Douglass / Gitlis Residence

 

 

Survey Number: HPS-345
Year Built: 1935
Architectural Style: Early Ranch


BACKGROUND + STATUS:
The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence is significant as one of the earliest examples of frame ranch style houses in Tempe. A rare example of the early use of wood frame construction in the Ranch style, where houses were typically constructed of masonry materials, this property survives as a best example of its type and provides a positive contribution to the historic Park Tract streetscape. Research in this report develops the significance of the property in the context of Residential Architecture in Tempe, Arizona 1935, and other relevant historic contexts.

LOCATION:
The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence was built in a peak construction year in the Park Tract subdivision. Located at the southern extent of the original Townsite, Park Tract was subdivided in 1924, when Tempe had been experiencing a housing shortage for some time. The subdivision was designed to provide comfortable and modern family housing to meet a pent up demand. Similarly, the Early Ranch style house was designed to helped fulfill requirements for affordable and efficient housing.

Park Tract Subdivision is identified as a Cultural Resource Area in Tempe General Plan 2030. These areas are considered culturally significant to the character of Tempe and General Plan 2030 states that it is desirable to maintain the character of these areas. General Plan 2030 further states that the underlying zoning in place at the time the plan was adopted should remain as the highest appropriate density for Cultural Resource Areas. Accordingly, Cultural Resource Areas are indicated on the GP2030 Projected Land Use Map with the density of the zoning in place at the time the plan was adopted on December 4, 2003. The subdivision of Park Tract predated adoption of a zoning ordinance by the Tempe Town Council. This property is zoned R-3R: Multi-Family Residential (height) Restricted.

The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence is located on Lot 7 of Block 7 of the Park Tract Subdivision. Block 7 is actually a half-block forming the western edge of the subdivision. Lying between Ash Avenue and the right-of-way for the Union Pacific Railroad, the fragile western edge of Park Tract consists of unusually deep lots, many of which have been tied together and redeveloped resulting in sporadic loss of integrity at the historic neighborhood edge. Lot 7 is at the western edge of Park Tract located west of Ash Avenue approximately midblock.

CONDITION:
The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence has been meticulously maintained. The historic front façade has been carefully preserved and remains intact. In addition, the historic flood irrigated landscape is thoughtfully tended and the property makes a positive contribution to the streetscape of the Historic Park Tract subdivision. Changes made to the property are visible on the exterior at the south and west (rear) elevations. Additions have been sensitively designed and skillfully executed and achieve a comfortable balance of differentiation from, and compatibility with, the historic form and fabric of the historic Early Ranch style house.

AGE:
The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence is in the ninety-ninth percentile (n = 149/53,665 = 99.9972) of Tempe properties in terms of age. HPO records indicate 52 extant properties date to 1935 (100 percent more than the number of properties in any single prior year of the 64 years for which records exist). Significantly, 1935 marked the first occurrence of the Early Ranch as a residential style in Tempe. The Douglass/Gitlis Residence is one of only two wood-frame Early Ranch style residences believed by the Tempe Historic Preservation Office to survive from 1935. Based on data from Tempe HPO files corroborated by Maricopa County Assessor’s Office data, 160 Tempe standing properties are believed to predate the historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence having year-built dates of 1934 or earlier. Statistically, this property is in the top 99.9% of all Tempe properties in terms of age and therefore can only be considered to survive as a rare example of early residential construction in Tempe.

SIGNIFICANCE:
The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence is considered to survive as a significant representative – or a “rare example” of a once common type – the wood frame Early Ranch style house. Ranch style residences became ubiquitous throughout the American Southwest in the era following World War II. The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence, however, was constructed a decade before the style became widely popular. The property is significant as one of the two earliest frame Early Ranch style houses in Tempe, and it is by far the best remaining example.

Built in 1935, the house exemplifies characteristic features of the early form which combined elements of both past and future eras. The small box-like house has the characteristic L-shaped plan with a low pitched gable end asphalt shingle roof, raised wood floor with crawlspace, covered front porch with no carport, rectangular window openings with steel casement windows divided to emphasize the horizontal dimension, and wood siding and gable ends. Typical of the type, ornamental detailing is minimal and limited to scalloped gable end siding and grouped porch posts. Also true to the type, stylistic treatment of materials and details occurs evenly on all sides of the building. The public faces of the property have changed little from their original configuration when this Early Ranch style house first made an important addition to the neighborhood. The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence continues to convey the architectural qualities of design, workmanship, materials, and feeling.

INTEGRITY:
Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance. To be listed in the Tempe Historic Property Register, a property must be significant under ordinance criteria and it must also possess sufficient integrity to communicate its significance to persons familiar with the property or to the community at large. The integrity of a property is evaluated according to aspects which must be present in different combinations depending on the criteria from which historic significance is derived. For the case at hand, a building derives significance because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type of construction. Accordingly, (under Criterion C) the property must maintain integrity of design, workmanship, materials, and feeling in order to convey its significance. As seen in the following discussion, the property exceeds this minimum requirement and retains more than adequate integrity to qualify for designation and listing.

Location – This property exists in its original location. The Park Tract Subdivision encompasses a collection of historic resources directly associated with the early growth and development of Tempe and the Salt River Valley. The evolution of Tempe over the past 138 years holds national, state, and local significance for its important role in the development of the Salt River Valley as a center of commerce and education, as a critical link in the transportation networks during settlement of the Territory, and for its associations with important political figures. Tempe’s unique heritage is exemplified in its significant residential architecture and infrastructure. These exist today at the subject property and throughout the Park Tract Subdivision as manifestations of those Arizona pioneers who transformed the desert environment of the Salt River Valley into a community of enduring consequence and unequalled character unique in Arizona.

