Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District
The Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2016, The Gombach Group.
The Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District is comprised of portions of four adjoining residential subdivisions, platted in the late 1920's, and an adjacent municipal park, laid out in the mid-1930's. The district is located about one mile northwest of central, downtown Phoenix. The two Palmcroft subdivisions were laid out in 1927 and 1928. Architecturally, the Encanto and Palmcroft subdivisions both feature prominent examples of Spanish Colonial Revival, Pueblo Revival and Regency Revival styles, as well as other prevalent historicist styles of the early twentieth century. Each has an identical street plan consisting of a curving cross circumscribed by an interior round-cornered square which, in turn, is contained by a rectilinear square. The Encanto subdivision was platted in 1928 and is also 40 acres in size. It has a similar street plan, with a rectilinear cross circumscribed by an interior irregular hexagon that is coterminous with the diagonal northern border of the subdivision. The West Encanto Amended subdivision, intended to be identical to Encanto, was developed only along the periphery, and does not feature an unusual street pattern. The curvilinear, highly ordered street plans of Palmcroft and Encanto are dramatically different from the rectilinear grids of the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to similar innovative street plans, all four subdivisions feature street palms and ornamental light standards. These common features, while unifying each subdivision internally, knit all four together into a distinctive neighborhood different from any other in Phoenix.
That portion of Encanto Park included in the district contains the ornamental landscaping, lagoons, original park buildings, and a nine-hole golf course. Two golf courses to the west of North 15th Avenue and a swimming pool and game area to the south of West Encanto Boulevard have been excluded from the district. These portions of the park are unexceptional in character. Encanto Park, developed between 1934 and 1937, is characterized by meandering lagoons, a picturesque distribution of deciduous and palm trees, and a scattering of buildings designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival and Moderne styles. The overall romantic conception and building styles of the park provide a harmonious continuity with the adjoining subdivisions to the south.
The individual plats of Palmcroft and Encanto were laid out so that the interior streets have enclosed view corridors within the neighborhood. Interior street vistas focus on termini, such as the curves in the roads or street park 'islands'. The street park islands in Encanto terminate the vista along North 9th Avenue, but leave West Monte Vista Road with a 'through' vista. Through-streets in the two Palmcrofts, North 9th Avenue, North 13th Avenue and West Coronado Road, curve at the centers of the plats with similar effect. The major through-streets, West Palm Lane and North 11th Avenue, run between the individual subdivisions and are the only streets, except West Monte Vista Road, with through vistas. The outside block lots of Palmcroft and all the lots of Encanto are served by an off-street, double-loaded alleyway network. The alleys run between lots and provide a serviceway for refuse pick-up and utility lines, as well as access for some residential garages. The interior streets of Palmcroft employ special 'rolled' concrete curbs with a gentle ogee curve from street to gutter to lawn. No curb-cuts are necessary for driveways. Encanto uses more traditional, square-cut curbs and gutters with broad cuts for driveways. Both sides of West Palm Lane and North 11th Avenue use this same design. Sidewalks in Palmcroft are used on the outer blocks only. They are approximately four feet wide and separated from the roadway by a tree lawn, approximately six feet wide, which is utilized for palm trees and street lights. Both sides of West Palm Lane and North 11th Avenue are similarly treated. No sidewalks exist on the interior islands. All streets in Encanto have approximately four-foot sidewalks on both sides of the street, located directly adjacent to the curb.
Palmcroft has regularly spaced, ornamental, streetlight standards on concrete pads, directly adjacent to street curbs. Encanto has identical standards located adjacent to sidewalks, though less numerous and irregularly spaced. All standards are of the single-light post-top variety, with tapering fluted shafts and bell-top glass luminaries. The base and shaft of some standards in Palmcroft are metal, others are cast concrete (also called by the brand name Marbelite). All standards in Encanto have Marbelite bases and shafts, as do West Palm Lane and North 11th Avenue. The silver-colored, aluminum paint on the metal standards is a later addition.
There is a systematic and orderly use of ornamental flora to highlight and define the public right of way within Palmcroft. Palms line both sides of every street within Palmcroft, as well as both sides of West Palm Lane and North 11th Avenue. They are planted at regular intervals and maintained at a uniform height. These are preponderantly Washingtonia filifera (also known as the California fan palm). Other varieties include the Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) and the Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island palm). Encanto has a much less systematic distribution of street trees Palms are common, but appear irregularly in private gardens. Sour orange trees and pepper trees occur with some frequency, but in no obvious pattern. Encanto has two triangular street park islands flanking West Monte Vista Road at the center of the subdivision. Each of these contains two pepper trees at the apex and an ornamental, cast concrete urn on an ornamental base set in a rounded-curb plantbed. The urns appear to have been designed to function as fountains, but this has not been substantiated.
