Harrington-Birchett House (1931)
Architects/Builder: Goodwin Brothers
Historic Use: Residence
Present Use: Vacant
Style: Victorian (remodeled to English Tudor)
National Register Status: Listed (1984)
Built in 1895 and originally owned by J.W. Harrington, the house was acquired in 1904 by Mattie Birchett. Her son, Joseph T. Birchett, married Guess Eleanor Anderson that same year and, together with Mattie, the family occupied the house until around 1920. Joseph retired from the Birchett Brothers store, and his mother Mattie died in 1925. The house served briefly as a rental property until the 1930s, when it was re-occupied by Joseph and Guess Birchett. Joseph was the director of the Tempe National Bank, as well as mayor of Tempe from 1912 to 1914.
Guess Anderson Birchett was born in San Antonio, Texas on March 28, 1881 and arrived in Tempe in 1903; a year later, she married Joseph T. Birchett outside the Benjamin B. Moeur home. She began her studies in ornithology in 1940 and eventually obtained special licenses allowing her to care for birds at her home. She often shared her knowledge of birds in publications such as the Western Bird Banding Magazine, as well as local newspapers. From 1940 until 1970, the Harrington-Birchett House was designated an official federally-recognized bird sanctuary by the Fish & Wildlife Bureau. She also was an ardent public speaker and frequently shared her knowledge of birds with local students of all ages. She played a role in the founding of Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Gardens and served as a charter member of the Tempe Woman’s Club.
Known colloquially as the “bird-lady” among local residents, Guess was the sister of Honor Anderson Moeur, wife of Arizona Governor Benjamin B. Moeur. Her and Joseph purchased the former J.W. Harrington homestead that year because of its proximity to her sister’s home on 7th Street; thus, the two siblings were veritable neighbors throughout their lives. In 1971—the one hundredth anniversary of Tempe’s founding—Guess was named the Centennial Queen. She died in 1979 at the age of 98.
This house is an unusual example of remodeling during the historic period to transform a house’s stylist character completely. The Harrington-Birchett House was remodeled in 1931 from Victorian to Tudor Revival.
The house represents an excellent example of Period Revival styling. The core of the Harrington/Birchett house was built in 1895 as part of the J.W. Harrington homestead. The original house was a single-story brick Victorian cottage built by the Goodwin Brothers, whom Harrington commissioned to undertake construction. The building was remodeled in 1931 into a Period Revival style house with English Tudor qualities, including enclosure of the porches, as well as sheathing the brick with stucco.