North Central News

Stories of the weird, wonderful in Phoenix

By Teri Carnicelli
The Valley is full of buildings, legend and lore that are strange, weird and wonderful, and some local writers recently put pen to paper to tell some of the stories that fascinate history lovers and locals alike.

Mary Anne Ramirez, owner of the Books used bookstore on 7th Avenue just north of Dunlap, tells Douglas Towne, editor of Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, that many customers have come in specifically looking for the fall issue of the magazine, which features several interesting stories about Sunnyslope’s past (photo by Teri Carnicelli).

For example, did you know that the original North Mountain Hospital used to house a “primate zoo?” or that hospital founder Kenneth Hall has his own private giraffe enclosure at his Sunnyslope home? Or how about a beer-drinking burro who greeted customers at Abels’ Gas Station and Store?

These are just a few of the fascinating stories that can be found in the fall issue of Arizona Contractor & Community magazine. The 84-page issue has devoted quite a lot of space to the Sunnyslope community and some of its more interesting past, including the Cloud 9 restaurant, as well as some of its newer architectural wonders.

“Usually, the magazine does ‘themed’ issues around topics such as flying and trucking,” explains Douglas Towne, editor of Arizona Contractor & Community magazine. “When we did a geographically themed issue on Tucson, that brought to mind all the great stories I knew about Sunnyslope.” Town himself lives at the south end of the community on Northern Avenue.

Some might find such an industry-specific publication a strange place to find great stories about historic places and people, but Towne says it’s been a popular format that has brought rave reviews—and avid readers.

“The format has always been the first half of the magazine contains the most interesting news about recent construction activity in Arizona, and the second half are feature articles about those who were in the construction industry or just interesting history stories,” Towne says.

Those interested in picking up a copy of the fall issue of Arizona Contractor & Community magazine ($5.99 plus tax), with its Sunnyslope focus, can stop by the Books used bookstore at 9201 N. 7th Ave. The magazine is available at the front counter. Hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.

If you want to learn more about some of the obscure facts and hidden gems in the Valley of the Sun, pick up a copy of “Secret Phoenix: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” written by “100 Things to Do in Phoenix Before You Die” author and Valley resident Christine K. Bailey.

This book is sure to hold surprises about the city that will fascinate newcomers, tourists and Phoenix locals alike. Learn more about the bronze sculpture at Thomas and Central Avenue in mid-town Phoenix; a visit to St. Mary’s Basilica by a man who would one day become a saint; and the beautifully carved birds still guarding the old entrance to Historic City Hall.

“There are countless bits and pieces of Phoenix history scattered across the Valley— so many of their stories are fading from public awareness,” Bailey says. “This book captures some of them, and hopefully inspires readers to seek out a few more on their own.

“Phoenix has often eschewed history for the sake of progress and over time has lost too much of its heritage; however, for those who look closely, ask questions, and explore, there is a history—and a future—to be found,” she adds.

“Secret Phoenix” is available online through Changing Hands Bookstore ($20.95) and at www.reedypress.com.

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