The Margarita Place Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
Margarita Place conveys the broader pattern of development and community planning as the city of Phoenix evolved from a farming community in the late 1920s to an industrial urban area by 1960. During these significant years, the Great Depression, World War II and a Post-War economic boom all impacted general housing developments in Phoenix, and more specifically development in the Margarita Place neighborhood.
In brief, the district was platted in 1927, but because of the Great depression, initial homebuilding was slow to start. Margarita Place experienced a surge of growth in the early 1940s, and consistent with the ideas set forth by the Federal Housing Administration, these homes were all constructed by the same builder. During the aftermath of World War II, construction within Margarita Place occurred at a steady rate, consistent with the surrounding area. By 1960, the neighborhood had achieved a mature "built out" state, with the remainder of development occurring as infill and/or redevelopment of vacant lots.
On September 17,1881, Eugene Estabrook acquired a cash entry patent for the entire NW quarter of Section 31, Township 2 North, Range 3 East. Estabrook opted not to homestead the area, but to pay the government directly for the land, in order to avoid the restrictions and obligations that homesteading required. Following Estabrook's ownership, J.C. Adams acquired the land that would become Margarita Place. The J.C. Adams who owned this land may have been the same J.C. Adams who arrived in Phoenix from Chicago and constructed the Hotel Adams, "a meeting place for the prominent." In 1927, the area that is now Margarita Place was platted, surveyed and subdivided by Harry Jones, an engineer.
Mary R. Kent became the owner of the property on February 24,1927, and named it Margarita Place. Mary Kent opted to sell the subdivided land auction style, and as such sold the lots to potential builders, homebuyers and architects. Amenities were widely advertised for the Margarita Place neighborhood, including electricity, graded streets, pressured water and shaded areas. Because there were many districts platted around the same time as Margarita Place, including Medlock Place at 3rd and Central Avenues, Pleasant Place at 19th and Roosevelt, and Washington Park between Washington, Madison and 24th Street, subdividers needed to remain competitive by offering as many modern conveniences as possible. Margarita Place was also ideally located in what was, at the time, a purely residential part of the city. The result of selling the land auction style was that many of the homes in the neighborhood were constructed by a number of different builders, instead of by one "community builder." The exception to this is the group of homes that were built in and around 1941. The Arizona Housing Corporation and the Womack Brothers constructed all these homes. The Womack Brothers were one of the most prolific homebuilders in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The brothers, Andy and J.R., lived in Fairview Place Historic District, which is located due south of Margarita Place. The Womack Brothers established their reputations by building in accordance with the FHA policies and standards which were being promulgated during this time.
The first three homes to be built in the neighborhood were constructed in 1931. The homes located at 1518 W. Edgemont Avenue and 1521 W. Edgemont Avenue are both in the Tudor Revival style. The home located at 1550 W. Windsor Avenue is executed in the French Provincial Ranch style. W.A. Roberts, manager of the Phoenix Rubber Company, was the first owner of the home at 1518 W. Edgemont Avenue. R.H. Norton was the original owner of the home at 1521 W. Edgemont Avenue. By 1936, only two other homes had been built, one a Mission Revival home constructed at 1518 W. Windsor Avenue, the other a Spanish Colonial Revival home constructed at 1539 W. Edgemont. By 1941, the effects of the FHA were apparent in the Margarita Place district. In that year alone, twelve new houses were constructed, nine of them in the Transitional/Early Ranch Style. This consistency of style can be attributed to the fact that the FHA emphasized the construction of groups of homes, rather than singular homes, and building homes in the same style with the same materials increased efficiency.
The influence of government financing and funding guidelines for construction during World War II was a key factor in the emergence of the Ranch House as a predominant architectural style. This was true not only in Margarita Place, but for the rest of Phoenix as well. As builders designed and constructed houses that conformed to the intent of the FHA guidelines, the Ranch House proliferated in Phoenix. More than half of the homes in the Margarita Place Historic District (29 of 41) were built in variations of the Ranch style. This clearly transformed the visual character of the neighborhood, creating the architectural image that is predominant today.
The commercial property on the corner of Thomas and 15th Avenue, constructed in the Art Moderne style, is important to the historic character of the neighborhood because it was built during the second major phase of construction and is a good example of the "corner market" that is typical of the historic period. The "corner market" was a large building housing several separate businesses, which catered to the needs of the growing residential areas as well as the Phoenix Junior College. The Encanto Pharmacy moved into the first unit in 1946 and served the neighborhood for decades. Next door housed a physician's office, Dr. N.L. Williams, until 1951. In 1952 Lerner's Launderette moved in. While the launderette changed ownership a number of times, it too served the neighborhood for decades. The western-most unit in the building began as the College Market, and then went on to house several insurance companies. In 1960, the space was converted to the Dale Dance Studios. While no longer under the same ownership, the space still functions as a dance studio to this day.
Margarita Place was originally platted to provide a quiet setting for well-to-do citizens, but as the population boomed along with wartime industry, affordable housing was needed. Seventeen homes were added to the Margarita Place district in the World War II era, even though there was a hold on building and the corresponding materials. New Deal funding, such as that from the WPA was still available for developers at this time, and perhaps this is the reason that these homes could be built. In the post-war period, more houses were added to Margarita Place, consistent with the rapid growth of Phoenix. By 1943, two-thirds of the homes in the neighborhood had been built.
Marc Weiss, in his book The Rise of the Community Builders refers to the 1920s as a time of "changes at the high end," since the subdivisions developed then were generally for the wealthy. Margarita Place is an example of this type of concept, as illustrated by a number of newspaper advertisements that bill the neighborhood as "exclusive" and situated in "the most ideal location in the city."
However, Margarita Place also falls into what Weiss terms the 1940s — "changes at the moderate end," because it was then that these types of subdivisions were constructed for people of moderate income. The homes that were constructed in the Margarita Place district during this time were variations on the ranch style home, which represented a post World War II trend toward simplification of house form.
‡ Judy Leidel, Margarita Place Neighborhood Association, Margarita Place Historic District, Maricopa County, AZ, nomination document, 2006, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
15th Avenue North • 16th Avenue North • Edgemont Avenue West • Thomas Road West • Windsor Avenue West