It was a beautiful spring day as Amy Ellis Shackelford walked down the aisle on the lawn of the Ellis-Shackelford House to say her I-do’s to future husband Aaron Aguirre on March 12, 2016. What made the day even more special was that Amy became the fourth generation of her family to celebrate her wedding at the home, built by her great-great grandfather.
“Not only is the location unique because it is a historic home, it’s special to our family because it is the home my great-grandfather built, my grandparents lived in and my dad grew up in,” said Amy’s father, Brian Shackelford.
The Ellis-Shackelford House, located at 1242 N. Central Ave., has a rich history in downtown Phoenix. Currently the home of Arizona Humanities, the historic house was designed by local architect R.A. Gray and built in 1917 by prominent physician William C. Ellis, according to the Arizona Humanities website. Dr. Ellis was a native of Ohio and moved to Phoenix in 1907. He helped organize the Arizona Deaconess Hospital (now Good Samaritan) and served as the chief of its medical staff.
Amy’s grandparents, Ellis and Sally Shackelford, had their wedding dance in the yard on Aug. 15, 1953 and were preceded by the weddings of great aunt and uncle Helen and Jim Shackelford in 1949, great grandparents, Helen and Gordon Shackelford in 1925, along with Shackelford cousins of that generation, HS and Berta Antrim in 1927.
Regarding the home, the Arizona Humanities website explains that, “The style blends elements of the Prairie Style, common in the Midwest, with detailing of the Craftsman Style, which was then in vogue in Phoenix. The house has three stories and a basement, hardwood floors throughout, hand-painted globe-style chandeliers, and wire-cut bricks from Colorado. The wood trim and banister were imported as mahogany trees from the Philippines and milled on-site.”
According to the Arizona Humanities, because this home is the only unaltered survivor of early North Central Avenue mansions in Phoenix, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 and in the Phoenix Historic Property Register in 1986.
Dr. Ellis’s daughter and her husband, J. Gordon Shackelford, lived in the house until 1964 after which the house became a boys’ home followed by the Arizona Historical Society offices and museum.
ADOT sold the house to the city of Phoenix in 2007 at which time the Shackelford family asked for the opportunity to purchase it back, but the process was complete and the house is now owned by the city under the auspices of its Historic Preservation Office. But the family stays connected; in fact, Amy’s mother, Missy, works at Arizona Humanities.
“My daughter is the fourth generation to celebrate her wedding at the house, which is something you don’t see too much these days,” Brian Shackelford pointed out.
According to Amy, “Being able to follow in the footsteps of my great grandparents and grandparents was such an amazing experience. I felt as if I had taken a step back in time. It was not only a special evening for me, but also for my family to keep the spirit of this beautiful home alive.”
All the Shackelford generations have remained in Phoenix since the early 1900s and many pieces of family history have been passed down including the 1927 Cadillac Amy arrived in for her wedding. The family foresees this trend continuing as younger generations seem to like being close to family, finding work and building their lives here in the Valley.
“The city of Phoenix and the house’s 28-year tenant, Arizona Humanities, have been generous and most gracious in allowing the family access for special occasions,” Brian said. “The family celebrated Great Uncle Jim’s 85th birthday there.”
The Shackelford family hopes that this relationship will remain for generations to come and perhaps someday, the house will be under their direct care once more.
Arizona Humanities does rent the space occasionally for small receptions, meetings and events. For more information, visit www.azhumanities.org.