Sep/Oct 2020

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$5.99 Sep-Oct 2020 Serving Contracting Firms and the Arizona Community. . . Then & Now

B.L. Gustafson: Arizona’s prolific Road Builder McArthur’s Arizona Biltmore: the Jewel of the Desert Concrete Does Float: The U.S. Navy’s WWII Fleet Five Best Tech Opportunities for Construction Rushia Fellows, AIA: Courageous Community Leader

Arizona’s Timeless Magazine

The Inside Track On Central Phoenix’s Murphy Bridle Path

Porter & andy Womack: Brothers & Mid-Century Contractors

Solterra Materials: Solid as Granite

CHASSE Updates Valley Schools

Overlooked Environmental Hazard Halts $12 Million Project

Johnson Carlier Talks COVID-19

Ground Level Takes Down Terminal 2


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Production Manager Laura Horner A hottub... coming fall 2020 Publisher’s Representative Trail running Barry Warner shoes In Memoriam Charles “Chuck” Runbeck 1928 - 2020 Advertising 602-931-0069 Subscriptions: Online at Serving Contracting Firms and the Arizona Community… Then & Now Arizona Contractor & Community (ACC) magazine is published bi-monthly (Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/June, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec). ACC is a professional publication designed for the contracting industry, engineers, architects, equipment rentals, suppliers, and others interested in Arizona and its history. Content including text, photographs or illustrations may not be reproduced without the written permission from the publisher. The publisher does not assume responsibility for unsolicited submissions. ACC reserves the right to reject any editorial and advertising material and reserves the right to edit all submitted content material. Arizona Contractor & Community Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved.


Sep-Oct 2020




Arizona Contractor & Community

Contents 8 10





480-641-3500 480-641-3500 480-641-3500







Contributors - Michael Bernstein & Tom Pickrell From The Editor - Concrete Does Float Douglas Towne Construction Around Arizona: Projects • People • Practices Back When - Contractors Clean Up Douglas Towne B.L. Gustafson: Adept with Horses and Horsepower Douglas Towne Albert Chase McArthur’s Arizona Biltmore: The Jewel of the Desert - James Logan Abell, FAIA Porter “P.W.” Womack: Powerhouse Constructor in Phoenix - and Beyond - Tom Pickrell

Andy Womack: the Rodeo Clown Who Helped Build Phoenix - Tom Pickrell


Building on the Past - 1948: Equestrian Promenade



Architect’s Perspective - Rushia Glen Fellows, AIA: Courageous Community Leader - Doug Sydnor, FAIA

Digging Through the Archives - Joe Roybal William Horner


Bid Results


Advertising Index

Front Cover - A Valley Bank groundbreaking ceremony with bank president Walter Bimson sitting on the tractor and Porter Womack second from left, 1955. Inset - Ad for Andy Womack’s biggest subdivision, Stardust Skies. six

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Contributors P R I N T | PA C K A G I N G | M A I L I N G | F U L F I L L M E N T E C O - F R I E N D LY S O L U T I O N S

O 602 254 2427 F 602 258 1076 2 0 2 0 N 2 2 N D AV E P H O E N I X A Z 8 5 0 0 9 W W W. L I T H O T E C H A Z . C O M






Michael Bernstein Article on page 29

Tom Pickrell Articles on pages 42 & 46



ike Bernstein has semi-retired from the environmental consulting industry after a 34-year career editing reports, performing Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, peer-reviewing other consultants’ Phase I reports, training young staff, and conducting asbestos building surveys. Understanding that he is only their temporary custodian, and mindful of his responsibility for having disturbed these natural treasures by removing them from their resting places, Mike hopes that the offer to donate his New Jersey fossil collection to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will have been accepted by the time this issue of Arizona Contractor & Community is published. In 1985, he donated to the New Jersey State Museum the sea-turtle bones he found at the 1858 site of the world’s first dinosaur excavation in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Mike also hopes to become a dual national and spend some time in Berlin next year, pending approval of his application for German citizenship (Germany’s gesture of compensation for his mother’s flight in 1939 and the loss of her citizenship in 1941). Otherwise, Mike is still working part time, looking for local volunteer work, and frequently going out for breakfast. And to those Arizona retirees with age-related cataracts, Mike says that lens-replacement surgery instantly restored the clarity of his vision and his color perception. He highly recommends the surgery!

