There are a lot of factors that influence the person you become in life. The obvious ones are your parents, where you were born, where you went to school, and your early childhood experiences. But I believe that physical spaces also have an affect on us as we grow and develop. In early 2020, I began a project to document the physical places and buildings that tell a piece of the story of my life. I wanted to document these places for myself, before they are all gone.
Place of Birth
This is where is all began for me. I entered the world in this hospital the day before Halloween, 1985. Originally known as Good Samaritan Hospital, it is now called Banner University Medical Center.
In the year 1900, a Deaconess in the Methodist Church left Nebraska and settled in Phoenix. She started a nurse training service, which eventually became Good Samaritan Hospital by 1928.
In 1978, Good Samaritan hired Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg to design a new 12-story, 720 bed hospital – the largest in Arizona at that time. The ultra-modern building was completed in 1981 at a cost of $90 million dollars. It is notable for its curvilinear forms and “porthole” style windows.
Photographed in early 2020, the 1981 tower is now dwarfed by numerous additions and expansions.
I was baptized at this church on Saturday, December 29th, 1985. I don’t remember the event as I was only 8 weeks old. The church is Saint Thomas the Apostle, which is still there today. The Spanish colonial style church was completed in 1960 and has a bell tower that rises 105 feet from the ground. Fate brought me back to the church in 2017 when I attended my close friend’s brother’s wedding here.
My parents purchased this 1,092 square foot home on a 4,660 sq. ft. (0.10 acre) lot brand new in 1983. Built by U.S. Homes, it is a wood frame house with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. While most homes in the Phoenix area feature “ranch style” architecture, this neighborhood has more of a “chalet style” design with a steep pitched roof, vaulted ceiling, and a wood-burning fireplace.
Instead of a garage, the house has a covered, two-car structure called a “carport” in the rear, which is accessible via a paved alley. My dad converted the attic to a small upstairs loft space.
I was fortunate to live in the same house for the first 27 years of my life. This was where I celebrated birthdays, Christmases, played in the backyard, did homework for school, and lived with my family.
We grew up attending St. James Roman Catholic Parish, which began construction on April 29, 1984. The first mass was held in the new church on Christmas Eve, 1984. The church has 15,560 square feet of space. They have been providing religious services and community outreach at this location for more than three decades.
Esperanza Elementary School opened in the fall of 1990, and I began Kindergarten that same year. Designed by Whitmore, McIlhinney, Holland & Associates and built by Sigma Contracting, Inc., the school is comprised of an administrative building and 7 single-story classroom buildings on 10 acres. The school mascot is the Lobo (Spanish for “wolf”).
I attended this school from Kindergarten through sixth grade. I was recognized as the first graduating class from this school in the 1996-97 yearbook. I remember liking my teachers. This was where I was exposed to art class, Jazz music, and discovered my extreme dislike for sports. I used my first computer in the school’s “Mac Lab,” an Apple IIgs. I remember square pizza in the cafeteria, Rainy Day Schedules, Scholastic Book Fairs, and the elderly school librarian who was from Norway. The playground was next to a cemetery and on the rare occasion, we would hear the sounds of a 21-gun salute for a military funeral while we were at recess.
The school is still open today, but has a different color scheme and a new gymnasium building that did not exist when I went there. The original logo was a line drawing of a Mexican gray wolf, while the current logo has a strong resemblance to the University of New Mexico, which also has the Lobos for a mascot.
Because both of my parents worked outside the home, they found a babysitter to watch my brother and I before and after school. She watched a group of kids at her home, a 1,640 sq ft red brick, ranch-style house built in 1976. Her house had a sunken living room full of 1950s memorabilia and a jukebox. We watched Disney movies on the console TV while she made custom wedding cakes in the kitchen as a side business. It always smelled wonderful at her house.
She would pick the group of kids up after school in a full size Ford Club Wagon van, always listening to 50s rock and roll. During the summer, she took us kids on field trips and adventures. This was like a second home growing up and she treated my brother and I like family. She is now a breast cancer survivor and remains an incredible and inspiring person in my life.
Where I grew up, we have “middle schools” (junior high) which cover 7th and 8th grades. Deer Valley Middle School was opened in 1980, and I attended the school from 1997-1999. Their mascot is the Colt, like the horse.
