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11 Phoenix neighborhoods get coveted historic status

by Susie Steckner – Jan. 21, 2011
Special for The Republic

Phoenix boasts dozens of historical neighborhoods, and many have long garnered attention for their activism, redevelopment and sheer architectural beauty.

But other areas have been sitting below the radar, gems known mostly to preservationists and the people who call them home.

In June, Phoenix celebrated news that 11 more neighborhoods had earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. These neighborhoods have some of the oldest and more distinctive homes in the city, from redbrick ranches to Craftsman bungalows and pyramid cottages.

The new status “gives the neighborhood cachet,” said Donna Reiner, a committee chair with the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition and interim executive director of the Rosson House.

Reiner said historical neighborhoods by and large are still hotly sought-after by homeowners for their sense of community.

“They’re neighborhoods. They’re not what are disparagingly referred to as ‘gated.’ They’re not garage neighborhoods,” said Reiner, who lives in the Coronado Historic District. “People still walk, they sit on their porches. There’s a lot of community feeling.”

Realtor Kerry Melcher agreed.

“There’s a culture within a historic district that’s unique,” said Melcher, who lives in Medlock Place, where neighbors know each other, walk to nearby restaurants and gather in front yards.

Even in the recent decline, historical neighborhoods are holding their value better than others.

“They’ve suffered in this latest downturn, but not as much as the rest of the (non-historical) districts,” said Melcher, of the Melcher Agency in Phoenix.

Among the 11 neighborhoods placed on the national register, some, like Garfield, have a higher profile than others. In a two-part series, we’ll look at some of the below-the-radar neighborhoods.


Location: Bounded by Glenrosa Avenue and Mackenzie Drive, Seventh and 15th avenues. Developed between 1928-1949.

Carrie and Jim Dyrek see their Woodlea neighborhood as a tiny oasis in a sprawling city. Neighbors know each other. They bustle through the streets on bikes or with their dogs. They gather for neighborhood cookouts and yard sales, and light luminarias at Christmastime.

“It’s very diverse and eclectic and fun here,” said Carrie Dyrek, chair of the Woodlea Melrose Neighborhood Association and a resident since 2007.

Though Woodlea sits in a bustling part of the city, just north of downtown, it was considered the “country” when Thomas Mackenzie first eyed it for development in 1928. He reportedly paid $20,000 in gold coins for the 47-acre patch of farmland and named it after the nearby trees, according to city historical records. Woodlea saw starts and stops with the Great Depression and World War II, but developers ultimately put in about 160 homes in a range of architectural styles from bungalow to ranch.

Today, hopeful homeowners seek out the neighborhood for its history, central location, lush landscaping and nearby amenities.

Woodlea sits adjacent to the Melrose District, a hip stretch of Seventh Avenue filled with restaurants and shops, and is also near a light-rail station.

When the Dyreks decided to leave their Scottsdale home for a more diverse neighborhood, they were instantly struck by Woodlea’s mature trees and grassy lawns, thanks to irrigation, and all the activity among residents on the streets.

They snapped up a cozy 1940 ranch-style brick home and were instantly welcomed by next-door neighbors.

“The neighborhood just has a different feel about it,” Carrie Dyrek said.


Location: Bounded by Osborn and Thomas roads, Seventh and 15th avenues. Developed between 1939-1956.

The Campus Vista neighborhood sits in the shadow of Phoenix College, its tidy redbrick homes wrapping around the central-city campus. The neighborhood of nearly 200 homes is notable for its ranch-style architecture, a snapshot of an earlier time when housing was greatly in demand during and after World War II. Homes also feature small porches and detached garages, as well as broad front lawns with towering palms and pine trees.

When Campus Vista was being built, developers envisioned a neighborhood that middle- and upper-class residents would want to call home. They touted the adjacent college and Encanto Park, and their advertisements beckoned “discriminating buyers,” city historical records show.

