Location: 2525 E. Apache Boulevard
Survey Number: HPS-186
Year Built: 1920
Architectural Style: Art Moderne
The 1920 Watson’s Flower Shop building is significant for its historic association with transportation and tourism and as an example of relatively rare adobe commercial construction and the Art Moderne style.
A: HISTORIC EVENTS
The 1920 central portion of the Watson’s Flower Shop building is of adobe and was originally built as a gas station in the Art Moderne style. The building is associated with the historic context of commerce and tourism under the theme of automotive service, gas station, and tourist cabins. Additions are sensitive to the original style of the building and these changes are representative of the shift in building use in response to changing commercial conditions over time as the location shifted from an historic highway to a commercial main street. When the central portion of the Watson’s Flower Shop building was originally built as a gas station in 1920, this stretch of Apache Boulevard was part of the Bankhead National Highway and the main route south from the Salt River Valley to Tucson. The Bankhead Highway was a cross-country automobile highway connecting Washington, D.C. and San Diego and part of the National Auto Trail system named for Alabama politician John Hollis Bankhead, a leader in the early national road building movement. From 1920 and for years after, Bankhead Highway was a nexus of tourism and commerce across the East Valley. Automobiles had been the primary stimulus for the development of highways such as the Bankhead, but the improved highways in turn stimulated the evolution of motor transportation. In Arizona, impact of auto traffic was both immediate and sustained. In Tempe, the highways and the autos both led to an economic boom centered along the route that would eventually become segments of US-60, US-70, US-80, US-89, and State Route 93, and the development that can be seen extending blocks away from the highway testifies to where people moved and built new homes. Finally, as the need for ever faster transportation became manifest, these historic highways, like their brethren across the country, were bypassed and decommissioned as new interstates took an increasingly larger share of traffic, commerce and development.
Watson’s Flower Shop is an irregularly-shaped commercial building and is unique as an adobe gas station. The shop is single-story in height. The central portion is adobe and the east and west wings are concrete. The entire building is covered with stucco. The central portion is recessed and contains the main commercial entry. The east portion is square and features three panels of glass block, three blocks high by eight blocks long. The west portion has qualities of Moderne styling, with rounded corners, a curved parapet, and a row of plate glass windows placed low on the façade. Originally four tourist cabins were constructed in the rear and two of the cabins still exist but are in ruins. Watson’s took over the adobe building in 1933. The west wing was added in 1949 and the east swing in 1952. The house in the rear of the central portion was built after 1950 and is not part of the commercial building.
American Roads web site Bankhead Highway
Tempe History Museum Historic Property Survey HPS-186: Watson's Flowers