Sited prominently at the middle of the 1100 block of South Ash Avenue, the historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence occupies land that was included in the boundaries of the Original Tempe Townsite in 1894. Although not subdivided until thirty years later, the Park Tract subdivision was never annexed into the corporate limits of Tempe – rather uniquely, it was an integral part of the community from the onset. Today, the south portion of the Original Townsite, the historic Park Tract Subdivision is a busy and vibrant residential neighborhood. The City is currently experimenting with various traffic-calming features in the right-of-way however the clear and present landmark status of Tempe’s oldest residential neighborhood, the Maple Ash Neighborhood, retains its historic identity throughout the community and beyond.

Design – Design is the composition of elements that constitute the form, plan, space, structure, and style of a property. Because properties change through time, changes may acquire significance in their own right and changes do not necessarily constitute a loss of design integrity. Although additions have been made to the side and rear of the historic house, the property maintains the original spatial relationships between major features; visual rhythms; layout and materials; and the relationship of other features as originally constructed and developed. Design aspects typifying the Early Ranch style are present in abundance and continue to maintain this aspect of integrity.

Setting – Setting is the physical environment of an historic property that illustrates the character of the place. Although integrity of setting is not a condition precedent to designation in this case, the property nevertheless retains connections to the physical environment of its surroundings. Original relationships of buildings and structures to the streetscape and landscape; layout and materials of alleyways, walks; and the features of flood irrigation and other infrastructure exist with their integrity intact.

Materials – A property must retain key exterior materials dating from the period of its historic significance. Integrity of materials determines whether or not an authentic historic resource still exists. The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence retains key physical elements as they were originally configured to reveal the preferences, to indicate the availability of particular types of materials, and to exemplify technologies characteristic of the Early Ranch style house form Wood frame construction and siding distinguish the property as these materials were, relatively speaking, quite rare.

Workmanship – Workmanship is the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular culture or people during any given period of history. Workmanship is important because it can furnish evidence of the technology of the craft, illustrate the aesthetic principles of an historic period, and reveal individual, local, regional, or national applications of both technological practices and aesthetic principles. This property conveys physical evidence of the crafts attendant upon the frame construction form of the Early Ranch style house in the 1930s American Southwest.

Feeling – Feeling is a property's expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of a particular period of time. This property expresses an aesthetic sense of its prewar period of significance. The physical features of the property, taken together, are sufficiently intact to convey their significance to someone familiar with the original property as well as to persons throughout the community to whom the property distinguishes itself as historic. Retention and good maintenance of original design, materials, workmanship, and setting as described above is sufficient to create a discernable sense of place or feeling at the historic property.

Association – Association is the direct link between an important historic event or person and a historic property. Although integrity of association is not a condition precedent to designation in this case, this property nonetheless maintains direct links between important events in community history and is emblematic of consecutive waves of suburbanization outward from the original settlement at the Salt River. Now standing as an anchor at the edge of the historic 1924 Park Tract subdivision, the historic property continues to clearly mark the last wave of pre-war development that radiated in bands within the core of the original Townsite.

CONCLUSION:
Careful evaluation of integrity has been made to inform an opinion of eligibility based on guidance provided in National Register Bulletin 15 “How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation”. Bulletin 15 states the older or more rare a property has become, the less integrity must be present for eligibility.

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation provide a framework for evaluating the effects of changes on the integrity of a property. The Standards for Rehabilitation define Rehabilitation as "the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.

Finally, we are fortunate to also have policy available from the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office that addresses continued eligibility of a property in consideration of changes in integrity over time. As directed by the commission, staff is prepared to develop detailed evaluations of property integrity using criteria provided in each of these instruments so as to establish a finding of integrity in greater detail.

REASONS FOR APPROVAL:
A basis for historic designation and listing in the Tempe Historic Property Register is provided by Tempe City Code Section 14A-4(a)(1) – Designation of landmarks, historic properties and historic districts: the following criteria are established for designation of an individual property, building, structure or archeological site: It meets the criteria for listing on the Arizona or national register of historic places.
Tempe Historic Preservation Ordinance language agrees with National Register of Historic Places eligibility criteria C which states – “The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:’

C. “That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.”

The historic 1935 Douglass/Gitlis Residence is significant as one of the earliest and best remaining examples of wood frame Early Ranch style houses in Tempe. The property embodies the distinctive characteristics of the historically significant Early Ranch style of residential construction that would go on to become widely popular roughly ten years after this house was built and remain so for decades thereafter. This property is considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C, at the Local level of significance as one of two of the first frame Early Ranch style houses constructed in Tempe, and it is by far the best remaining example.

CONDITIONS OF APPROVAL:
1. The detached dwelling units located at the rear of the property are non-contributing features of the property because they were constructed after the period of significance (1935) and therefore are not subject to future design review by Tempe Historic Preservation.

RESOURCES

Letter Receipt of Nomination : : 11/13/09 HPO to Applicant with links to relevant websites

Research Report to Historic Preservation Commission : : 12/10/09 Neighborhood Meeting at HPC 

Staff Summary Report to Historic Preservation Commission : : 01/14/10 Public Hearing at HPC

Supplemental Research Regarding Property Changes : : 01/14/10 Public Hearing at HPC

Staff Report to Development Review Commission : : 02/09/10 Public Hearing at DRC 

Staff Report to City Council : : 03/04/10 Public Hearing at CC 

Staff Report to City Council : : 03/25/10 Public Hearing at CC

ORDINANCE NO. 2009.41

Arizona SHPO Policy Recommendations Of Eligibility : : 05/1992 

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation - Number 9 : : 01/2010