Temple Historic District

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Local Historic District Designation: February 2001

Listed to the National Register of Historic Places: November 2000

templestreetThe Temple Historic District is found immediately east of the original townsite and is composed primarily of two residential subdivisions, the Arizona Temple addition opened in 1922 and the Stapley addition opened in 1924. The district encompasses three north-south streets – Mesa Drive, Udall Street, and Lesueur Street - and is bounded on the north by Main Street and on the  South by Broadway Road. These streets were named for Mormon pioneers which were instrumental in the settlement and founding of Mesa City (later called Mesa). This district is composed primarily of residential buildings with a few associated commercial properties and a very prominent religious property for which the residential district is named, the 1927 Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the LDS Temple).  

Although the perimeter of the neighborhood has suffered from some modern intrusions and from the conversion of historic houses along Mesa Drive to commercial use, for the most part it retains its original residential character. On the north, south, and east sides of this district of Bungalow and Period Revival Style houses are post-WWII residential neighborhoods featuring Ranch Style houses. West of the district is the original Mesa Townsite which is a mixture of commercial and residential development representing many succeeding decades of architectural styles. The layout of streets and parcels in the Temple Historic District demonstrates the evolution of land subdivision and street design in the earliest development beyond the limits of the original townsite. Also, the styles of the houses here are a visual record of the popular trends in Mesa’s residential architecture in the early twentieth century.


The Temple Historic District in Mesa is significant for two reasons. First, it is considered significant under National Register criteria "A" in the area of Community Planning and development for its relationship to broad patterns of community development in Mesa. Second, the Temple Historic District illustrates important examples of architectural styles common in Arizona during the first half of the twentieth century. The Temple Historic District is considered significant under National Register criteria "C" for the architectural styles and periods that it represents. The period of significance for the district starts in 1910 with the platting of the Kimball Addition and continues until 1949, the end of the 50-year period of significance for the National Register.

The significance of the Temple Historic District is described under two historic contexts. Context one, "Mesa's Suburban development, 1910-1949," describes the development of subdivisions outside the original townsite. Context one describes the significance of community development in Mesa. Context two, "The Evolution of Architectural Styles in Mesa Townsite Extension, 1922 to 1949," describes the significant architectural styles and themes which influenced the stylistic treatment of buildings in Mesa as represented by the district. Context two describes the architectural significance of the district.

These historic contexts are based on previous Arizona SHPO-sponsored historic preservation survey work in Mesa. In 1993, the Woodward Architectural Group surveyed the original townsite of Mesa, developing historic contexts appropriate to Section 22 which comprised the original townsite. In 1997, The Architectural Company surveyed some of the early subdivisions outside of the original townsite. These two works built on an earlier Arizona SHPO-sponsored survey of Mesa, the 1984 Mesa historical completed by Linda Laird and Associates. However, the 1984 survey was conducted prior to the emphasis on contextual evaluation so is not as valuable as the more recent surveys.

The two historic contexts developed in the 1993 and 1997 surveys closely reflect the two contexts used in this National Register nomination. Contexts identified by Woodward are "Mesa City: From Mormon Settlement to Urban Center, 1878 to 1945" and "The Evolution of Architectural Periods in the Mesa Townsite, 1878 to 1945." Contexts identified in the 1997 survey are "Mesa's First Suburbs: From Early Townsite Extensions to Modern Neighborhoods, 1910 to 1945" and "The Evolution of Architectural Styles in the Townsite Extensions, 1910 to 1945.

Historic Context One: Mesa's Suburban development, 1910-1949

templehouse2The Temple Historic District consists of subdivisions that were platted beyond the original townsite of Mesa. This process of subdivision outside the original townsite was an important factor in the expansion of Mesa. This was a significant change in the community development of Mesa and the Temple Historic District is importantly associated with this process. The expansion of Mesa into this particular area outside the original townsite is closely related to the construction of the LDS Arizona Temple, completed in 1927.