om Pickrell has deep Arizona roots through his paternal and maternal grandfathers, W.S. Pickrell and P.W. Womack, who grew up in Phoenix when Arizona was a territory. Stories told by his elders and his parents’ insistence that their children see the State’s treasures before venturing further kindled his interest in exploring Arizona. By chance, did you stay at the historic Hotel Morenci before it was demolished to expand the copper pit? A young Tom and his family did! He is known to walk excessively, having hiked across the Grand Canyon 10 times and summited Mount Rainer, Hood, and Whitney. Tom’s knees are now sore. Now, he is more avidly a photographer and can be seen walking or limping around in your town or on a trail, early in the morning, camera in hand, occasionally looking distracted by his surroundings. Images from his wanderings are at Tom is a retired lawyer. He studied at the University of Arizona and the University of Leeds, England, and received his J.D. from Duke University. As general counsel for the Arizona School Boards Association and, later, Mesa Public Schools, he was involved in law and policy matters affecting public education for more than 30 years. He received the State Bar Association’s Public Lawyer Career Achievement Award in 2013.

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s much fun as it is putting together Arizona Contractor & Community magazine every other month, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the publication. Travel these days during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge, but it wasn’t last fall when I sailed across Chesapeake Bay on a sailboat named Sirenian skippered by Mike Hollsten, an old friend from high school. Our initial crossing from Fort Monroe to Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore was in what he termed “lumpy” waters, which at one point had me almost turning green. Sailing past mammoth container

From the editor: Concrete Does Float Douglas Towne ships, and with dolphins frolicking along- Shore to create a breakwater for the new side the boat, I mistakenly thought I was as ferry dock in 1949. The ferry initially linked far away from the magazine as I could be. Virginia Beach to Cape Charles starting in On the return voyage, Mike wondered the 1930s. The 85-minute trip across the if my wife and I would like to visit a former Chesapeake, however, was shortened by ferry terminus protected by some sunken 20 minutes with the new ferry terminus vessels that were constructed at Kiptopeke. Local lore sugwith an unusual shipbuilding These concrete ships gests the unusual vessels material: concrete. In a flash, as sites for clandesonce sailed the South doubled I was back into editor mode. tine parties back in the day. These vessels were built Pacific and participated The Kiptopeke ferry landduring World War II using in the D-Day invasion ing operated until the Chesferrocement, which used layapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel ers of wire and rebar mesh in concrete for opened in 1964. cohesion and to prevent cracks. The U.S. These concrete ships, which once Maritime Commission contracted for 24 sailed the South Pacific and participated in of these ships to transport supplies and the D-Day invasion, continue to be more troops, because of wartime steel short- than a fascinating historical footnote. Half ages. The vessels were named after con- submerged, they protect the beach at Kipcrete scientists and developers and built topeke State Park. Their slowly corroding by McClosky & Company in Tampa, Florida. hulls provide invaluable wildlife habitat for The shipyard quickly constructed the ships, shellfish and fish, and for birds such as corthough the process was labor-intensive. morants, gulls, osprey, and brown pelicans The vessels proved seaworthy, but high that nest among the plants that have operating costs and a sluggish 7-knot speed sprouted on their decks. Moreover, their influenced their relegation to surplus ingenuity proves concrete’s buoyancy, and after the war. also adds a little lift to our lives. Nine of the concrete ships Top: Concrete ships at Kiptopeke breakwater. were brought to Far left: Maureen Towne aboard the Sirenian, the Chesapeake being passed by the bulk carrier SBI Tango. and sunk in an Left: A bottlenose dolphin alongside the arc off Kiptopeke Sirenian. Below: Concrete ships at Kiptopeke on the Eastern

Images courtesy of Author



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The 992 Caterpillar loader dumping part of the 30,000 yards of Terminal 2 concrete debris.

