Blueprint for a Neighborhood
After the completion of the Roosevelt and other dams in the first two decades of this century, the Salt River Valley was provided with the essential water it needed to blossom. The population increased and Phoenix was transformed from an agricultural town into a thriving retail, professional and governmental center. Improved transportation facilities abetted the growth and in the 1920’s, the Union Railroad Depot was completed and construction on Sky Harbor Airport began. All of these factors combined, produced an immense boom in Phoenix’s development.
New residential districts that were tied to the transportation systems of their day were laid out and developed in a steady progression north from downtown. The Kenilworth streetcar line, which ran to Encanto Boulevard, was built by the subscription of adjoining property owners. By 1926, the price of a Model T Ford had dropped to an all time low of $260, resulting in a population made mobile by the automobile.
Two visionaries, Dwight B. Heard and William G. Hartranft, bought 80 acres from the half-section estate of James W. Dorris to develop as Palmcroft (croft is an English term which means “little garden”). The plan they devised, in conjunction with their surveyor, Harry E. Jones, was a picturesque scheme of curving streets. 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. This was Palmcroft Drive, the circle on the East. It proved an immediate success, and a year later a second Palmcroft, “Way” was platted to the West. The new Palmcroft formally opened early in 1929.
The Palmcroft subdivisions were on the south side of Palm Lane. The Encanto subdivision, to be developed on the north side of Palm Lane was the first major undertaking in real estate development by Lloyd C. Lakin and George T. Peter. These two successful businessmen also had Harry E. Jones draw up their plot plan. It was recorded on October 2, 1928. By the formal opening on Sunday, January 22, 1929, all the public utilities had been installed, streets graded and curbs, and gutters and sidewalks were in place.
Although the Encanto subdivision originally was intended to cover 80 acres bound by 7th Avenue to 15th Avenue, Palm Lane to Encanto Boulevard, only the 40 acres west of 7th Avenue were developed initially. The West Encanto Circle, designed to be identical to the East Circle, was delayed by the Great Depression. Except for a few significant homes along Palm Lane, West of 11th Avenue and two on 11th Avenue, built in 1932-33, these subdivisions experienced severe slow-downs in development. Housing starts ground to a halt! As in the rest of the country, the federal government played a central role in reviving Phoenix’s economy. Programs of the Federal Housing Administration were first introduced to Phoenix in October of 1934. In that same significant year, West Encanto was replatted with a number of acres sold to the City of Phoenix for parkland. Hence the designation West Encanto amended for the area north of Palm Lane and West of 11th Avenue. Many of the houses in the Encanto-Palmcroft District were built in the years following using FHA-insured loans.
The proximity of the neighborhood to the park represent an approach to suburban planning that had its roots in 18th century England. It flourished in America as the “City Beautiful” movement and evolved in Phoenix as a highly successful achievement, which provides a coherent image of this romantic approach to planning and architecture. The late 1920’s were the twilight of this movement in the United States. The houses within the subdivisions were designed as parts of the whole. They tend to “look towards each other” reinforcing the sense of neighborhood and are harmonious in style.
These Period Revivals homes, borrowing from regional sources, are of such a consistency of materials, scale and landscaping that they knit the area together as effectively as do the street patterns, palm trees and light standards. Period Revival architecture is both traditional and picturesque. According to Mary Mix Foley, in THE AMERICAN HOUSE, “America’s penchant for make-believe, suppressed into good taste by the quite colonial revivals and carefully released once more through Old English, burst into a twentieth century fandango with Spanish (Colonial Revival)”. Other revival styles that appear throughout this Neighborhood are Mediterranean, Tudor, Colonial or Federal, French Cottage, Pueblo, Ranch and Eclectic.