La Casa Vieja

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Description

Monti's, the popular steakhouse in downtown Tempe, was known as “the old house” in the 1800s. In 1876, Hayden married Sallie Davis, and the couple turned their residence into a hotel, blacksmith shop, post office and general store, which formed a community known as Hayden's Ferry. The following year, the Haydens' son Carl was born in the hacienda. Carl became a sheriff, cavalry soldier and Congressman, serving more than 57 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Transcript

Narrator:
Tempe, Arizona, today is a thriving, vital community. It's hard to believe that it sprang from this humble adobe structure on the bank of the Salt River east of Phoenix, “La Casa Vieja, "the old house." It all started with the arrival of Charles Trumble Hayden just after the Civil War.

Michael Monti:
And in 1866, Charles Trumble had a contract to ship a bunch of stuff to the army up north of here. And he had been trading with the Salt River tribes, and so he consulted them to as to where there was a good place to cross the river, and they told him that right in this vicinity, there was a wide area in the river where it was shallow with a rocky bottom that you could ride across with a team of mules.

Narrator:
When Hayden reached the river, the water was too high to cross. Legend has it he climbed Tempe Butte, viewed the land, and was struck with some ideas.

Michael Monti:
He felt that if he were to place some sort of cable across the river and tether a ferry boat to it, people would pay to use that ferry boat instead of having to camp out as he did. Another opportunity that presented itself would be to divert some water from the river and use it to turn a water wheel on a flourmill.

Narrator:
Hayden did build the ferry, large enough to carry a stagecoach and horses across the river. He employed local workers to construct the flourmill and ran it with water from the river, and he built this hacienda as his home using adobe bricks, rough-cut timber, and a pueblo-style roof.

Michael Monti:
Hayden used those materials because anything manufactured or milled would have to have been brought up from as far away as Tucson, and so he had to use what was on hand here, and he used the ancient techniques of adobe and latia ceiling, the large, rough-hewn logs that they brought probably from Payson or Prescott, maybe still green, because they're bowed, and sticks laid across those and then reeds from the river, and then on top of that, over our heads right now, there's still about a foot to a foot and a half of packed earth that they used to seal that roof.

Narrator:
The street became known as Mill Avenue, the town as Hayden's Ferry, and the area began to prosper. At the age of 50, Hayden married Sallie Davis. Together they ran a blacksmith shop, post office, and other businesses. Their home became a safe harbor for weary travelers.

Michael Monti:
The Haydens had, because of the nature of their businesses -- the ferry crossing and the flourmill -- almost immediately the need to feed people and give them a place to sleep. So as early as the 1890s, you have stationery that says "Hotel Hayden."

Narrator:
The Haydens had a son, Carl, who eventually became a United States congressman and served 57 years in the U.S. House and Senate. They also had two daughters, Sallie and Mary. Mary had two sons. One of them is Hayden C. Hayden.

Hayden C. Hayden:
My uncle and my aunt and my mother were all born in La Casa Vieja, and they lived there. My grandfather had built the mill across the street to make flour from the Mormons that made it, and then he'd sell that flour to the armies.

Narrator:
By 1890, the family had moved into a new home, and this became known as "the old house," La Casa Vieja. Over the next quarter century, more structures were built, including a boarding house. The site went through many changes and eventually fell into disrepair. In 1924, the Hayden daughters restored the home, the first historic renovation in the state, and ran a teahouse. The courtyard was open then, and in it, a soothing fountain, which still stands.

Michael Monti:
A little shady retreat from the dusty streets outside and a little bubble of civilization they could create in the middle of the bustling hacienda.

Narrator:
The great depression of the 1930s forced the Haydens to sell La Casa Vieja. Over the next decade or so, the building housed several owners and various businesses until 1954, when Leonard Monti purchased the landmark and established the steakhouse still operating today. Monti preserved much of the history, like the adobe walls and the river-rock floor. Today, his son Michael runs the restaurant and has done extensive renovations to the building he grew up in.

Michael Monti:
When I was a kid, it was still not uncommon to see people riding around horses in this area, and it just occurred to me that there's an opportunity to gather and record as much of this information as possible because I find that a lot of the young people who come to work for us here and so many of the customers are very interested in knowing what life was like here before.

Hayden C. Hayden:
As far as the Casa Vieja is concerned, Hayden built it, and Leonard Monti started and made it a lot bigger, and so that legacy is there.

Narrator:
Hayden C. Hayden continued operating the family's flourmill until it closed in 1997. La Casa Vieja is the oldest continuously occupied structure in the entire Phoenix metro area. The building is on the national, state, and city historic registers. It is a slice of the past in the heart of Tempe, Arizona, and even as a restaurant, La Casa Vieja continues to house history for future generations to enjoy.