The thundering of horses' hooves is heard below Tempe Butte. A volunteer cavalry rolls into Mill Ave like something straight out of a Clint Eastwood Western. Although this may not have been a normal sight in Tempe, the Peterson building did see its fair share of rough riders.
The building was constructed in 1898 by Niels Peterson, a farmer and rancher who was one of the first Tempe pioneers. This was the same year that tensions between Spain and the US started the Spanish-American War. The second floor of the building doubled as barracks for the volunteer cavalry stationed in Tempe. Throughout the years, the building was renovated and the interior changed.
Just to the west of the Chipman-Peterson Building is the Cutler building. When designing the Cutler building, the architects strove to uphold the historic integrity of the nearby buildings. When completed in 1983, the building mimicked the Chipman-Peterson building in scale, size, and materials.
The 1980s saw a massive change in redevelopment to include preservation. In the years prior, redevelopment of the Downtown area meant bulldozing older buildings and starting anew. This all changed when the Tempe government was given federal incentives to preserve, renovate, and reuse older, historically significant buildings. The Casa Loma Hotel, the Vienna Bakery, and the Chipman-Peterson buildings were all brought up to safety code and preserved. These safety features saved both the Casa Loma Hotel and Vienna Bakery from being completed destroyed in fires. However, the Chipman-Peterson building was not so lucky.
Almost completely destroyed in a fire on December 27, 1990, the Chipman-Peterson building was completely reconstructed to recall the original building. There was, however, a positive outcome to what seemed like such a tragic loss of historical integrity. The neighboring Vienna Bakery's west-facing wall blocked by the Peterson building was revealed after the fire. The wall contained an original advertisement for a hardware store that was housed in the Vienna Bakery building dating back to 1898. It just goes to show that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
"The original Petersen Building was constructed in 1898 by Tempe pioneer Niles Petersen, primarily for use as a U.S. Armory. It was home to various offices, businesses, and restaurants over the years and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The adjoining Cutler Building, completed in 1983, was designed to be compatible with scale, materials, and proportions of the Petersen and other nearby buildings." (Mill Avenue Tour, Tempe Preservation)