Survey Number: HPS-430
Year Built: 1939
THEME / CONTEXT
This 1939 single family residential building is associated with community planning and development patterns and social history in Tempe before 1950. It falls under the theme of custom housing, reflecting residential development practices in the City’s early, upscale neighborhoods. The upscale character of this house also illustrates its association with original owner Audley Butler, a prominent citizen who was important for his contribution and tenure at Salt River Project. (SRP)
This home is located in the Park Tract subdivision in Tempe. Park Tract was an earlier "suburban" residential subdivision that was platted in August of 1924 in response to a housing shortage in the City. It was designed to provide comfortable and modern family houses, influencing some of Tempe’s prominent citizens to purchase lots and have their homes built here. Park Tract experienced peak construction from 1928 to 1930. A second boom of activity occurred in the late 1930s and the neighborhood was almost completely built out shortly after World War II.
The original owners of the Gray Residence (Butler House) were Audley and Stella Butler and their family from 1939-ca. 1985. At the time of his retirement from the Salt River Project in December 1952, Audley C. Butler was the project’s oldest employee in point of service having started at SRP July 1, 1909. Beginning his SRP career in the Territorial Period, Butler would take the stage coach out on Apache Trail to assist in construction of Roosevelt Dam. Butler spent 43-years in a variety of positions at SRP including power plant operator at Arizona Falls, South Consolidated, Cross Cut steam plant, and at Roosevelt Dam. In 1919 he became chief operator at Cross Cut and Superintendent at Roosevelt. He was superintendent at Horse Mesa Dam between 1927 and his retirement in 1952.
This home is an example of infill construction during the late 1930s housing boom in the neighborhood. Many lots had remained vacant from the original subdivision plat. During upswings in the economy, these lots were built on. The result is a mix of older and newer homes, illustrating a palette of popular architectural styles from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s in close proximity. This building is one of many residential homes still intact along Mill Avenue south of University. It retains nearly all of its original fabric such as casement windows, wood entry and garage doors, and asbestos roof shingles.
Constructed by an unknown builder in 1939, the Gray Residence (Butler House) is an excellent example of a typical Transitional Ranch Style home looking ahead to many of the character defining elements of the early ranch period. The street façade of small boxlike forms steps back under a low-pitched gable roof of asbestos tile and close eaves. The broadside gable roof and small entry porch at the juncture of the two front wings are typical of the transitional ranch style as is the attached garage also stepped back to emphasize the rhythm of the front facade. Stucco walls with steel casement divided light windows and multiple period fixtures and fitments remain in place adding to overall structural integrity.
The mature trees in the front yard of the Gray Residence (Butler House) are not typical for those Park Tract homes fronting on Mill Avenue, but rather foretell the character of the nearby flood-irrigated yards and dense landscaping throughout the subdivision beyond the arterial street. The building provides a positive contribution to the historic character along Mill Avenue and a preview of, and transition to, the historic Park Tract subdivision, now known as the Maple-Ash Neighborhood.
The Gray Residence (Butler House) is adjacent to the north of the historic Tempe Woman’s Club located at 1290 South Mill Avenue which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Tempe Historic Property Register. Similarities in lush mature landscaping at each of these properties enhance the continuity of the streetscape in the 1200 block of South Mill Avenue.
The subject property meets the following criteria for designation, as found in section 14A-4 (a) of the Tempe City Code.
(2) It is found to be of exceptional significance and expresses a distinctive character, resulting from:
a. A significant portion of it is at least fifty (50) years old; is reflective of the city's cultural, social, political or economic past; and is associated with a person or event significant in local, state or national history; and
b. It represents an established and familiar visual feature of an area of the city, due to a prominent location or singular physical feature.
The Butler House is significant for its association with custom neighborhood development in Tempe before 1950 and for its association with Audley Butler, one of the community’s prominent citizens in the early twentieth century. The home’s Transitional Ranch Style marks the neighborhood’s late 1930s boom and the beginning of the shift toward ranch housing styles that would proliferate in the City after World War II. The custom, upscale character of the house is conveyed through the use of more expensive, durable materials such as block walls clad in stucco and asbestos roof tiles. The attached garage is another feature that helps define the home’s upscale character.