Birth of Suburbia

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Description

Searching for their own pieces of heaven, upstart builders John F. Long, John Hall and Del Webb transformed the Valley with their innovative ideas. Building an entire community, Maryvale, from the ground up, Long pioneered the idea of the master-planned community. Other innovations included the use of simple, mass production construction techniques, the widespread construction of the "ranch style" house and the beginning of the "patio lifestyle." By 1959, more houses were built in the Valley in that decade than in the previous four combined.

Transcript

Narrator:
In 1947, a newly married vet named John F. Long returned to Phoenix to find his own piece of heaven. The future developer began with a single house. John F. Long: His first home was to be our own, and I really hadn't decided what I wanted to do. But anyway, we built the home, practically all the work ourselves. We sold the home and then built the next one. That was to be our home. I think we built 12, 13 homes individually like that until -- 1949 is when I started the first subdivision.

Narrator:
Now that the automobile allowed homeowners to live farther from downtown, Phoenix didn't just spread outward. It took a giant leap.

John F. Long:
We started Maryvale in 1954, and the overall plan was to develop a community that would provide homes for young families and a place for their recreation and employment and so forth, and their shopping, all in one given area.

Narrator:
In building an entire community from the ground up, long pioneered the idea of a master-planned community.

Grady Gammage Jr.:
He hired one of the eminent planners in that era to lay out Maryvale with streets that would create neighborhoods where there would be parks that were planned in advance. In fact, he built many of those parks and then gave them to the city of Phoenix , with school sites designated in advance of where they would go in the subdivisions.

Narrator:
Building on a mass scale allowed long and other developers to experiment with ways to lower construction costs.

Marshall Trimble:
That resulted in the ranch house being sort of hit on as the prototype for how to do this. Simple construction, relatively plain house, typically one story, built on a slab, slab-on-grade construction. It could be delivered very quickly and very efficiently. 1950s radio announcer: Phoenix is world-renowned as a city of beautiful homes. This is where the home building industry was revolutionized, where new building techniques were developed, where methods were devised to give the homeowner a lot more home for a lot less cost.

Lloyd Clark:
We moved down to Maryvale, and it was a little $7,000 house out on 47th avenue and Indian School . And John F. Long had built these, God bless him, because it was the first time we could afford a house. It was the first home my father ever was able to buy. Payments were $55 a month. These were great little houses.

Narrator:
In those years, even a mansion was relatively cheap.

Marshall Trimble:
I remember when they built the first $200,000 home in the Biltmore Estates. It was a front-page story. Now $200,000 homes are normal. But it was beginning to show that real estate development was taking hold in the Valley, and it was not going to stop. I think future historians will mark in Arizona as – 1950 as really the dividing line between old Arizona and the new Arizona, with all of the changes that were coming in the '50s, and we were attracting a whole new type of people, no longer the agriculture and the mining types, but college-educated-type people coming out to work in the manufacturing industry.

Narrator:
By the mid-'50s, manufacturing replaced agriculture as the Valley's number one industry. The job market tempted even more people to move here.

John F. Long:
We were building as many as 20 houses per day. Had a real difficult time keeping up with sales. We'd sell -- there was times that we were selling 100 homes a week.

Narrator:
By 1959, more homes had been built in the valley in one decade than in the previous four combined.1950s radio announcer: A new concept of home building was born in Phoenix . Several young creative builders were responsible for this. One such builder is John Hall.

Narrator:
In Scottsdale alone, John Hall was building 100 Hallcraft homes a week, and in downtown Phoenix , Del Webb was erecting the city's first residential high-rise. A prominent feature of these new neighborhoods was... the patio.

Lloyd Clark:
About that time is -- is when family living was transferred to the backyard rather than the front yard. Homes used to have a front porch, and people sat on the front porch and watched other people and the cars go by. And then it was in the '50s then that the patio and the barbecues and so forth went to the backyard, and you'd very seldom see anyone in the front yard.

Narrator:
The patio was so popular, it spawned a new lifestyle. 1950s radio announcer: The sun-filled patio brings Arizona outdoor living into the home. This is where the family is likely to congregate for rest... recreation and relaxation. The patio serves as a symbol, too, a symbol of a way of life.