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  • Writer's pictureBob Graham

Hayden House (Monti's La Casa Vieja) - Part IV Robert T. Evans

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

The historical background to Hayden House is presented in five parts. Below is part IV. Start over at Part I - Go back to Part III

Robert T. Evans

After 1910, the C.T. Hayden Company consisted of Carl Hayden, president; Sallie D. (Sara) Hayden, vice president; and Mary Hayden McEllherren, secretary. In 1921 the Haydens divided the last remaining property, the old Hayden House at First Street and Mill Avenue. Sallie and Mary received joint title to the east half of Block 66, which included the Hayden House and the C.T. Hayden Company store, and Carl took ownership of the largely undeveloped west half of Block 66. 33 Sallie Hayden had returned to Tempe to teach at the Tempe Normal School, and the Hayden sisters decided to do something with the decrepit old adobe complex. The flour mill had been destroyed by fire in 1917, and a modern concrete building had been built to replace it. The Hayden House and the store, across the street from the new Hayden Flour Mill, were the only remaining reminders of their father’s sprawling estate at Hayden’s Ferry, but they had sat unmaintained and deteriorating for the past 10 years.

La Casa Vieja entry to zaguan, c.1925

The Hayden sisters announced their plans for repairing the house and converting it into apartments. The old Hayden store at the south end of the house was razed, and a new store was to be built on the northwest corner of the block, at First Street and Maple Avenue. However, three years later, the Hayden Apartments, also known as the Hayden House, was not a successful venture. In 1924 the Hayden sisters planned a complete restoration of the old house to take it back to its original Sonoran style adobe design. They hired Robert T. Evans to manage the project, and Sallie, Mary, and Mary’s husband, Larry McEllherren, mortgaged the property for a $5,000 loan from Fidelity Building and Loan Association to cover the cost of remodeling the Hayden House.

Robert T. Evans, an engineer and architect, came to Arizona in 1923 to visit his mother, renowned landscape artist Jessie Benton Evans. He had received an engineering degree from Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago and studied architecture at the University of Freiberg in Germany. His mother owned a large tract of desert land on the south slope of Camelback Mountain and offered a 12-acre parcel to her son if he chose to stay. Robert Evans decided to stay and went on to establish a notable career in central Arizona, where he became known for his design and construc- tion of modern homes using adobe as the primary building material. His first project in Arizona was in 1924, when the Hayden sisters hired him to restore the Charles Hayden House.

La Casa Vieja, c.1925 (Tempe Historical Museum)

The old adobe building had never had an apparent final design; it had been constantly built onto and altered over a period of 20 years, with its evolution based more on the pragmatic needs of the Hayden family. There are no known accounts of the work done in 1924 as it progressed, but it appears to have been completed fairly quickly. Evans removed the upper story and numerous incompatible additions, leaving a smaller L-shaped structure consisting of the earliest adobe walls. Exterior walls were refinished with plaster. The original courtyard was preserved, with adobe walls on the south and west that were either restored or rebuilt. There is no documentation of what features were preserved or what elements might have been reconstructed or designed by Evans, but the old house was presumably restored back to its 1880s form and appearance. However, James H. McClintock, a Phoenix pioneer and official state historian, had visited Charles Hayden during that period, and after completion of the work he commented that the elegantly finished structure exhibited “Spanish and Mexican touches the old house never knew.” The Hayden House was more than 50 years old at the time, and this was the first restoration of a historic building in Arizona.

It appears that this particular project inspired Robert T. Evans and influenced his later career. He established the Evans Construction Company, which worked strictly with adobe construction. He designed and built the Jokake Tea House near Scottsdale in 1926, and over the following years added guest rooms and the distinctive bell towers that created the iconic entrance of the Jokake Inn (now on the grounds of the Phoenician Resort). In the 1920s and 1930s he designed and built several impressive adobe homes in the Pueblo Revival style in the Arcadia area near Camelback Mountain, and the Rose Eisendrath House north of Tempe. Most of his houses were large high-style residences, but in 1935 he built modest adobe homes in the Subsistence Homesteads tract in Phoenix for the Federal Resettlement Administration. These Pueblo Revival-style houses were built at cost of only $2,000 each and now make up a large part of the Phoenix Homesteads Historic District.


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