Vanishing Phoenix and Downtown Fox Theatre: Phoenix, Arizona

Robert Melikian, owner of the San Carlos Hotel, offered a presentation yesterday of his new book Vanishing Phoenix. The talk, hosted by the City of Phoenix, gathered a standing room only crowd as Melikian took us on a tour of great buildings and homes lost over the years.

Rob’s talk was an amazing history lesson and it was very sad. Many epic places are gone forever and some of what replaced them is anomic.

fox Theater

The Fox Theater

For me, the most awful loss is the Fox Theater once located on the SE corner of Washington and 2nd Street in downtown Phoenix. The Fox Theater was built in the early 1930’s and featured an Art Deco design by famed theater architect S. Charles Lee.

Most experts suggest the Fox Theater Phoenix was Lee’s most outstanding work… no small statement when you look at the breadth of his achievements. Below is an excerpt from Cinema Treasures that describes some of the interior:

A special feature in its lobby was the row of streetlights alongside the staircase, topped with glass disks and spun in silver globes on the end of 15-foot uprights, outlined by the delicate filigree of the metal railing.
In the auditorium, a metallic sunburst spread across the ceiling from the radiating acoustic frames of the proscenium arch. The organ grills were silver leafed with gold highlights. 0n the side wall an archer takes aim at a gazelle, while birds fly overhead.

fox theater 3 If you talk to some long-term-Phoenix native you’ll hear many stories about an evening out at the Fox Theater. It was the first building to have air-conditioning and they would let people put their groceries in the refrigerators while they watched a film.

Phoenix Economic Downturn

Alas, the economic downturn of the downtown Phoenix region and competition from new theaters like the Cine Capri cast a large shadow on the Fox Theater economically. In its later years it was home to a variety of retail shops and home to Dr. Please, a well known dentist.

Fox theater Now copy The Fox Theater met its demise in 1975 when the City purchased the building and land to make room for a city bus terminal. Is that sad or what? To add insult to injury, the bus terminal didn’t survive as the property that once housed one of America’s great theaters is now a parking lot.

We are working on obtaining rights to show more pictures of the Fox Theater and will post these when and if that comes about.

In the meantime, we highly recommend you pick up a copy of Vanishing Phoenix. You can buy an autographed copy at the San Carlos Hotel or at booksellers around the valley and online. You find lots more information about the Fox Theater as well as numerous other grand buildings and homes that have vanished from downtown Phoenix.

Gene Urban and Ron Urban
The Urban Connection Team
connecting people to the perfect space


  1. The Downtown Phoenix Fox Theater: As a child I remember going to this theater to watch Disney and other movies! Watching the Disney movies in this theater was enhanced, magically, by the surrounding building environment that was this incredibly beautiful theater!

    To have had the opportunity to see the slides of this thater this past Wednesday, at the “Vanishing Phoenix” luncheon lecture, was to experience that building once again!

    Incredible, what impact such buildings have on those who once marveled and were in awe while walking though it’s interior spaces!

    This building was unique and irreplaceable.

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