Mid-Century Modern Apache

With its rapid post-war growth, Apache Boulevard became a hotbed of mid-century modern architectural development. This emerging style found expression in signature projects, such as Gammage Auditorium or the Valley National Bank, and more mundane everyday buildings, including Sambo’s Restaurant, Howard Johnson’s Hotel, Toliver’s Carpets, and the Tempe Bowl. Tempe Bowl’s angles & symmetry, as well as its neon sign, embodied the bright colors of the midcentury. Likewise, Toliver’s use of glass, strong lines, and color opened the furniture store’s showroom to the exterior and reflected mid-century sensibilities. Sambo’s Restaurant used similar styling, wooing diners with a modern flair. The colorful styles and angularity of these mid-century projects contrasted with the simple ranch houses that characterized the neighborhoods along Apache.

Unfortunately, much of Apache’s mid-century architecture has disappeared. In many ways, the challenges that faced Tempe Bowl are emblematic of these trends. Phoenix journalist Bob Petrie explained in 1998 that “trying to run a successful bowling center on Apache Boulevard in recent years has been like picking up a 7-10 split. Tough to do.” The Tempe Bowl hung on as Tempe tried to package the property into a development opportunity, as part of a larger plan “to transform Apache from a string of older businesses and vacant lots from its main highway heyday into newer uses more compatible with today’s less traveled boulevard.” Southwest Spiritual Healing Center ultimately purchased and redeveloped the property.

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