The Temple Historic District is significant for its association with the development of a cohesive neighborhood of middle and upper class families in Mesa from 1910 to1949. Although a portion of the area was originally platted as the Kimball Addition in October if 1910, most of the buildings in the historic district were built between 1922 and 1949 within two subdivisions that encompasses most of the Temple Historic District. The two subdivisions are the Arizona Temple Addition, opened in 1922, and the Stapley Acres subdivision, opened in 1924. Additional buildings were constructed outside of these two organized subdivisions in the Temple Historic District on lots created from larger parcels of land without the benefit of an organized subdivision (Block Nos. 89 and 90). In addition to residential buildings the district includes commercial and religious buildings that were closely associated with the neighborhood.

The Kimball Addition (platted in October 1910) was the third subdivision to be platted outside the original Mesa townsite. It was preceded by the North Evergreen subdivision (July 1910) and the Evergreen Acres subdivision (August 1910). These three subdivisions represented the expansive growth of Mesa in the second decade of the twentieth century. During this period the demand for residential housing led to the development of subdivisions outside the boundaries of the original townsite. These subdivisions were designed and marketed to appeal to the suburban resident who wanted to avoid the problems associated with "city living."

While North Evergreen blossomed into an exclusive residential subdivision in the years from 1910 to 1914, Evergreen Acres developed more slowly. Its greater distance from the center of town and lack of attention to landscaping details rendered Evergreen Acres less desirable from a buyer's standpoint. The Kimball Addition, located further still from the center of town was a "paper" subdivision, existing only as lines drawn on map paper.  

The land in the Kimball Addition was owned by the Kimball family. W.A. Kimball was a Mesa pioneer who arrived in 1881. His father, Heber C. Kimball, was first Counselor to Brigham Young. In Mesa, William Kimball owned and operated the Kimball House hotel. A staunch Republican, Kimball served one term on the County Board of Supervisors. Kimball married Emma (Emeline) Sirrine, a member of another prominent early Mesa family.

Mr. Kimball died in 1906, survived by his wife. She began development of the Kimball Addition in 1910. Two reasons have been advanced for its failure to develop. The establishment of two other subdivisions prior to the Kimball Addition may have saturated the market in Mesa. Secondly, plans for the Arizona Temple were already in the works as early as 1910. Church officials may have persuaded Mrs. Kimball to hold onto the property for eventual selection as a possible temple site. Although historians disagree on the reasons, the Kimball Addition was never sold as individual lots and it remained in the single ownership of Emeline S. Kimball.

In the early twenties a decline in the price of cotton and a national depression associated with the end of World War One meant hard times in the Salt River Valley, including Mesa. Construction slowed in the townsite and in the contiguous subdivisions. Farmers and business owners searched for ways to diversify Mesa's economy. After a few years the economy began to rebound and Mesa shared in the prosperity associated with the "Roaring Twenties."  

A major project which spurred growth on the southeastern edge of the townsite was the construction of the Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The construction of the LDS Temple achieved the realization of many generations of LDS pioneers. The earliest recorded donation for the Temple dated back to 1897, when a Graham County widow donated $5.00 to the construction fund when it was thought a temple would be erected in the town of Pima.

Mesa LDS official began actively promoting the idea in 1912. By the end of World War One over $200,000 had been collected for construction. Church officials visited Mesa after the war and on September 24, 1919 selected a twenty-acre tract at what is now the corner of Main and Hobson Streets just outside the original townsite. Preliminary planning took place from 1919 to 1921. Several individuals served on the "Arizona Temple District Committee" that planned the temple construction. Committee member included James Lesueur (president of the Maricopa Stake), O.S. Stapley, (counselor to President Lesueur) John Cummard (counselor to President Lesueur) Andrew Kimball (president of the St. Joseph Stake), John T. Lesueur (treasurer), and G.C. Spilsbury. Actual construction began in 1922 and continued until 1927.

Temples are used for LDS marriages and other sacred ceremonies. A temple is separate and distinct from chapels used for weekly worship. The first Mormon Temple was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. Construction of a second Temple in Nauvoo, Illinois began in 1841. Prior to the construction of the Arizona Temple, Mormon couples had to travel to the nearest temple – in St. George, Utah – to have their marriages "sealed" or made official. This led to the creation of the "Honeymoon Trail" from Arizona to Utah as many couples made their way north to the temple in St. George. The construction of a temple in Arizona would mean that LDS marriage ceremonies could be completed without the arduous trip.  

