History – How Much is it Worth?

A Look at Historical Properties in the Phoenix Area

Have you ever passed an old house or building and noticed a plaque near it saying it is on the National Historic Register? Loving architecture and history as I do, these plaques are always brain teasers for me. Why is this a historically significant building? Who said so? When did it receive this designation? Will it never be torn down because of this designation? I am beginning to find out some answers to these questions.

I live on a plot of land in north central Phoenix that was originally developed in 1927. A large two story Spanish style stucco house was built on the property by a wealthy businessman from the east as a winter home. It was surrounded by around 5 acres, containing citrus trees and a large pool. In 1967 the original five acres became home to twelve smaller houses, some two stories and some single story. This is where my husband and I live. These homes were designed by a well known Arizona architect, Bennie Gonzales. Recently our HOA has hired an architectural historian to see if our whole development might be placed on the National Historic Register. To be on the Register the building or development must:

  1. Be at least 50 years old.
  2. Look very similar to how it was first designed.
  3. Have some historic significance

In our case, the historic significance is the architect. Bennie Gonzales designed over 400 properties in Arizona, the most famous are probably the Scottsdale Civic Center buildings. None of his structures are presently on the National Historic Register.

So why would anyone desire their property to be on this Register? Interestingly, it does not protect the property. Someone can later come in and tear down the structures. It is an honor that includes one major benefit. Owner occupied properties on the National Historic Register receive a significant cut in their property taxes, possibly as much as 35 – 40 %. And it is certainly possible that when it comes time to sell, these properties might command a higher price tag.

I will let you know what happens in our pursuit of historic designation. But if you are interested in history and architecture, I have a website you might enjoy. Go to

modernphoenix.net to see the work going on to recognize and preserve many of

Phoenix’s buildings from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Different architects and their works are highlighted. You can see a list of the works of Gonzales, as well as Ralph Haver, Al Beadle, Frank Lloyd Wright, Paolo Soleri and many others. Enjoy!