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Arizona Falls, Phoenix, AZ

100_9269Louise Speaks:  Just around the corner from the David Wright House is the Arizona Falls.  Very few know of this hidden gem, but I think it’s a great attraction right in town.   Phoenix gets it’s water supply from canals.  The canals run throughout the city.  The transformation of a historic waterfall by SRP, (Salt River Project),  the Phoenix Arts Commission and the Arcadia neighborhood allows Phoenix-area residents to experience something old and something new.  Arizona Falls, formed by a natural 20-foot drop along the Arizona Canal between what is now 56th and 58th streets.  The falls reopened in June 2003 as a restored hydroelectric plant and neighborhood gathering place where visitors can learn, interact and reflect.  The new Arizona Falls combines art, history and technology to generate clean electricity from the canal’s waterfall.

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img_0796The main entrance is on the south side where a footbridge connects the north bank to the viewing platform.  Visitors, surrounded by water on three walls in the water room, may sit on large boulders as they enjoy the cool and soothing sounds of flowing water. This is very valuable in the summer months in Phoenix.  Through sheets of flowing water, the antique gears used in the original hydroelectric plant can be seen.  Two aqueducts frame the room to create the feeling of being inside the historic waterfall.  A shade structure covers stone block seats near a pool of water, allowing visitors to enjoy the experience year-round.

These falls are not really what you would call an attraction, but it is a great site to see….in my opinion.  There are hiking trails and bike trails all around the falls.  There are places to sit and read, or just enjoy the cool water spray.  This site was on one of those quirky things to do list, and the location is right along a main street on the east side of Phoenix.  If you are in the area I would definitely say stop…if nothing else but to enjoy a cool break.

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David Wright House, Phoenix, AZ

100_9232Louise Speaks:  The David and Gladys Wright House is a Frank Lloyd Wright  residence built in 1952 in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix Arizona.  It has historically been listed with an address of 5212 East Exeter Boulevard, but currently has an entrance on the 4500 block of North Rubicon Avenue.  Parking and access is through the Camelback Church of Christ at 5225 E. Camelback Road.  The reason why I mention this is because access to the Wright house is literally a gate in a block fence in the church parking lot.  The neighbors on Exeter do not want people roaming through their neighborhood making the home a tourist attraction, so the church put a gate through their fence so that visitors can get to the property and view the David Wright home. The owner has been in battles with some neighbors in the affluent Arcadia area over his plans to host some events via a nonprofit at the Wright House.

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The mid-century house was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright  in the 1950s for his son and daughter-in-law, David and Gladys.  It was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s  last designs before his death in 1959This 2,500-square-foot concrete house  is situated on 10 acres among orange groves on a site facing north toward Camelback Mountain.  The house has a spiral design to cool the house by capturing the wind.  It features a long curved entry ramp which is the only way to the front door.   The design elevated the home in the form of a spiral rising from the desert floor, converting the treetops into the lawn and revealing 360° views of the mountains forming the valley.  Mr. Wright title the plans “How to Live in the Southwest.”  David and Gladys Wright lived in the house until their deaths.  David died in 1997 at the age of 102 and Gladys  of the house as the team seeks philanthropic partners.

100_9254Gladys Wright left the house to granddaughters who sold it.  The new buyer in turn sold it to a real estate developer,  who planned to demolish the house and develop its 2.2 acre lot.  Efforts to protect the building through a heritage designation were begun in August 2012.  The house was purchased by a Delaware LLC, and the owner intended to transfer the property to a non-profit foundation, the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation. The mission of the David and Gladys Wright House Foundation is to restore and maintain the David Wright House and grounds, to celebrate the artistic legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright at the site of one of his most unique and architecturally significant houses through tours, educational programs, exhibitions, lectures, research facilities, events and performances, and to inspire creativity in future generations of artists and architects.

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100_9238However, the future of the home is in limbo. In Dec. 2016, the City Council voted 8-1 to withdraw the proposal led by Phoenix in 2012 to protect the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home when it was on the brink of demolition.  The owner is seeking his own historic designation for the 1952 house — and other land he purchased — as one step in opening the site as an educational and cultural venue.  The owner needs both the city’s highest historic designation and a special permit to open the house to commercial uses otherwise not allowed in a residential area.  At least two Arcadia neighborhood groups oppose the designation that would allow the house to open commercially.  Tours of the house have ceased as the team seeks out philanthropic partners.

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We are so glad that we were able to have a tour of the David Wright Home.  It would be a shame to demolition this home.  After seeing so many Frank Lloyd Wright homes, destroying any of them would be devastating.  The grounds are beautiful and would be a wonderful place for venues like concerts or weddings or even private parties.  The tour itself was very informative and seeing the home and the furniture is what a Frank Lloyd Wright house is all about.  I hope the owner wins so that others can enjoy the history of this home.


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Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Tucson, AZ

100_1854Louise Speaks:   On our way back from a recent camping trip we happened to be going by the only active mission in Arizona.  I’ve wanted to stop by here many times but never got around to it.  Today was my lucky day.

The mission is located about 10 miles south of Tucson, Arizona.  It is nicknamed the “white dove of the desert” because you can see it from a distance away.  They also have trained doves at the mission to be symbolic of its name.  The mission is located on an Indian Reservation.  That would explain the tribes selling food on the grounds of the mission.  The mission was designated in October of 1966.

20160423_125947The mission was founded in 1692 by Father Kino.   He was a Franciscan priest and is known to be the founder of the Sonoran Desert Chain of missions.  Father Kino was of Italian descent and often visited and preached in the area.  According to Father Kino’s diary, construction of the first mission church began in April of 1700.  The mission was built about two miles from the site of the current mission.  Construction of the current mission began between 1783 and 1797.  The mission is the oldest European structure in the state of Arizona.  This mission is considered to be the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States and hosts some 200,000 visitors each year.  This mission is still an operating Catholic Church and today they were hosting baptisms to anyone who attends.

100_9187The site is also known as the “place where water appears” as there was once a natural spring in the area.  The Santa Cruz River which now runs only part of the year is close by.  Many buildings have been added surrounding the mission to include a school and residency for neighboring priests.  There is also a convent for the nuns who are also the teachers at the school.

When looking at the mission the most noticeable siting is that there is only one steeple.  Obviously there were plans for two as there are two towers but when money ran out the second steeple was never added.  They are constantly doing things to renovate the mission but according to our tour guide there are no plans to add the second steeple.  New stucco was added in the 1980s but it trapped water inside the church.  It is now being recovered with mud plaster.  Most of the renovations are occurring inside where it is being painted with brilliant colors and complex designs bringing it back to its original state.

100_9214The mission is open to the public and they offer free guided tours.  You are able to roam on your own but the tour is very informative.  We spent several hours here and I’m so glad we stopped.  Upon leaving a touring group of children arrived from California and they played music and sang on the grounds outside the mission before they went on to perform inside the mission.  Just an added treat for us.  Of course the Indian Fry Bread and other goodies being sold by the local Indian tribes was an added treat as well.

This mission was not in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” but it is an Arizona icon.  Our plan is to visit all 21 Missions in California which are in Patricia’s book but I guess the Arizona mission didn’t make the cut.  However, it’s a great stop if you are in the Tucson area.