The site for Phoenix Union High School was surveyed in 1897 to build a high school. Once complete, the complex served the community in more ways than education. For 40 years it was the educational, cultural, theatrical, civic, and athletic center of Phoenix. Community events were held in the complex including performances, meetings, and celebrations.
Additional structures for education were built in 1912. At the time the buildings were progressive and state of the art. Each department was set in a different building to create a core campus. This style of campus with a central core was only found in California high schools at the time. The new buildings created a well-ventilated campus with lots of light, and pure water. An auditorium was built in the center of campus for both the students and the community.
The improvement of Phoenix's high school fits into a large movement that swept the United States between 1910 and 1940 known as the 'high school movement.' Secondary education rose and was open to all to provide life skills and not just skills for college. The increase in secondary education also led to the increase of women in the labor force and eventually more rights.