Settled by Mormon pioneers in 1880, “Stringtown” emerged as one of Mesa's earliest settlements-a linear district running south for a couple of miles along present-day Alma School Road.
Settlers dug an extension of the Mesa Canal canal bringing Salt River water to their farms. In 1883 they connected to a second irrigation channel – the Utah Extension Canal, which conveyed water from the Lehi community north of McKellips Road up onto the mesa.
Over the years, cottonwood trees proliferated, growing tall along these waterways. Known in Spanish as “álamo,” these trees gave rise to the name Alamo Avenue, which by 1884 had been renamed Alma Avenue for a Mormon prophet. Today the street is called Alma School Road. None of the dwellings from the settlement period survived waves of urban development, but traces of the growth can be seen in the nearby Landmark Restaurant.
Alma Ward Church
The Mission-style Alma Ward Church was constructed by the Mormon community along Alma School Road in 1908 with bricks made on-site, the church congregation existed over 25 years. A growing congregation resulted in the 1908 Alma Ward Church’s substantial expansion in 1937 – an east-west addition appended to the north face of the original building enclosing the earlier entrance into the interior of the new structure. The Church vacated around 1954, selling the structure to the Producers Insurance Company.
Mesa Community College
While constructing a campus at Southern and Dobson, the Maricopa County Junior College opened a temporary Mesa Campus in the old church building in 1963. Continuing a tradition when the congregation's children were educated there, 330 students enrolled in the first class of what is now known as Mesa Community College.
The Landmark Restaurant
After Mesa Community College moved to its new campus in 1966, several tenants occupied the building until 1972 when Rouch's Schoolhouse Restaurant opened. In 1981 the establishment, later known as Rouch's Eating House, was purchased by Don and Candy Ellis who paid homage to the building’s past by renaming Rouch’s, the Landmark Restaurant. More than four decades of a dining use is testimony to the structure’s adaptability. Today, the historic Alma Ward Church remains an excellent example of adaptive reuse – a term describing historic buildings adapted for a purpose other than that for which they were originally intended. A first Alma Ward church, likely built from adobe, was located on the south side of today's Broadway Road just west of Extension Road. By 1894, Ward membership reached 261. In 1904 the entire Nephi Ward (further west along Dobson Road) merged with the Alma Ward. The combined congregations called for a new structure. Today the building has a new life – The Landmark Restaurant.