament to Haver’s enduring vision of affordable, stylish living for all. At Optima®, we’re inspired by the innovative spirit of Ralph Haver and his dedication to creating beautiful, functional living spaces.

Architectural Treasures of Phoenix & Scottsdale

From Taliesin West to Arcosanti, Arizona is filled with some of the country’s most stunning architecture. However, many people don’t realize that there are plenty of local architecture gems that often go unrecognized, even closer to the Scottsdale area. Forever inspired by the architecture surrounding us, we’ve been out and about to spotlight a few of the many architectural treasures found around Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights

Built from 1929 to 1931, Tovrea Castle is one of Phoenix’s most recognizable landmarks. The castle is named after the structure’s architect, Alessio Carraro, and former owner, Della Tovrea. Thanks to its unique Italianate Architectural Style, the building is known locally as the “Wedding Cake Castle”. Its construction includes a four-tier fashion, with each level utilizing materials such as granite block, pine wood and stucco. 

Intricate details, including parapets on each tier’s roof, Art Deco lighting and over 5,000 cacti, add to the castle’s extravagant character. Originally planned as a centerpiece for a destination hotel, the castle instead became a private residence after its completion and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Thankfully today, even if you don’t tour the castle yourself, the stunning building is easily viewable to any passer-by thanks to its grand design.

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Gammage Memorial Auditorium

Acting as Arizona State University’s performing arts center for nearly 60 years, Gammage Memorial Auditorium stands as one of Arizona’s most dramatic architectural works and one of the largest exhibitors of performing arts for universities around the world. Considered one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last commissions, the structure stands 80 feet high and measures 300 by 250 feet. Wright based his design on a Baghdadi opera house that he had previously conceptualized for the city but never built. 

Twin arch buttress walkways jut from the north and east sides of the auditorium while fifty rose-colored, “marblecrete” columns encompass the exterior, supporting the circular roof. Besides the round roof, the theme of circles are found nearly everywhere throughout the interlocking circular arcs of the building. Its shapes, colors, textures and materials all pay tribute to the surrounding Arizona landscape, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. 

Rosson House Museum

Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square

More than 125 years old, Phoenix’s Rosson House shares a story of Arizona’s territorial past. Designed by San Francisco architect A.P. Petit, the 1895 home mainly displays a Queen Anne Victorian style. However, unique French and Chinese architectural elements are found throughout the home. Because of the home’s style, Petit utilized fired brick and wood for the home, shifting from the standard building material of the time and location, adobe brick. 

Standout design elements of the house include the Victorian Era gold-infused ruby glass windows, a Chinese-inspired half-moon arch on its veranda and a French-inspired octagonal turret at its peak. After being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the historic house, now owned by the City of Phoenix, is a museum and remains a popular destination for architecture lovers today. 

There’s no better way to celebrate the robust and compelling architecture of Phoenix and Scottsdale than by getting out and discovering the treasures yourself. Stay tuned as we continue to explore more of our community’s remarkable art and architecture!

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