Encanto was laid out with an underground irrigation system consisting of eight-inch concrete pipes beneath each lot with surface valves. Some of the lots are slightly bermed at the periphery to allow for periodic flooding. Palmcroft does not have a special irrigation system.
The Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District features a distinctive variety of houses dating from 1927 through circa 1940 which depict the picturesque, historicist, and Period Revival architectural movements of the early twentieth century. The primary period of architectural significance is from 1927-1942, with contributing properties identified by their stylistic relationships to the Revival styles which generally characterize American residential architecture prior to World War II. The pre-World War II houses that establish the district's architectural character were largely designed in traditional, eclectic styles grouped under the general term "Period Revival." The various modes of historicist design, in order of frequency of occurrence, include: the Spanish Colonial Revival/ Mediterranean, Tudor Revival (English Medieval or Elizabethan), Georgian or Regency Revival, French Provincial (French Medieval), Monterey Colonial Revival, Pueblo Revival, and Colonial Revival. Additionally, there are three notable examples of Moderne residential design.
The Period Revival houses in the Palmcroft and Encanto subdivisions are widely distributed and of such a consistency of materials, scale, and landscaping that they knit the neighborhood together as effectively as do the street patterns, palm trees, and light standards.
The Palmcroft and Encanto subdivisions, many of the houses built there prior to World War II, and the adjoining Encanto Park form the most unified expression, in Phoenix and indeed in Arizona, of a particular approach to architecture, community planning and landscape design. This approach has its sources in the romantic conception of garden and suburban design (which originated in England and flourished in the United States), the American search for order and urban/suburban beautification known as the City Beautiful movement, and a complex architectural expression which incorporates the concepts of the picturesque, historicism, eclecticism, and regionalism. The Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood, including Encanto Park, represents a highly successful achievement and provides a coherent image of this romantic approach to planning and architecture in America. The period in which they were conceived and largely built—the late 1920's and 1930's was the twilight of this movement in the United States. It is particularly appropriate that the residential neighborhood and park are contiguous, for each is an expression of a common impulse and each strongly reinforces the other. Individuals prominent in Phoenix's history were intimately connected with the development of the area, foremost of which were Dwight B. Heard and William G. Hartranft. The major Phoenix architects of the period all contributed designs, including Lescher and Mahoney, H. H. Green, Orville Bell, and Fitzhugh & Byron. The federal government played a major role in creating the neighborhood as it exists today, through the agencies of the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Housing Administration.
Palmcroft was a creation of the Dwight B. Heard Investment Company. Dwight B. Heard, a New Englander who had moved to Chicago and then to Phoenix, had arrived in the late 1890's with the substantial financial backing of his father-in-law, Adolphus C. Bartlett. Heard formed the Dwight B. Heard Investment Company in Phoenix in 1897. Newspaper publisher, developer, political activist, Heard became a central force in Phoenix's development in the early 20th Century. A friend of Theodore Roosevelt, he was instrumental in the creation of the Roosevelt Dam.
In 1926, the Dwight B. Heard Investment Company bought 80 acres from the half-section estate of James W. Dorris. Bound by West McDowell Road, North 15th Avenue, West Thomas Road, and North 7th Avenue, the 80 acres were split into two 40-acre plats by Heard. The easterly 40 acres were developed first.
Heard's neighbor and associate in the Palmcroft development was William G. Hartranft—developer of the Kenilworth Subdivision, pioneer advocate of the city planning in Phoenix, and father of the City's park system. The plan they devised, possibly in conjunction with their surveyor Harry E. Jones, was a picturesque yet highly ordered scheme of cross-axial curving streets contained in 1/16-section grids. The plat was recorded on April 27, 1927. By the end of that summer, streets had been graded and the first two model homes completed.
The brochure for Palmcroft asked the question, "Why is Palmcroft the ideal?", and proceeded to answer by citing the "contemplated palm bordered winding drives," and its "quiet and clean" location "only five minutes by auto from ... downtown." Prospective buyers were told they would receive "... sewer, water, gas, sidewalks, ornamental lights and palm trees included" in purchase prices, which ran from $850 to $2000 per lot. Restrictions included a $5000 minimum construction cost for houses built on North 11th Avenue and West Palm Lane, and $6500 on all other streets except West McDowell Road, which was developable for duplexes and apartments. Setbacks had to be at least 25 feet on interior lots, and 30 feet along West Palm Lane, North 7th Avenue, North 11th Avenue and West McDowell Road.
Palmcroft provided an immediate success, and a year later Heard was willing to repeat the experiment. A second Palmcroft, identical in platting and restrictions, was laid out on the 40 acres between North 11th Avenue and North 15th Avenue. The new Palmcroft formally opened early in 1929.
