By Colleen Sparks
While construction is booming in Phoenix, many North Central residents are restoring historic homes in an effort to preserve pieces of the past.
There are 36 historic residential districts in the Phoenix area, as well as about 230 individual properties on the Phoenix Historic Property Register. Generally a property must be at least 50 years old to be considered for the Phoenix register unless it is considered to be “exceptionally significant,” said Michelle Dodds, historic preservation officer for the city of Phoenix. The city’s Historic Preservation Office protects and enhances historic buildings, neighborhoods and sites in Phoenix and works closely with the Historic Preservation Commission to identify and designate eligible properties and districts to list on the Phoenix Historic Property Register. There are protections for designated properties that require city review and approval for exterior alterations to buildings and demolition requests.
Martin Strohmeyer recently received approval from a city hearing officer to build a 260-square-foot addition to his historic home at 501 W. Campbell Ave. in the Yaple Park historic district. He and his partner plan to move into the house, which was built in 1938, and rent out its guest cottage as an Airbnb.
Strohmeyer’s main house has Tufa stone on the outside while the guesthouse has stucco on the outside. There is a steeply pitched, cross-gable roof on the main house.
Strohmeyer said he has not had to do much work to the main house as previous owners left it in “excellent condition” with a subzero refrigerator, central air-conditioning and hardwood oak floors. The addition will allow the main home to have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. There are six English cottage-style houses in the Yaple Park historical district, according to the National Register of Historic Places. They feature steeply pitched cross-gable roofs, as well as brick, stucco and stone.
Strohmeyer loves his garden, which has privet hedge and mature trees.
“When you walk through the gate it’s like walking into a different time,” he said. “It looks like a storybook. I’m striving to make it look as close to the original structure as I can.”
Tina Silvernail had her eye on a historical home on north Seventh Avenue south of Dunlap Avenue in Sunnyslope for several years before she and her husband, Stephen, bought it. Built in 1908, the house, which is about 3,000 square feet, has a basement, a wraparound porch, a front tiny parlor, a formal living room with a fireplace and a formal dining room. Adam and Katherine Diller, the house’s original owners, moved from Ohio to Phoenix in 1906 and then started making cement building blocks, using local water, to build the house, Tina Silvernail said. There is a guesthouse on the property, too.
“I’m a second generation native Phoenician,” Tina said. “I always loved these old, old, old homes.”
While the house already had central air-conditioning and new wood floors when the Silvernails bought it, they had to tackle plumbing and electrical problems.
“Every time you start a new project it uncovers problems,” Tina said. “I definitely think it’s worth it.”
Griff and Shelley Hearn enjoy the front porch, wide front door, basement and other features of their historic home on west Northern Avenue, slightly west of 15th Avenue. Their craftsman bungalow house, built around 1906 or 1907, has 10-feet-high ceilings, a fireplace and built-in cabinetry, Griff said.
The Hearns’ home, which is about 4,000 square feet, needed a great deal of work, including upgrades to the utilities, new flooring, new windows and roof repairs. Their upstairs had to be finished and a new stairwell built.
“I grew up in a very similar house, similar size property,” Griff said. “I wish that all the older homes in Phoenix would be preserved because there’s so few of them.”
Mary and Scott Crozier own a historic Mission Revival-style home on north Central Avenue, which is on the city historic register and the National Register of Historic Places. Mary, who is president of the North Central Phoenix Homeowners Association, and her husband spent three years restoring it so it was livable.
“It’s sort of breathing new life into something that’s rich in history,” Mary said. “I love it.”
The house needed new plumbing, a new water system and new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, as well as ceiling repairs. Built in 1910, the home has an unusual green Ludowici tile roof, large roof overhangs and 18-inch thick brick walls. The main house has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two half bathrooms, seven fireplaces, a library, a butler’s pantry, a basement and a wine cellar, among other features. Mary shares details about the Croziers’ historic home at https://lifeatbellaterra.com.
Bobby Lieb, an associate broker with HomeSmart, has sold historic houses and said many do not have “true master bedrooms” or walk-in closets.
“You really have to want and fall in love with a house, knowing the cost to maintain it,” Lieb said. “It’s not your typical cookie-cutter house.”
Dodds sees the benefits of historical homes remaining in the city.
“The thing is they really give us a sense of place,” she said. “People enjoy being in buildings that have character. If we didn’t have these historic buildings we would be like any other place. These historic buildings really give us a glimpse of part of our past. I’m hoping the citizens of Phoenix will continue to support our effort.”