Tempe Beach Stadium / Ash Avenue Bridge Abutment

TEMPE BEACH STADIUM

Survey Number: HPS-190
Year Built: 1934
Architectural Style: Cobblestone

THEME / CONTEXT
This complex is associated with the context of Community Planning and Development. It falls under the theme of Recreation - community building.

HISTORIC ASSOCIATION
The two recreation buildings are significant as unique examples of cantilevered hyperbolic-paraboloid concrete roof construction in the Salt River Valley. These pavilions were added to the Tempe Beach Park as another amenity of recreation facilities for the Tempe community.

ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION
These buildings were constructed to offer even more community services to the citizens of Tempe. They enhanced the already existing Tempe Beach Park facilities which originally opened in 1937 and were constructed with WPA funds. Today, these buildings continue to play an important part in the community.

SUMMARY
Tempe Beach Stadium is significant for its association with the historical development of Tempe’s first recreation park. A large public pool was constructed under the direction of Niels Stolberg [who was also associated with properties HPS-218, HPS-219, and HPS-220] in 1923 on the north side of First Street west of Mill Avenue. In 1927, the city acquired the property from the pool west to the highway at Ash and a band stand was erected using cobblestones. In 1928, a baseball field was laid out in that are to the west. With the construction of the Mill Avenue Bridge [HPS-226], 1929-1931, development of the park continued to shift to the west. In 1934, the Tempe Beach committee, headed by Garfield Goodwin, began construction of a cobblestone wall around the entire park and the development of the stadium bleachers. This use of cobblestones is unique and once extended to all of the park structure. With construction of a new swimming pool in the 1960s, much of this cobblestone work was lost.

This terraced bleacher is built of river cobbles and has concrete benches faced with cobbles. Low walls surrounding the stadium are of cobbles with concrete caps. The front wall is divided into bays by cobble pilasters. The stadium bleachers face east, being constructed into the embankment of the former highway bridge approach.

SOURCES
Chain of Title; Chicago Tribune, 12/26/36; Chicago Historical Society Archives; Interview: Ed Curry 11/22/82; Maricopa County Recorder's Office; Who's Who in Arizona, Gertrude Leeper + Maude House, edgs. 1938; Arizona's Men of Achievement, Volume 1, Paul Pollock, 1958

ASH AVENUE BRIDGE ABUTMENT

Survey Number: HPS-227
Location: Demolished, remnant at Salt River / Ash Avenue
Year Built: 1913
Architectural Style: Reinforced Concrete Arched Bridge

SUMMARY
The Tempe State Bridge, better known as the Ash Avenue Bridge, was the first major highway bridge crossing the Salt River. When construction began in 1911, labor was provided by prisoners from the Arizona Territorial Prison in Florence. The bridge was completed in 1913. It provided the first dependable crossing between Phoenix and Tempe and Mesa for wagons and automobiles. Unfortunately, the bridge was obsolete by the time it opened. It had been designed more for wagons than for automobiles, and it was too narrow to carry two lanes of traffic. In 1916, a flood weakened one of the supporting arches and seriously damaged the bridge. After the Arizona Highway Department built a new bridge [Mill Avenue Bridge] in 1931, the Ash Avenue Bridge was no longer used.

The Tempe Concrete Arch Highway Bridge was an 11-span reinforced concrete open spandrel rib arch bridge that crossed the Salt River at Tempe. The design for the Tempe bridge employed ten piers anchored to the bedrock below the streambed. Every third pier was constructed on a solid bottom concrete abutment type. The intermediate piers were anchored on two concrete filled steel cylinders six feet in diameter driven into the bedrock. There were ten 125-foot long open spandrel rib arches and each consisted of two three-hinged segmented arch ribs placed 13 ft. on center. The reinforced concrete deck was carried by 12-inch by 12-inch concrete spandrel columns placed 11 feet on center and connected at the top by semicircular spandrel arches. On the exterior side of the spandrel columns were semi-spandrel arch brackets cantilevered out from the columns to carry the curb and desk balustrades. It was designed to carry a 15-ton tractor engine and a live load of 100 pounds per square foot.

The Tempe Concrete Arch Highway Bridge, built 1911-1913, was the oldest surviving multiple arch concrete bridge in Arizona. It was also significant as one of the first major bridges built by the Territory of Arizona and as the first large highway bridge across the Salt River. As the first automobile bridge between Phoenix and Tempe, this structure provided a vital link between Phoenix and communities to the south. It was also significant in the development of Tempe during its two decades of service as a major highway route across the river.

In 1909, the State of Arizona began to develop a north-south highway system and the need for a bridge at the Salt River became apparent. That year, the Territorial Legislature appropriated funds for the construction of a highway bridge at Tempe. Preliminary work began in the spring of 1911 on an alignment approximately 500 feet east of the 1905 Arizona Eastern Railroad Bridge. When construction began in 1911, labor was provided by prisoners from the Arizona Territorial Prison at Florence. Although convict labor had been used on earlier projects, this bridge is one of the last remaining examples of construction accomplished under that system. Although Roosevelt Dam was completed in 1911, flooding of the Salt River was still a fairly common experience, and periodic repairs [1916, 1920,and 1925] were necessary to maintain safe conditions on the bridge. By the late 1920s, automobiles became wider, heavier, and more numerous, stressing the structure beyond its design limits. In 1928 the Arizona Highway Department recommended the construction of a new river crossing and in 1931, when the new structure [HPS-226, Mill Avenue Bridge] was complete, the 1911 bridge was closed to all but pedestrian traffic.

The Ash Avenue Bridge was demolished in 1991 because it would have cost too much to repair the structural damage that it had suffered. Only a segment of the bridge at the south abutment was saved. The current listing on the National Register should be amended to redefine it as a standing ruin.