Encanto was the project of Lloyd C. Lakin and George T. Peter, Phoenix Businessmen who were partners in the Arizona Grocery Company and the Pay 'N Takit grocery store chain. After selling their interest in these businesses in the 1920's, they entered into real estate development. Encanto was their first major undertaking.
The plot plan of Encanto, drawn up by civil engineer Harry E. Jones (who also had been the surveyor for Palmcroft), was approved by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and recorded with the county on October 2, 1928. Although Encanto originally was intended to cover 80 acres, bound by West Palm Lane, North 7th Avenue, North 15th Avenue, and West Encanto Boulevard, only the 40 acres east of North 11th Avenue were developed initially. By the time of the formal opening, on Sunday, January 27, 1929, all public utilities had been installed, streets graded, and most curbs, gutters and sidewalks laid. An elaborate underground irrigation system, unique to the area, was installed. Palms were planted along Palm Lane to match those on the Palmcroft side of the street. Sour orange and pepper trees were planted along other streets, though not as regularly as the palms along the interior streets of Palmcroft. Within a month of its opening, several houses had been completed.
The four model homes of Encanto—lots 19, 27, 155, and 187—were exclusively "Southwestern" in style. The two most impressive of these were built on lots 19 and 27. The former was a Pueblo Revival house located next to the entrance off North 7th Avenue, dubbed 'The Indian House' by early residents of the area. This was probably the first house constructed in the subdivision and may have served as the demonstration house and office of the Lane-Smith Investment Company, the agency which handled the subdivision. The equally large house at 745 West Monte Vista Road, in the Spanish Colonial Revival/Mediterranean style, was the residence of George T. Peter for several years after Encanto opened. Interestingly, the restrictions specified that only "... Spanish, Italian, Moorish, or Pueblo ..." styles were allowed. This was in contrast to Palmcroft, with its looser restrictions, and where the first two model homes were in the English medieval and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Other styles could be built in Encanto with the approval of the Grantor, and eventually some English medieval and Georgian and Regency Revival houses were constructed.
A comparison of the restrictions of Palmcroft and Encanto point up interesting differences in the two subdivisions. Frank L. Snell, a Phoenix attorney, drew up a detailed list of restrictions for Encanto that went far beyond Palmcroft in their ambitions and comprehensiveness. Minimum cost for residential construction ran from $10,000 on the interior islands to $12,000 for the lots facing North Encanto Boulevard. Detailed instructions for building lines were provided for each street to orchestrate consistent angled setbacks that followed the curve of the streets. Only single-family residences were allowed, as compared to Palmcroft's provision for multi-unit dwellings along West McDowell.
The families who bought and rented houses in Palmcroft and Encanto were the affluent professional and business middle class of the booming Phoenix of the late 1920's. The very rich, by and large, still lived in older mansions closer to the city, and in older, more established districts such as Los Olivos and 'Millionaire's Row' along Central Avenue. Country Club, developed at the same time, also tended to be the enclave of the rich. Encanto in particular had prominent and wealthy residents—such as the Diamonds, the Millers, and the Coopers—but for the most part the residents of the two subdivisions were well-off rather than wealthy.
The population of the neighborhood was comprised of Phoenix's professional and business elite. Doctors, attorneys, managers and presidents of business, and state and local political leaders were among the prominent Phoenicians who lived there. A significant number of men involved with the automobile business made their home in Palmcroft and Encanto. (Many of these early residents included Dr. Alfred C. Kingsley, one of Phoenix's first psychiatrists; Lynn M. Laney, attorney and University of Arizona Regent; George A. Taylor, prominent cattleman; Nathan Diamond, co-founder of Diamond's department store; 0. D. Miller, produce magnate, State Senator, and gubernatorial candidate; and automobile dealers Shadwell H. Bowyer and W. Claude Quebedeaux.)
The houses constructed in the Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood prior to World War II generally shared common historical sources. These houses can be assessed from two perspectives, which shed light on their meaning. On the one hand, they tend to be picturesque, that is, designed to please the eye. The Joe Barta House at 1801 Palmcroft Drive NE is an exuberant example in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Mass, materials, texture, and color were manipulated to achieve both dramatic and understated effects of visual richness. This was often a more or less self-conscious attempt to emulate the asymmetry and sensuousness of nature. On the other hand, these houses tend to be traditional, that is, designed in such a way as to evoke the past. The Regency Revival, Harold Diamond House at 1001 West Encanto Boulevard is a clear example. They are massed and detailed in an attempt to convey explicit images of different periods of European and American history, and thus these styles are conveniently grouped under the umbrella term of Period Revival. Some of these attempts are fairly accurate recreations of building types which once actually existed (revivalism); others freely combine elements from different building types and periods in a more or less successful unity (eclecticism); yet others are exercises in sheer fantasy, alluding less to fact than to fairy tale.