As plans were being drawn for the Arizona Temple, church officials began to make plans to provide for housing in the area that would complement the coming improvements. The promoters of the Arizona Temple Addition, opened in 1922, included prominent members of Mesa's Mormon community. These included J.W. and Anna M. Lesueur, O.S. and Polly Stapley, John and Eva Anna Cummard, and C.R. and Nellie D. Clark. Anticipating construction of the Temple, this group purchased the Kimball addition from the Kimball family and replatted it as the Arizona Temple Addition. 

James Lesueur was a pioneer who arrived in Mesa in 1878 as a child, then spent his early years in St. Johns. He married Anna Anderson in 1902 and the couple returned to Mesa in 1906 where James opened a mercantile business. He served as president of the Maricopa Stake from 1912 to 1927, and president of the Arizona Temple from 1927 to 1944. James Lesueur died in 1948.

O.S. Stapley arrived in Mesa with his family at age 10. He married Polly Hunsaker of Mesa in 1894 and started the O.S. Stapley Company hardware and lumber company with his father-in-law. The firm prospered, particularly after construction started on Roosevelt Dam. As a prominent construction materials supplier at the start of the Apache Trail to the dam, Stapley gamered a large amount of government business. His firm later expanded operations to Phoenix, Chandler, Glendale, and Buckeye. In addition to his hardware company, Stapley amassed considerable holdings in real estate. Stapley was also an active member of the LDS church.

John Cummard was a relative latecomer to Mesa. He arrived in the United States form Liverpool in 1908 as an LDS convert. He moved to Mesa in 1912 where he obtained his US citizenship in 1918. Cummard was president of the Maricopa Stake for 19 years. He served on the Arizona Corporation Commission from 1933 to 1935, and as state examiner from 1939 to 1941. He was also a charter member of the Rotary Club and chairman of the Mesa Red Cross. Beyond finding time for these church and community activities, Cummard was in the real estate and insurance business.

Clyde R. Clark operated a grocery business in Mesa. Clark served on the Mesa City Council. He was also active in the LDS church. His wife Nellie died in 1949; Clark died in 1951.

The boundaries of the new Arizona Temple subdivision matched those of the earlier Kimball Addition. The northern boundary of the subdivision was East Main Street and the southern boundary was East Second Avenue. The western boundary was originally designated as South Hobson Street and is today know as South Mesa Drive. The eastern boundary of the subdivision was designated Lesueur Street and abutted the site of the Arizona LDS Temple.

In contrast to the earlier Kimball Addition, the Arizona Temple Addition replaced the two planned 80-feet wide east-west streets with one major east-west street. This was an extension of First Avenue from the townsite and maintained its generous 132-feet width. This street was designed as a wide, tree-lined ceremonial boulevard which made use of its width and orientation to create a strong view axis toward the Temple. The west facade was the principle facade of the Temple. Lots on East First Avenue were advertised as "Facing the Temple – at a Bargain". 

The earliest houses constructed in the Arizona Temple Addition were built on either side of East First Avenue. The axis with the Temple made this street the most prestigious in the subdivision. The next focus of development was Lesueur Street, facing the Temple grounds. Later development took place on Kimball Avenue, south of and parallel to First Avenue. The Udall Street portion of the Arizona Temple Addition was the last to develop.

The second subdivision associated with the Temple was Stapley Acres. This subdivision was located to the south of the Arizona Temple Addition and the Arizona Temple grounds. Stapley Acres had an unusual shape: a single row of ten 60 by 90-ft. lots were oriented east-west along Hobson Street (now South Mesa Drive), with seventeen 60 by 603 ft. lot running north-south extending to the east. This subdivision was platted in 1924 by O.S. and Polly Mae Stapley, pioneer Mesa residents. O.S. Stapley was owner of the O.S. Stapley Hardware Company which had stores in several valley communities. Stapley and his family continued to occupy the large Stapley home just south of the subdivision.

Church President Heber J. Grant dedicated the Arizona Temple on October 23, 1927. The building was patterned after King Solomon's Temple, with sacred space on the second floor and administrative functions on the first floor. Architects Don Carlos Young Jr. and Ramm Hansen emphasized pillars in the construction. The Arizona Temple is significant as one of only three temples constructed without the distinctive tall spire that characterizes LDS Temples. The temple in Mesa shares a flat roof with only two other temples; Hawaii (Owahu) and Alberta, Canada. All three of these temples were constructed in the late teens and early twenties.

