The Vance Auditorium was built in 1904 by John Thomas Vance. People all around Mesa came to the dances. At the time of its construction, it was the biggest auditorium in the southwest. In 1919, Vance sold the building to the Maricopa Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).The church expanded the building and renamed it the Mezona in 1926. Mezona, the product of eliding MEsa and AriZONA, was selected as a result of a city-wide naming contest.
Though its primary use was ecclesiastical—the LDS Church utilized this building for regional conferences and other, smaller meetings for decades—the building filled many needs of the Mesa community. Local, regional, and church-wide leaders addressed the valley’s LDS community, including presidents Heber J. Grant, who announced the construction of the Mesa Arizona Temple on January 1, 1920, and Spencer W. Kimball.
In addition to church use, and due to its status as the largest capacity building in the East Valley, countless politicians and community leaders spoke to Mesa residents from the pulpit of the Mezona building. John J. Rhodes kicked off his first congressional campaign here on May 16, 1952. Other prominent speakers include perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, postmaster general James A. Farley, 1920 Democratic presidential candidate James Cox, Arizona Governor George W.P. Hunt, Arizona Senator Ralph Cameron, Representative Carl Hayden, and many others seeking local and statewide offices.
However, meetings were not the building’s only use. This multi-purpose facility also housed dances, theatrical productions, funerals, operas, fairs, movies (Mesa’s first Edison moving picture machine was installed in 1909), community classes, LDS Church welfare projects, and dances. The LDS Church hosted dances. Mesa High School hosted dances. As did the WPA for several years during the Great Depression.
For those who remember the Mezona, it is these dances for which they have the fondest memories. One of the most famous dances was the Valentine’s Day Dance on opening night in 1908. There were about 1,600 people Mesa residents at that time and yet 2,500 came to the opening dance from all over the valley attended, most travelling by train to get there.
Every Friday and Saturday night for decades, the Mezona hosted teenagers and young adults from around the valley. Each Friday, a live band led the dancing, while Saturday’s dances were hosted by a DJ. Youth from all over the valley attended dances here, including airmen from Williams Air Force Base, future-Senator Barry Goldwater, artist Arnold Frieberg, and future Arizona governors Paul Fannin, and Jack Williams. Many of those that went to the dances at the Mezona met their future spouse there.
Beginning in 1943, and continuing until the completion of the Inter-Stake Center in 1955, Mexican and Central American Saints on temple excursions were housed in the Mezona building during their stay.
After the initial expansion and remodel in 1926, further expansion projects continued. In 1935, the Mezona was equipped with air conditioning. In 1956, the Mezona underwent a second remodel. However, by the late-1960s the building began to show its age. The dance floor was declared a fire hazard in 1971. On February 26, 1971, the building held its last memorial dance before it was torn down the next day. Today the Mezona Inn Motel is located on the Mezona’s former location.