Various architectural movements in the United States in the late 19th Century also comprised a search for historical sources. Foremost was the national revival of the architecture of Colonial America, sparked by the Centennial of 1876. The Colonial Revival ran the spectrum from more or less accurate recreations of English Colonial (Georgian) and Federal architecture to more or less picturesque adaptations of the shingled 17th Century vernacular houses of New England. A relatively rare style in the district, the Clarence N. Boynton house at 1838 Palmcroft Drive NW (Palmcroft lot 79) is a good example of this.
In addition to this national architectural revival, there were attempts, primarily in the Western United States, to arrive at an authentic regional expression. The earliest of these was the Mission Revival of the 1890's in California, out of which grew the Spanish Colonial Revival. The colonial presence in the Southwest had been Spanish and Mexican. The buildings they left behind—missions, haciendas, etc.—were accepted as prototypes for a regional style.
The symbolic beginning of the Spanish Colonial Revival was the Panama-California International Exposition of 1915 in San Diego. The New York architect Bertram G. Goodhue designed the exposition buildings in a highly ornamental, picturesque interpretation of Spanish and Mexican Baroque architecture (known as Churrigueresque). The buildings were enormously successful, and by the 1920's the Spanish Colonial Revival was the predominant style in the Southwest (and in Florida). The term actually incorporates a number of related styles from the lands bordering on the Mediterranean, and its widespread use in the 1920's and 1930's was not by any means limited to Goodhue's particular interpretation of it. In fact, the related term, Mediterranean, is perhaps a more accurate way of labeling the diverse building types which shared stucco and tile imagery. Examples are numerous in the district, ranging from small cottages to large, formal residences like the Nathan Diamond House at 2220 North 9th Avenue.
The Pueblo Revival, centered in New Mexico and, to a lesser degree, Arizona, was based upon architectural forms developed historically by the Indians of the region. Characterized by cubistic massing, parapeted roofs, and rows of projecting vigas, the style became a hallmark of New Mexico and Arizona, used extensively in railroad and resort advertisements of the Teens and Twenties. The Fred Harvey Corporation built a number of Pueblo Revival hotels in major cities and national parks in Arizona and New Mexico during this period. The two best examples of the Pueblo Revival in the district are the 'Indian House' at 2040 Encanto Drive SE and the Nuckles House at 702 West Monte Vista Road.
The Monterey Revival was based on an architectural form which developed in the old, presidio town of Monterey, California. Essentially a fusion of Spanish Colonial and American building types, it is characterized by its generally symmetrical, two-story, rectangular massing and full projecting porch at the second story level. As a regional style, it more properly belongs to northern California, but was built throughout the Southwest, occasionally with stylistic references to the Colonial Revival and the Regency Revival. The Pafford House at 1021 West Encanto Boulevard is representative of the style, relatively popular in the district.
Thus, in the late 19th and early 20th Century, American builders and architects were producing houses that increasingly partook of styles expressive of national and regional history. In addition, a sophisticated body of eclectic and historicist residential architecture in England exerted a great influence on American architects, who in turn influenced the builders. The two polarities of these modes of architectural design—picturesqueness and historicism—were often held in balance, each reinforcing the other, to create an impression of freedom and escape. By the 1920's, when the Palmcroft and Encanto subdivisions were laid out and houses being built, the two streams of influence were dominant. While the houses are fairly evenly divided between Southwest regional and European traditional styles, the one style which far outnumbers the others is the Spanish Colonial Revival, or Mediterranean. This indicates its great popularity among architects, builders, and homeowners in Phoenix in the 1920's and leads one to think that it was the preferred mode of residential design among the affluent middle class of the time. Perhaps this was because the style lent itself so well to picturesque adaptation while providing instant allusion to the perceived past of the Southwest.
A number of Phoenix-based architects and builders contributed to the creation of the Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District. Most prolific among the architects documented were Orville Bell (Wallingford & Bell) and H. H. Green. Both these architects worked closely, as well, with the FHA and the WPA, respectively. The prominent firm of Lescher & Mahoney designed the original buildings in Encanto Park. Other architectural firms who produced works in the district included Eckman & Gilmore, Fitzhugh & Byron, and Dwight E. Chenault. Of the builders who were active, many of them constructing houses independent of architects, the names of William G. Elder, Nels Agren, and George W. Hoggan appear often. A small but significant number of houses were built by their owners.
† Woodruff Minor, Architectural Historian, Page, Anderson & Trumbull, Inc. and Roger A. Brevoort, Architectural Historian, Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, Encanto-Palmcroft Historic District, Maricopa County, AZ, nomination document, 1983, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.