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Scottsdale's Postwar Townhouses

In 2009 an historic context was completed on townhouses and attached housing built in Scottsdale from 1950-1974.  A city-wide survey of existing townhouse/attached housing developments from this period was also completed to identify the best examples of the historic influences and architecture that distinguish this property type.  Like the traditional single family detached home, the single family attached house is designed for occupancy by one family or living unit and it sits on its own platted lot within a subdivision.  The townhome is constructed to have one or two party walls shared by an adjacent home or homes. While attached to each other, each townhouse is a single residence vertically.  That is, there is no other home above or below it.  This is the primary factor that distinguishes it from a condominium which is not a property type but a form of ownership.  Some 5871 townhouses were studied as part of this survey work. These townhomes were located in fifty-six separate complexes that were made up of eighty-one subdivisions.  The developments were sorted into various subsets based on their size, physical arrangement, architecture and community amenities so that comparative analysis could be done.  The Historic Preservation Commission selected five complexes in early 2010 as the best illustrations of the relevant historic context themes.

In the twenty years after World War II, America experienced an unprecedented housing boom. This boom added more than twenty-five million new residential structures to our cities and towns by the year 1965. The preference for single family detached housing had been established in the early days of the nation’s settlement. However, by the late 1960s housing development included a growing volume of postwar multifamily housing products.  Some of this change related to shifting family structures during this time.  The single family attached (SFA) house or “Townhome” offered benefits for both developers and buyers. The SFA home design of shared walls, roofs, parking areas and infrastructure cost less per unit than detached homes. This cost-effectiveness spurred their production. The fact that they “felt” like single family homes also contributed to their popularity. Consequently, SFA developers touted the similarities of townhouses to private detached homes in their advertisements.  These new, less costly, developments quickly attracted the buyers who were unable to afford single family detached housing but who desired home ownership and community amenities.

In the 1960s and 1970s, California moved to the forefront in the development and design of townhouse communities.  Although considered by some to be a descendant of the Eastern “row house,” the townhomes of the West developed in response to the markedly different lifestyles of the region.  The Western Townhome was not a continuation of the building practices of earlier periods.  It was also not a local expression of the planning principles of cluster housing and new town developments which guided 1960s housing development in the East.  Instead they embodied the lifestyle change embraced by America in the years after WWII.  Notably, the Western townhouse usually included courtyards, atriums patios and resort-like landscaping and other features important to recreating and outdoor living and entertaining.  By 1969 there were nearly 50 townhouse developments in Scottsdale.  Dell Trailor and John C. Hall of Hallcraft Homes led the construction of both large and small townhouse complexes throughout the 1970s although many other builders were active.  The national and regional boom in townhouse construction in the 1960s prompted an increased number of zoning requests for townhouses in Scottsdale in the 1970s. The advent of large mixed-use developments also contributed to this phenomenon as it was often easier to obtain approvals for high-density residential developments if they are part of a larger mixed-use development than a stand-alone project.  Thus during the period 1970-1980, with the approval of approximately 20,000 dwelling units as part of major (80+ acres) mixed-use developments, land for townhouse projects in Scottsdale became more plentiful.

Another important influence on townhouse development In Scottsdale was the crusade to improve Scottsdale’s Indian Bend Wash. With the adoption of a 1974 greenbelt plan for flood control, the City of Scottsdale agreed to grant landowners higher density zoning in exchange for their investment in improvements to Indian Bend Wash and their provision of floodplain easements to the city.  As a result, numerous townhouse and multi-family developments were approved for 736 acres of private land along the length of this 1200-acre wash.

The size of townhome developments ranged in size to those quite small with less than twenty-five houses to those with hundreds of dwelling units.  Forty-five percent of the townhomes built in Scottsdale in the post WWII years, are located in large developments with 200+ units.  There were also distinct differences in the design and physical layout of the complexes among the Scottsdale developments. Some of this related to the number of units in a row attached to one another.  Generally three or more units constitute a row.  Some were constructed in pairs.  These “twins” or “semi-detached” homes were attached by a single party wall to only one adjacent home.  How the rows or collections of dwelling units were arranged within a complex provided another variation in their appearances.  The traditional row arrangement with the home’s primary façade fronting the street was most common and is found on eighty-five percent of Scottsdale’s post-WWII townhomes developments.  Parking maybe adjacent to homes or grouped themselves in defined parking areas.  Open spaces between the groupings are also found.  The predominant identifiable influences on architectural style for the housing constructed in Scottsdale were those typical of the “Ranch House,” “ Modern” and “Postwar Period Revivals” styles.

The complete historic context report for townhomes can be found at Scottsdale’s Postwar Townhouses (pdf/575kb/20pp). 

Villa Monterey Townhome
Single Family Attached Neighborhoods Descriptions/Buildings/Photos:

Villa Monterey Units 1-7 Historic District
(pdf/120kb/9pp)    
Historic District Map for Villa Monterey Units 1-7 Historic District (pdf/276kb/1p)

Location: 115± acres in the vicinity of Miller and Chaparral Roads, from Meadowbrook to Medlock and from 74th Place to 79th Place, containing 758 homes and 13 common tractsVilla Monterey Entrance

Date of Construction: 1961-1969

Date Placed on Register: June 7, 2011, Ordinance No. 3944

Description: The Villa Monterey Units 1-7 Historic District is a residential neighborhood generally located just to the north of the commercial core of Scottsdale’s downtown and is in the vicinity of the Miller and Chaparral Roads intersection. Dave Friedman established Butler Homes, Inc. in Arizona and built several small-scale, traditional housing developments that were financially successful after being a successful builder in Philadelphia. Then in 1959 Friedman acquired approximately 100 acres north of Camelback Road, east of the Arizona Canal. Drawing upon the West’s Spanish territorial past, he planned a “casita colony” which Friedman defined as “small houses built together.” Purported to be the first successful townhome project in Arizona, the first unit of the Villa Monterey Colony was constructed in 1961 and in six months 180 houses were sold. Variety in the architectural details serves to customize each house, giving it an individualized appearance and reinforces the Southwestern styling of the architecture. The largest entry monuments are located by the Coolidge Street entry off of Miller Road but other Units also have entry signs or monuments. All seven units have common tracts used for their clubhouses, swimming pools and other amenities that are shared and maintained by the residents of each unit.

Significance: The Villa Monterey Historic District is considered historically and architecturally significant as a collection of homes that illustrate a particular type of building and a development pattern that was influential on the physical form of Scottsdale in the postwar era and remains discernible and distinctive today. Further it is associated with an individual, David Friedman, who pioneered successful practices that influenced how townhomes subsequently developed in Arizona. Architecturally it has a high degree of integrity. The historic district provides excellent examples, individually and collectively, of Southwestern-influenced forms, materials and detailing that has distinguished local and regional home building. The intact ornamentation and customized architectural features of the homes sets it apart as a product of a by-gone era and gives it a unique sense of time and place which should be preserved.