The school is comprised of about seven classroom buildings and a gymnasium on 20 acres. This was the first time I had to change classrooms during the day. The Principal, Mr. Crisp, would end the morning announcements each day with “ALOHA!” I met my first girlfriend here; went to my first dance here. The school is still open, though it has been repainted with different colors since I was a student there.
My grandparents live about 2,650 miles away from us on the East Coast. In the summer, we would go visit them at their single story, ranch-style house in Massachusetts. The 4 bedroom, 1 bathroom house was built in 1962 and has about 1,680 square feet with an unfinished basement. The house sits on just under 1 acre surrounded by woods that we used to play in when my brother and I would go for a visit.
Opened in 1986, Barry Goldwater High School is named for the Arizona businessman and veteran who served five terms in the U.S. Senate. Senator Goldwater ran for President in 1964, but lost the election to Lyndon B. Johnson. I attended high school here from 1999 through 2003. The school mascot is the Bulldog.
The school has changed significantly since I attended there. They have a new facade on the administration building, a reconfigured bus lane, and a second gymnasium building has been added. The school formerly had a nature preserve area with a pond and waterfall, which has been removed. The whole campus has been repainted with different colors, and is now covered in acres of solar panels.
The Chase Tower has held the title of “Tallest Building in Phoenix” and “Tallest Building in Arizona” since its completion in 1972. The 40-story Modern style high rise measures 483 feet in height. It was originally built for Valley National Bank, and through a series of bank mergers over the years, is now home to Chase Bank.
In the 1980s, a group of Phoenix-area executives leased the 37th and 38th floors to operate a private social club called the Arizona Club. My high school rented this facility for our senior prom, held on Saturday, April 12, 2003. I got to dance and mingle with my fellow 12th graders at this event for one night, complete with amazing views of the city. The Arizona Club closed permanently on September 19, 2009 as a result of the financial crisis of 2007-08.
High School Graduation
The Sundome was a 7,000-seat performing arts theater in Sun City, Arizona. Construction of the Sundome began in November 1978 with the grand opening September 13, 1980. Costing approximately $8 million to build, the Sundome hosted many concerts and performers over the years including Lawrence Welk, Walter Cronkite, Bob Hope, Willie Nelson, and many others.
My high school graduation ceremony was held here in May 2003. I walked across the stage in my cap and gown with all of my family there to celebrate this achievement. The aging facility ran into financial trouble during the Great Recession, and closed for good in 2009. It was torn down in 2013 and a Fry’s Marketplace grocery store was built in its place. The Fry’s incorporates several design elements that pay tribute to the Sundome.
Glendale Community College was established in Arizona in 1965 in Glendale, Arizona. In the Fall of 2000, the school expanded with a 28-acre satellite campus called GCC North. I started here in Fall 2003 taking basic courses towards an Associates Degree. I transferred to the main campus a year later.
My First Job
My very first job was with a company that had a small suite in this struggling strip mall, which was built in the early 1970s. In 2004, I took a job delivering telephone books to people’s homes. I had one week to deliver more than 400 phone books. With help from friends and family, I completed my route and was paid $150. I did not like the job and did not take any more routes.
The shopping center is still there today. The tenants include an auto parts store, a surplus store, and a couple of ethnic restaurants and markets. I think about that first job whenever I drive by the shopping center, which has seen better days.
Phoenix Trotting Park
The Phoenix Trotting Park was a horse racing track located in the City of Goodyear, about 23 miles west of downtown Phoenix. The ill-fated facility was constructed at great cost in 1964, and only operated for two years before shutting down in late 1965. It was designed by Italian architects and Victor Gruen Associates, and was constructed by Gilbert & Dolan Enterprises and E.L. Farmer Construction Co., Inc.
I explored the abandoned building with some friends in 2005 and wrote about it on my website. This was the big break that led to me being featured in the book Weird Arizona. In 2015, I created the website www.phoenixtrottingpark.com to tell the story of this incredible place. Sadly, the building was demolished by the owners in September 2017, after 52 years. Though this building was a nightmare for the man that built it, it opened a lot of doors for me, decades later.
