by Marge Jantz, Chairwoman, Historic Preservation Commission
Have you ever been curious about the history of our old buildings, historic residential districts, the bronze historic plaque programs or how long our neon and vintage signs have been around? Wonder no more! The City has numerous volunteer boards and commissions and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is charged with protecting, enhancing and perpetuating the City’s landmarks and historic district for the economic, cultural, educational and general welfare of the public.
What does all this mean to the curious resident? And how does a person tap into knowing more about this world of history and preservation?
The Museum of Casa Grande, home of Heritage Hall (rock church), is a gem that far too many people haven’t taken the opportunity to visit. This was local stonemason, Michael Sullivan’s crowning glory. His other stone buildings are spread throughout the downtown. www.tmocg.org
Across Florence Boulevard is the Art Museum During the season, art shows and events are held in this 1929 Historic Register bungalow style home of German immigrant, Gus Kratzka. www.casagrandeartmuseum.org
Casa Grande became a Main Street community in 1992. The National Preservation Trust charged Main Street downtowns with preserving, promoting, sustaining and growing with elements of design and economic development activities. Local historic walks begin at 10 a.m. on the Main Street Patio (3rd Thursday of October, November, December, February, March and April. Meet and Greet begins at 9:30.) www.cgmainstreet.org
Historic Preservation Commission project facts:
- 51 properties have been designated to the National and Local Historic Register and 4 properties are on the Local Historic Register only (40 of these properties are location within the Casa Grande Main Street downtown boundaries).
- 1 Historic Residential neighborhood has been designated. The Evergreen Addition is located behind City Hall from Casa Grande Ave. to the west side of Gilbert Ave. The Local Register District was established in 2004 and the National Register District in 2009.
- Top and Bottom Street was changed in 1915 to Washington Street. The commission made a recommendation to Council in 2014 and the named was changed back to Top and Bottom Street.
- An Evergreen Historic District newsletter is going out on a scheduled basis and can be read on line at www.casagrandeaz.gov. Go to Planning and Development then click on Historic Preservation Program to read the newsletter or more on other HPC projects.
- A new History/Art Window display will be celebrated on December 15th. The location will be at the north end of Top and Bottom Street at the 2nd Street Alleyway.
A recent CLG pass-through grant made possible a historic resource survey of the historic signs of Casa Grande. The HPC’s goal is to preserve and save Casa Grande’s neon and vintage signs. The survey was needed to help make this a reality. Of the 82 signs surveyed, 32 are eligible as Local Landmarks. The process to place these signs on the local register will begin in the first quarter of 2017.
The survey confirmed that the downtown Dairy Queen sign (Cone and Brazier Board) was eligible. Due to the threat of losing this signage from the time the Dairy Queen reopened in 2015, the HPC recommended to City Council to approve the Local Historic Landmark designation and that was done by resolution on April 18, 2016. Recently, the HPC was asked to remove the Brazier sign from the Local Landmark designation. The request was denied. Further negotiations will continue with the threat of losing the Cone.
Other notable signs have been stolen or sold. The Airport Tavern neon sign disappeared in March 2013. The Silver Bullet sign, believed to be a Pedro Guerrero design, was sold by a local bank in April of this year and is now in Ankeny, Iowa.
The Carr McNatt Park new design plans, currently in the final stages of approval, did not include the existing signage that the survey determined were Landmark eligible. The Community Services Department has confirmed to the HPC that provisions will be made to keep and maintain the Kiwanis signs and the old Cougar Scoreboard. The Local Landmark status is critical to saving our signs and history.
Casa Grande has recently received national recognition in the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) Road Notes Magazine with a featured two-page column titled “Five Favs” which include six local signs: the Casa Grande Bulk Plant, Cotton’s Wonder Bar, the S.S. Blinky, Jr. lettering on the ship at Five Points, Boots and Saddle, Se-Tay Motel and the former Sofia’s restaurant sign.