The advent of the Great Depression after the stock market crash in 1929 curtailed economic growth in Mesa and the nation. Because the depression was strongly felt in the agricultural section of the economy, Mesa was hard hit. As a consequence, very little residential home construction took place for the next few years. The nation began to come out of the depression by 1937, as a result of Federal government public work programs, but only the advent of World War Two could bring a final end to the economic downturn.

The dearth of home construction in the Temple Historic District continued during World War Two, but for a different reason. The war effort required a total commitment of supplies and materials. The result was a shortage of building materials and restrictions on the amount of goods people could purchase. The patterns of slow growth in the district continued through the war years.

The one exception to this generally slow pace of residential and commercial construction during the war was the erection of the LDS 5th Ward Church in 1943. Population expansion required additional facilities. Derived from the 2nd Ward, this new ward church building provided space for weekly church services.

Following World War, a great expansion in population occurred in Arizona. Soldiers and war workers who had experienced the climate and attractive lifestyle of Arizona during the war decided to make the state their permanent home. This increase in population coincided with an increase in spending for home construction and business development. Workers and soldiers went on a spending spree with their savings and "mustering out" money to build homes and businesses.

The improved economic climate resulted in a new wave of construction in the Temple Historic District. Many of the vacant lots which had remained from the early years of the subdivision soon blossomed with houses. A series of community amenities and businesses developed to serve the needs of the new residents.

One of the most noteworthy of these was Wright’s Market. This was family business started by Lorenzo (Lo) Wright. Later, as additional family members joined it became Lo Wright & Sons. These included Harold, Bassett, Jack, Tom, Bill, and Lavoun. The firm started in Mesa about 1928 with a store at 111 W. Main Street. Wright later added a second store on Main Street, Wrights West End Market, and a store in Chandler. The firm opened Wright’s Locker Market in 1952 on South Macdonald in Mesa. The store in the Temple neighborhood was opened in 1955 and called "Wright’s Shopping Center Market."  

Local residents called Wright’s Market "the first shopping center in Mesa." The market served as the neighborhood store, where residents could do their laundry, get a hair cut, go to the post office and drug store, or to the Ben Franklin variety store. In later years, ca. 1981, the building was converted into the Kirby’s Furniture Store.  

Other later changes included conversion of the Stapley Home into the Elks Lodge, ca. 1955, and the creation of Stapley Park. The LDS Church modernized the Arizona Temple in 1975 by adding single-story dressing rooms to the south side of the building. The Visitor’s Center building was also added to the grounds at this time. The Temple Beth Shalom acquired the 5th Ward LDS Church for use as a Jewish synagogue. These later changes to the district merely represent the gradual change and maturation of the area. These changes have not had a negative effect on the integrity of the district.  

The Temple Historic District is a good example of the process twentieth century suburban development in Mesa. This change was an important part of the community of Mesa as residents required more housing than the original plan could provide. The Temple Historic District is an excellent example of the process of community development which changed Mesa from a pastoral, agricultural community to more closely match the growing urban populations of Phoenix, Glendale, and Tempe. While its growth closely matches the overall process of community development in the Salt River Valley, the association with the LDS Arizona Temple makes the Temple Historic District in Mesa unique.

Historic Context Two: The Evolution of Architectural Styles in Mesa Townsite Extensions, 1922 - 1949

Several architectural styles are represented within the Temple Historic District which reflects its 27+ year period of development. The earliest architectural style found is the National Folk or Vernacular style. Although this style is primarily seen in homes construction during the initial settlement period in Mesa, it can also be found in homes constructed towards the end of World War II. Characteristics of this style include rectangular, square, or L-shaped one story buildings. The massing is usually defined as gable-front, gable-front-and-wing, hall-and-parlor, or I-plan. The gabled roofs are sheathed with wood shingles, asphalt or asbestos shingles, or corrugated sheet metal. Porches integral with the gabled roof or attached as a shed roof were often part of the home. The floors were usually raised and constructed of wood. The walls were constructed of frame, stone, brick or concrete block (in later homes), and sheathed with wood siding, weatherboard, clapboard, board-and-batten, stucco, stone brick, or painted concrete block. Tall rectangular double-hung windows and doors were commonly found in this style. The character-defining elements for the National Folk/Vernacular style is the lack of decorative ornamentation or details.

