Donna Reiner, a local historian and a good friend of Get Your PHX, has written many articles over the years for the Arizona Republic and others about what came before us. We use her services when we list properties of historic significance to help us tell the stories behind the homes.
We are happy that Donna is allowing us to re-publish some of her articles on a monthly basis. If you or your business ever needs a historian, let Donna know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mention the name John F. Long to old timers, and the first thing they probably mention is Maryvale. But it is known to only a few long-time residents of Coronado neighborhood that John F. Long designed homes exist there. What? Yes, one of the first, if not the first formally planned infill project in the city of Phoenix in the late 1970s consisted of 15 homes designed by John F. Long being placed on long-standing empty lots in what is now a designated historic residential district.
It began in the mid-1970s, when the need for neighborhood revitalization within a city’s inner core swept the nation. White flight or in Phoenix’s case, suburban flight, reduced concern and care for older homes. And those who remained in the inner city were part of an aging and poorer population.
Former Mayor John Driggs spearheaded a group which eventually led to the creation of a Neighborhood Housing Services site selection committee. The pilot site, selected in September 1975, encompassed McDowell Road to Virginia and 7th to 16th Streets. While most of the homes within these boundaries dated from the early 1920s and 1930s, it also included lots that had always been empty.
Fourteen financial institutions plus the City of Phoenix, along with a fledging non-profit, Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), aimed to upgrade this central Phoenix neighborhood. NHS intended to provide a means of neighborhood preservation by offering home improvement loans to owners whose homes in the selected area were in “early stages of deterioration.”
But Mr. Driggs had another idea. As an executive of Western Savings and Loan Association, he persuaded the institution to purchase often weedy 21 lots in the project site. He then persuaded John F. Long to be the builder. Driggs’ argument was “new homes on vacant lots could ease central blight.”
Long began construction of the first six homes using two of his long standing designs: The Challenger and The Champion. The former was a two-bedroom model and the latter had three-bedrooms. Only one of these was constructed in the first phase.
Long managed to “fit” his prefabricated homes on odd-shaped lots that were often smaller than those found in Maryvale. However, he was definitely not happy when he had to reduce at least one house by four inches so it would fit the required setbacks. Perhaps that was the primary reason that Long did not continue this type of project beyond his original commitment to John Driggs and Western Savings.
From the 30 applicants, a drawing was conducted May 30, 1978. Six buyers were selected. Seven more homes were then started for fall occupancy. All total, John F. Long and Western Savings and Loan completed the construction of fifteen homes in the Coronado neighborhood.
Photos by Donna Reiner.