Guest Commentary

History: How a horse track nearly came to Paradise Valley

A piece of history from town committee

Posted 5/4/21

Welcome to the third in a series of articles authored by committee members of the Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, …

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Guest Commentary

History: How a horse track nearly came to Paradise Valley

A piece of history from town committee

Posted

Welcome to the third in a series of articles authored by committee members of the Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, “Establish, compile, archive and maintain a historical record of the Town of Paradise Valley and produce appropriate literature to commemorate the town’s major anniversary dates.”

In keeping with this mission, a series of articles are being compiled to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Paradise Valley. Join us for a family celebration on Sunday, Oct. 17 at the Camelback Inn.

This excerpt from an interview with former Mayor Barbara VonAmmon was recorded April 28, 1997. Barbara and her husband, Philip were longtime town residents. Philip served on Town Council from 1964 to 1970. Barbara served on Council from 1972 to 1973 and mayor from 1975 to 1980.

“We moved here in 1951 from Winnetka, Illinois. We arrived Labor Day weekend in September. Now it’s Doubletree Ranch Road. When Doubletree was built, it cut our 20 acres in half. We lived very quietly, had a 10-party phone line which nobody could call in, but we could call out for a long time. My good friend, Liz, lived a quarter of a mile away, in one of those four houses, and if my family called from Chicago, she would get into her car and drive over and tell us to pick up the phone and talk with them.”

“Our dreams about avoiding zoning problems that we had in Winnetka died fast when Wes Finch came by on his horse one day, our neighbor on the right side. He said, ‘I understand we’re going to have a racetrack between Tatum and Scottsdale Road, north of Doubletree.’ Right in our backyard. We balked and said you can’t fight gambling and politics, and politics were involved. We found out that a Commissioner was interested. They were going around telling people that their property values would increase, the roads would get paved, and so on. We gathered together and we beat them. Phil went out to Taliesin and talked with Frank Lloyd Wright and showed him the plans which were modern Spanish. Frank Lloyd Wright said there is no such thing as modern Spanish. He made a statement.”

“Old Mrs. Miller, from Miller High Life Beer, they had a house off Tatum to the west. She went around with her chauffeur and talked to people. She worked like a trooper to beat it. We are very happy about that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody talk about that. I can’t remember exactly what year that was, but it was prior to the incorporation of the town, before 1961. That was one of the reasons it became clear to us that we wanted to incorporate. Phoenix was making plans for what they call Village Centers. Smitty’s grocery on the corner of Tatum and Shea was supposed to be a convenience store in the village plan. Things like that were happening. We spent endless time going to county zoning hearings and fighting.”

Note: In 1954, Phoenix businessman Walter Cluer purchased 1,400 acres of barren desert which is now 19th Avenue & Bell Road, home of Turf Paradise.

The interview with Barbara VonAmmon in its entirety can be found on the town's website here. 

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted on behalf of the Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

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