portion of the homes in the Temple Historic District fall under the architectural style - Bungalow. This style of architecture, originating in California in the early 1900’s, was popular in Mesa from 1910-1940. Characteristics of the Bungalow style include single story simple, box-like massing with medium-pitched hipped or gabled roofs. Large front porches and symmetrical facades with pairs of double-hung windows are also character-defining elements of the style. The Bungalow style is subdivided into three substyles - Classical, Craftsman, and California. Each of these substyles contains the primary characteristics, i.e., gabled roofs, deep overhangs, front porches, but differ in the detailing. The Craftsman Bungalow is far more ornate with exposed wood trim, especially heavy timber trusses, beams, brackets, and rafter tails. The porches are usually supported by massive masonry or stone piers. Front "Chicago" style windows, is also found in many Bungalows. The Classical Bungalow is very modest in its trim and detailing. The California Bungalow usually has an offset front porch wrapping around the house to create a porte-cochere. The windows many times will contain multiple panes in the upper lights. The Classical Bungalow is most represented within the Wilbur Historic District. The Classical Bungalow is closest to the essence of the Bungalow with its simple gable-roof massing and deep overhangs, simple double-hung windows, and many times symmetrical facade.  

In the mid 1920's, a whole sequence of stylistic treatments drawing from large segments of the historical range of European housing styles, known as Period Revival styles began to crop in Mesa. The first of these styles is the Tudor Revival style which stems from medieval English building traditions. The Tudor Revival style can be characterized by its rectangular or "L" shaped plans and very high-pitched roofs. The front facades are usually asymmetrical in layout. Small portals or vestibules are common rather than large front porches. The roofs are generally sheathed with wood or small-paned casements in flat-topped, Tudor, Gothic, or round-arched openings.  

A second Period Revival style found in Mesa is the Spanish Colonial Revival style. This style stem’s from an interest in the region’s heritage, including its historic links to Spain, Mexico and indigenous American cultures. Characterized by its stucco walls and tile roofs, the Spanish Colonial Revival home is rectangular in plan, one to two stories in height with asymmetrical facades. The roof forms are often combinations of flat roofs with parapets and low-pitched gables. Small porches with arched openings and occasional pergolas or porte-cocheres can be found in this style. The tall double-hung or casement windows sometimes have small panes in the upper sashes. Occasionally the windows and doors appear with Roman or semi-circular arched openings. Typical ornamental features of the style include applied terra cotta, tile or cast concrete ornament, decorative iron trim for scones, grillwork, brackets, railings, balconets, and fences. 

In the mid-1930's, a new style loosely based on early Spanish Colonial buildings modified somewhat from earlier Period Revival style buildings, gained popularity in California. This style, the Ranch style of housing first appeared in Mesa in the mid-to-late 1930's, but became dominant during the years following World War II. The majority of the homes in the Temple Historic District reflect the resurgence of residential development in Mesa following the depression years. These early Ranch style homes were called Transitional Early Ranch (or Minimal Traditional). This early Ranch style architecture drew from earlier styles as well as bringing about new stylistic elements. They typically contained raised floors and wood double-hung or wood casement windows. They were also smaller in scale than the later sprawling Ranch style homes. The Ranch style is characterized by one story, rectangular or L-shaped structures with low-pitched gable or hipped roofs. Small wood frame porches occur over the entry or at the juncture of the intersecting roofs. A variety of materials can be found with this style including brick masonry, painted or unpainted; stucco over wood frame; and concrete masonry units, painted or unpainted. The windows are usually steel casement or fixed with multiple lights. Occasionally, corner windows can be found. Decorative elements include horizontal wood siding at gable ends and occasionally wood shutters flanking windows.  In general, the residence found in the Temple Historic District are very modest in scale, style, and detailing. The larger homes can be found along First Avenue. The variety of the architectural styles represented in the district reflects the sporadic development of the neighborhood from its initial platting of the subdivisions. The sporadic development is characteristic of the development of Mesa as a whole.