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…

Wigwam Hotel

The Wigwam design was created by Frank A. Redford, eventually his style became so popular that it became a nationwide phenomenon. His designs depicted Native American architecture through the perspective of the American architecture in the mid 20th…

Valley National Bank (Tempe)

Valley National Bank served the Valley from its founding in 1900 through 1992; its iconic logo played a significant role in the region's development and its branches often had iconic architectural design. The Tempe branch was located at the…

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…

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 confront Suburbanization

Serving as both a major tourist route and the highway between Tempe and Mesa, Apache Boulevard catered to both travelers and hungry locals. Restaurants, taverns, and food vendors flourished following World War II. Road side fruit stands, such as the…

Apartment-living on Apache Boulevard

Plummeting property prices beginning in the early 1970s enabled developers to purchase numerous lots along Apache Boulevard and build low priced apartment complexes. This initial wave of apartment construction largely catered to local residents.…

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…

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

Prior to the 1930s, the Arizona State Teacher’s College football team played at Irish Field, which had bleachers capable of holding no more than one hundred spectators. Tempe businessman Garfield Goodwin arranged for the purchase of ten acres along…

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…

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…
Thank you to the students who created the 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. Thank you to the Tempe History Museum, especially Josh Roffler and Jared Smith, and for the insights of research advisors Mark Vinson, Jay Mark, and Scott Solliday.