My First Real Job
My first real job was in this nondescript Class B office building, where I did filing and data entry. Built in 2001, the building has 68,939 square feet of space divided among its two floors. Around mid-2004, I worked in a small suite on the ground floor while attending community college.
Just after Christmas in 2005, the company owners announced that they were moving to California, and we could either relocate at our own expense, or start looking for a new job. They let about 30 people go, myself included. That really sucked. In all, I worked here for a year and eight months.
Glendale Community College
I began Community College at GCC North campus in Fall 2003, and switched to the main campus in 2004. The 150-acre campus dates back to the mid-1960s. I really liked going to school here, and attended classes 3 days a week while working part time. I graduated in May 2006 with an Associate in Arts (AA) degree.
US Digital Media
In early 2006, I took a job working in a warehouse while attending community college. Little did I know that I would spend nearly 10 years working in this building, in many different roles from customer service to copywriting to IT and project management. The 2-story office building was completed in 1996 and has just over 30,000 square feet of space, which I know inside and out. Though I look back on my time here fondly, I eventually felt that it was time to move on to a new adventure, which I did in 2015.
Grand Canyon University
After graduating community college in 2006, I bounced around for a bit, taking one semester at ASU and one at DeVry University, but I did not feel like either of them were a good fit. In 2007, I enrolled at Grand Canyon University, a private Christian university in Phoenix that was founded in 1949.
I began pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business in-person and later switched to their online program, finally graduating in 2011. At the time, GCU’s business college was the “Ken Blanchard College of Business.” The school was renamed “Colangelo College of Business” in 2014. I took most of my classes in this red brick building, photographed in 2010.
Living On My Own
In 2012, I moved out of my parents’ house into my own apartment. The complex was built in the early 1980s and is quite small, with around 100 units. It is next to a busy freeway with lots of road noise, but the price was right. I lived in the same 695 square foot, 1-bedroom unit for eight years. It was a good stepping stone for my personal growth, and I have lots of good memories here.
Las Vegas Convention Center
I have spent a ridiculous amount of my adult life in the Las Vegas Convention Center. By my count, I have been there 16 times since 2011 to attend large trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.
The convention center opened in April 1959 and has seen numerous expansions in 1971, 1990, 1998, and 2002. At the time of this writing in 2020, another expansion is underway on the land formerly occupied by the Riviera Hotel and Casino, which was demolished in 2016. The convention center has 1.9 million square feet of exhibit space, and is the largest single-level convention center in the world. I have spent many hours walking the floor at trade shows and conventions, and I can navigate my way around the 200-acre site without referencing a map. It’s not a stretch to call this place a second home.
200 East Van Buren
I worked in this mid-rise office building in downtown Phoenix from 2015 to 2017. The building houses The Arizona Republic newspaper, 12 News, and other media organizations. I worked for a digital marketing company on the 4th floor, and later on the 6th floor. The 10-story building has approximately 240,000 square feet of office space and was completed in 1995. It has a gym on the 2nd floor and a cafe on the 8th floor that used to make great breakfast burritos.
I found it exciting to work downtown and really loved the culture of the company I was with. I met a lot of great people, many of whom I am still in contact with. The company I worked for was a small division of a large, national media company. Things were going great until they made two big rounds of layoffs within four months, reducing staff from about 500 people down to 350. I left in 2017 for a new opportunity, and the company ceased operations about a year later. The building is still there, and I look back on my time there with good memories.
City of Peoria
The City of Peoria, Arizona was founded in 1886 and incorporated in 1954. Construction of Peoria’s new City Hall complex began in 1988. The three-story City Hall building opened in 1991 with 79,200 square feet of office space. It is the centerpiece of a $30 million dollar, 36-acre municipal campus that includes a Public Safety building, court house, Council Chambers, and other administrative buildings surrounding a park called Centennial Plaza. I have been with City of Peoria since 2017 and work in City Hall (pictured).
My First House
After saving for most of my adult life (16+ years), I purchased my first home in early 2020. It is a single story, ranch-style home on a 7,300 sq. ft (0.16 acre) lot with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This is something I have worked hard for and am extremely proud of. I plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, and I hope that this place will be a big part of the next chapter of my story.
Well, that wraps up a comprehensive review of the physical places that tell a part of my story, whether it was for one day or for 10 years.