Nestled in the very heart of urban Phoenix, Willo was once the epitome of suburbia – a collection of subdivisions on the outskirts of the small, but thriving metropolis of Phoenix. The Willo neighborhood between 7th and Central Avenues can be divided into two sections. J. P. Holcomb used a Homestead Patent in 1878 to acquire and settle the southern portion of Willo between Encanto Blvd. and McDowell. Mr. Holcomb acquired the northern portion, between Thomas Rd. and Encanto Blvd. in 1886 through a Timber Culture Land Patent.
For the next 20 years or so, the land was primarily for agricultural purposes and lay on the outskirts of town. In the early 1900’s, four subdivisions were platted, containing home sites with long narrow lots. In the early 1920s, Home Builders, a residential construction firm, built 41 homes in the Bungalow style. During the mid to late 1920s Phoenix, like the rest of the West, experienced tremendous growth and a building boom.
Standards were set for residential construction, and “exhibition houses” (now called model homes) were developed to market the new construction. Most of the building activity in Willo during this period occurred in the N. Kenilworth and Broadmoor subdivisions, and included a “Spanish Rancho Home” exhibition house.
During the 1930’s the Period Revival movement brought tremendous variety in architectural styles, including Tudor Revival, Greek Revival, American Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival and Pueblo Revival. However, the Depression brought construction to a near standstill.
The mid to late 1930s and the development of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) brought construction back to Willo. Construction from this period and later years often featured French Provincial and Monterey styles, with an architectural design that would eventually become what we know today as the Ranch Style house. Construction was also more standardized due to the influence of the FHA and other government-imposed standards. Most of these newer homes are found in the northern section of Willo.
Our Historic Past and Bright Future
In all, 22 separate subdivisions were platted and developed in Willo by various entrepreneurs from the turn of the century up to the beginning of WWII. Eventually, with the growth of Phoenix over the last century, the individual subdivisions platted by early developers were forgotten and the area blended into one cohesive whole. Unfortunately, the amazing growth of the city resulted in the encroachment of commercial development on what were once quiet suburbs. In the 1980s, residents of Willo successfully lobbied for status as a special conservation district, achieving historic status and assuring that this beautiful part of Phoenix history will be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.