Filed Under Statehood

Center Street Station

The intersection of Main and Center street has been at the heart of Mesa's history for over a century. Now home to the Mesa Arts Center, conceived

Mesa's firs shopping center was built in 1908 by A.J. Chandler on the corner of Main and MacDonald. It was a U-shaped Spanish-Revival structure with a court yard that opened up to Main Street. The longest running business in the shopping center was Everybody's Drug Store started by Dr. Ralph Palmer, a contract surgeon for the Roosevelt Dam construction project.

Mesa City Hall sits on the grounds of what used to be a luxurious hotel titled El Portal. It was built in the late 1920s as a rival for Hotel San Marcos in Chandler. The hotel featured a lobby, grand dining room, and 55 air-cooled and steam-heated rooms. It was given the name El Portal because Mesa was the Gateway City to the Salt River Valley. The hotel barely survived the Great Depression, but became popular again during World War II. Chicago Cubs players often stayed at the hotel during Spring Training until the building was demolished in 1972.

In recent years, Mesa has actively sought to revitalize the city center, including the development of the Mesa Arts Center, as well as new development plans to connect the Arts Center & Pioneer Park into an open pedestrian space.

Images

Main Street
Main Street Woolworth’s and a variety of stores, theaters and restaurants populate downtown Mesa in this post-Prohibition view of Main Street just east of Macdonald. The hub of a farm town, downtown Mesa was also emerging as an urban center even during the grips of the Great Depression. Signs advertising Coors and Budweiser indicate Mesa, along with the most of the United States, had decided that a “dry” society was a failure. A bright, flashy Coca-Cola wall sign advertises the popular product. Cars zip along Main Street. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: n.d.
Chandler Court
Chandler Court Dr. A. J. Chandler built Mesa's first “shopping center” on the northwest corner of Main and Macdonald Streets in 1908. Chandler Court, a U-shaped, Spanish-Revival structure surrounded a spacious courtyard that opened onto Main Street. Source: Mesa Preservation Foundation
El Portal
El Portal The Maricopa Inn, on the current site of Mesa City Hall, depicted in the 1950s. Built as the El Portal to rival the luxurious Hotel San Marcos in Chandler, it was financed by stock certificates purchased by local businessmen. The 1940s brought resurgence to the El Portal. A popular KTYL radio show called Luncheon in Mesa was broadcast from the dining room in the 1950s and ballplayers of the Chicago Cubs stayed there during the team's early years of Spring Training. It was demolished in 1972. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: ca. 1950s
Chicago Cubs Spring Training
Chicago Cubs Spring Training Completed in 1921 on the northwest corner of Sirrine and 2nd Streets, Rendezvous Park hosted ball clubs like the Mesa Jewels, Mesa High Jackrabbits, and Junior American Legion, punctuated by visits from barnstorming Pacific Coast League and Major League teams. By 1950, improvements brought the park up to professional baseball standards. The Pacific Coast Oakland Oaks were the first to come. In 1952, Dwight Heard brought the Chicago Cubs to Rendezvous, where they trained through 1965. Rendezvous Park was demolished in 1976. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: ca. 1960
Maricopa Inn
Maricopa Inn Downtown Mesa still featured a mix of tourist lodging, shops, private homes, churches, and agricultural businesses in the 1970s, when this postcard of the Maricopa Inn Motor Hotel was issued. Today the Mesa Arts Center occupies the entire block where the Maricopa Inn Motor Hotel once stood. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: ca. 1970s
Majestic Theater
Majestic Theater Built in 1910, the Majestic Theater in downtown Mesa was the first indoor theater, and a hot spot for moviegoers until the Nile Movie Palace opened in 1924. In the 1940s the Majestic reemerged as the Ritz Theater. It closed for good after the New Mesa and the Times theaters opened at 1st Avenue and Macdonald in the early 1950s. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: ca. 1910s
Downtown Mesa
Downtown Mesa In 1936, downtown Mesa was a bustling, cosmopolitan business district with fashionable shops like The Toggery – old slang for clothing, J. C. Penney, Sears, and Woolworth’s department stores. Bashas Market, and a variety of other businesses including long-established hardware and farm implement shops like O. S. Stapley & Co. Source: Mesa Historical Museum Date: 1936
Future Designs
Future Designs In 2015, design firms West 8, Colwell Shelor, and Weddle Gilmore won an international design competition to reimagine the urban core of Mesa’s city center, connecting Pioneer Park to City Hall and the Mesa Arts Center. With a plan for expanding Mesa’s public space, the project represents one of many ongoing efforts to reimagine the future of Mesa. Source: west 8 + colwell shelor + weddle gilmore Date: 2015

Location

Metadata

Jay Mark & Mesa Historical Museum, “Center Street Station,” Salt River Stories, accessed July 21, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/111.