Today, the neighborhood’s location near the college and within walking distance of restaurants and shops is part of what makes it appealing to residents.

Sam Gualtieri moved into Campus Vista in 1962 and has lived in his 1940s home ever since. The modest brick home, with three bedrooms and a detached garage, was a good fit for his young family when they moved in. An ophthalmologist, Gualtieri also enjoyed being able to walk to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Gualtieri has no plans to move – he jokingly blames inertia – and is seeing an influx of young homeowners drawn to the neighborhood as he was decades ago.


Location: Bounded by Thomas Road and Windsor Avenue, Seventh and 15th avenues. Developed between 1945-1959.

When developers began planning Encanto Manor after World War II, they enticed homeowners with promises of “luxurious living.”

They offered generous lots that could accommodate rambling, custom-designed ranch-style homes and ample front yards. Would-be residents could also take advantage of one of the city’s crown jewels just to the south, the sprawling Encanto Park and its golf course.

Ultimately, developers built about 80 homes in Encanto Manor, a neighborhood still largely intact and unchanged. Well-kept homes, with welcoming front patios and yards, line the streets. Residents can walk to such neighborhood eateries as the Persian Garden Cafe or shops like Southwest Gardener.

The centerpiece of the neighborhood remains the 1911 Dorris House, a stunning Mission Revival-style house facing Seventh Avenue that is part of Encanto Community Church.

James W. Dorris, a wealthy grocer, owned more than 300 acres of land in the area and had grand plans to build a hotel and 18-holf golf course. But the project never got off the ground, and Dorris ultimately sold off land to developers for neighborhoods like Encanto Manor, city historical records show.


Location: Bounded by Windsor Avenue and Encanto Boulevard, Seventh and Eighth avenues. Developed between 1943-1953.

When developers planned Encanto Vista, they zeroed in on a key selling point for the neighborhood: Encanto Golf Course. Decades later, that amenity is still a favorite among some residents.

“You can look out and see the golf course and see the palm trees. It’s just really a nice place to live,” said Jean Hicks, a real-estate agent who has lived in the neighborhood since 1960.

Hicks has owned two homes in Encanto Vista, and her current one, on Cambridge Avenue, is a 1942 ranch-style house with a front porch. Spacious by historical-neighborhood standards, the 2,000-square-foot home boasts three bedrooms, two baths, formal living and dining rooms and a family room.

Hicks enjoys the central-city location but is quick to note that the neighborhood is still a quiet place to live, something that drew her there in the first place.

Encanto Vista is among the smaller historical neighborhoods in Phoenix, with about 80 homes shoehorned between Seventh Avenue and the golf course. When original landowner James W. Dorris sold the property in 1943, he decreed that the new owner build only a “high-class development,” city records show. Indeed, the neighborhood’s large lots and homes immediately attracted a Phoenix mayor, prominent architects, business leaders and others.

m7 Week: About the Woodlea Melrose Neighborhood

Down Town Phoenix Journal

In anticipation of the m7 Street Fair on Saturday, March 6, DPJ is spending the week getting to know the great businesses, neighborhoods and people that make the Melrose area so intriguing.

w m 300x225 m7 Week: About the Woodlea Melrose Neighborhood

Photo courtesy of the Woodlea Melrose Neighborhood Association

The Woodlea Melrose neighborhood includes over 350 single-family homes in the area bound by Indian School Road on the south, the Grand Canal on the north, 7th Avenue on the east and 15th Avenue on the west.

Although our neighborhood is nestled in the heart of Phoenix, it is a quiet cottage community where most of the homes are between 40 and 70 years old. Our residents are a mix of young and old — many of our residents are original homeowners. We even have some second- and third-generation homeowners!

We are proud of the character and charm of our area. Our neighborhood association was formed in 1987 to help us meet the mounting challenges of maintaining a thriving community in Central Phoenix. There is power in numbers and the unity from the association provides a way for all the neighbors to get together and help make this the best place to live in Phoenix.