Lost Apache

Apache Boulevard was once the gateway to Tempe for travelers heading west along U.S. Routes 60, 70, 80, and 89, also known locally as the Tempe-Mesa Highway. For more than thirty years, this commercial district served tourists and residents alike. It's distinctive neon signs, architecture, and mix of shops created a distinctive feel that gradually disappeared during successive waves of development and renewal, as well as the rerouting of the American interstate highway system. Much of what made Apache Boulevard distinctive has been lost; take this tour to rediscover what tourists and visitors might have experienced along Apache Boulevard in the 1950s and 1960s.

Gammage Auditorium

In 1926, well known architect Frank Lloyd Wright was called to Phoenix to help with the building of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. This was the beginning of Wright’s long relationship with Arizona. In the early 1960s, Arizona State University President…

The Baghdad Opera House

It all began with two men: a master architect and a university president leading a small school toward becoming a major university. Gammage Auditorium resulted from the collaboration--becoming a symbol for ASU and Tempe, and emerging as…

Wigwam Auto Court

The use of Teepee designs for mid-century hotels was inaugurated by architect Frank A. Redford in Kentucky in 1933. This style of roadside hotel architectural style quickly captured the popular imagination and spread Westward across the country along…

Valley National Bank (Tempe)

Valley National Bank served the Valley from its founding in 1900 through 1992. During this time, the Bank's iconic logo was a common sight throughout the Valley and its branches often had iconic architectural design. The Tempe branch was located…

Fast Foods along Apache

Fast food restaurants emerged as a vital part of American auto culture, first as drive-in restaurants and later with drive-thru lanes. The term itself appeared in the dictionary for the first time in 1951, about the time that Apache Boulevard’s first…

Harman's Red Barn Restaurant

Opened in 1952 by Dave and Belle Harman along the Tempe-Mesa Highway, the Red Barn served customers for only about twenty years. Among the many items on Harman's menu was "Kentucky Fried Chicken." The family had licensed the recipe…

Post-War Tempe Neighborhoods

In the late 1940s and early 50s, Tempe stood on the precipice of rapid expansion. A small farming community prior to the war, Tempe grew rapidly as GIs who had trained in Arizona returned to the Southwest to live. Developers seized on the influx of…

Local Restaurants and The Development of Apache Boulevard

Apache Boulevard served as not only the main highway between Tempe and Mesa but, as a major tourist route and a spot for both locals and tourist to get a bite to eat. Following World War II road side fruit stands, such as the Alma and Tempe made…

Modernization of Apache Boulevard

Throughout the 1970's the strategy of expansion and upscale shopping took over Tempe’s development plan. Expansion of expensive housing caused conflict between local communities such as Chandler, which resulted in the annexation of land in…

Motor Hotels along Apache

The term motel, coined in 1926, derived from joining the words “motor” and “hotel.” The motels along Apache Boulevard tell us about the growth of the street and the city in the period following World War II. The motels served vacationers traveling…

Auto Service along the Tempe-Mesa Highway

Auto culture along Apache Boulevard and Arizona itself was inevitable. Apache was the main route for vacationers who were travelling by car to California. It was inevitable that cars would break down, and oil would need to be changed and flat tires…

Highway 60-70-80-89

Apache Boulevard emerged as a vital link between the developing towns of Tempe and Mesa, known locally as the Tempe-Mesa Highway. Eventually, the road became a part of the highway system that linked the Eastern and Western United States. Highways 60,…

Goodwin Stadium

From its first sparsely-attended football games played at Goodwin Stadium, Arizona State University’s football program grew dramatically, even as Arizona State Teachers College (ASTC) matured into a full-fledged university. Goodwin…

Tourist Auto Courts

Baker’s Acre Baker’s acre began life in 1947 a John Kielbowski’s Tropical Gardens Motel on the west side of the property where there were brick units surrounding a central grass strip or court. In 1952, Harry Baker developed a nearly identical…

Neon Signs on the Tempe-Mesa Highway

Glittering neon signs lit Apache Boulevard for Westbound travelers along the Tempe Mesa Highway, pointing the way to hotels, restaurants, trailer parts, and various shops. Signs for Harman’s Restaurant, the Tempe Bowl, Catalina Hotel, Pioneer…

Midway Trailer Park

Travel trailers first appeared in the United States in the 1920s as American “tin can tourists” ventured onto the developing highway network to see the nation. Written works such as Trailer Ahoy! by Charles Nash and Touring with Tent and Trailer by…

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…

Tempe Tavern

Tempe Tavern began its life as a dairy barn. It is a small, square single-story building constructed of concrete and river cobbles, presumably drawn from the Salt River. E. M. White migrated to Arizona from California in 1908, eventually settling in…

Victory Acres

The Victory Acres neighborhood of Tempe highlights the unique story of Mexican-American suburbanization. La Victoria, a tight-knit, predominantly Mexican American, community, emerged during the post-War growth of Tempe and the surrounding region. La…
Conceived of during Spring 2017 by ASU undergraduate students in HST485 (History in the Wild). This grew into an exhibition at the Tempe History Museum, as well as the tour and its stories: Marly Garcia, Irelan Inoshita, Michael Nguyen, Angel Pena, Gene Pierce, Jacob Selden, Jacob Tuskai, Nicholas Von Gnechten. The team would like to thank the Tempe History Museum, especially Josh Roffler and Jared Smith, and for the insights of research advisors Mark Vinson, Jay Mark, and Scott Solliday.