Gateway to the Skies for 58 Years Comes Down at Sky Harbor


he jet age arrived in Phoenix in 1962 with the opening of Terminal 2 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. However, the 330,000-square-foot terminal with 19 gates hasn’t kept up with advances in flight transportation and closed on February 4, 2020. Demolishing the terminal was a project handled by The Ground Level Co., a

family-owned and operated firm based in Mesa. The midcentury structure, however, didn’t come down without a struggle. “The concrete apron surrounding the terminal proved difficult because some areas were extremely strong and thick,” says Lincoln Johansen, Ground Level supervisor. “Others were soft and easily broken up.” Johansen explained that the hard areas were sections that were replaced over the years. The area had been excavated and had slurry poured in to stabilize the soft soil. “The concrete was poured on

top of this slurry even thicker than before.” “We were able to crush the concrete by dropping 10,000-pound steel shafts with Caterpillar 385 excavators,” he adds. “Once broken, the concrete was piled up with excavators. The 992 Caterpillar loader would scoop and transfer to the designated area for crushing and recycling.” According to Johansen, the 992 has several rebuilds of all its components and is still going strong at 55,000 hours. “The 992 is a beast, and we purchased it as a retired mining machine,” he says. “It’s not one that Arizona Contractor & Community


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Top left: Layne operating the 992 loader moving asphalt millings. Top right: Cat 385 excavator removing concrete debris at Terminal 2. Below: A T-Panel prestressed con­crete roof girder, later installed at Termi­nal 2, was cast at the Arizona Sand & Rock Co. plant at Seventh St. and the Salt River, and transported by the Reliance Truck Co., 1961. Right: The Phoenix created for Terminal 2 by Paul Coze, 1962. Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

ayne Johansen and his wife, Margaret, started The Ground Level Co. with only a dump truck and a single cat 225 excavator in Salt Lake City in 1980. Layne deduced that running the excavator made better money and sold the dump truck. He quickly grew his skillset with this machine and prospered until a recession in the late 1980s. His next job was in Arizona, excavating foundations for the I-10 freeway in Phoenix, just east the I-17 stack. The 300 support columns were all dug out first by Layne with this excavator to install drilled shafts. After 20 years of using 225, Layne expanded his fleet and business, including having his sons, Lincoln and Casidy, join him in the business. The company now has 19 CAT excavators ranging from 5130 to 300.9, five semi-trucks, multiple trailers, transport trailers to move equipment, and two loaders. But the 992 loader remains Layne’s favorite piece of machinery. “It’s a feather in his cap every time he gets to run it, as the machine reminds him of where his company is now compared to his humble beginning of a single excavator for decades,” Lincoln says. At age 68, Layne still is focused on his business, working with his employees. “He is a champion of this industry, and everyone that knows him knows they will get 100 percent no matter what,” Lincoln says.

stout. Terminal 2 was renovated many times over the years, so during the demo, there were multiple different buildings,” Johansen says. “The original concrete building was built around with heavy steel beams to bridge over and expand on top of.” Ground Level was a sub-contractor to BCS Enterprises, Inc of Mesa, which was a sub-contractor to Kiewit Western Co. of Phoenix. “BCS has played a big part in Ground Level’s success over the years, and we still work with them today,” Johansen says. But not all was lost in the demolition of Terminal 2. The Paul Coze mural “The Phoenix” was removed for relocation to the Rental Car Center.

Image courtesy of Sky Harbor

gets out to jobs too much, but it makes all the difference when it does.” On the Terminal 2 project, Ground Level used the 992 loader to move and pile up more than 30,000 yards of the concrete apron and 10,000 yards of asphalt millings. The loader accomplished this feat in only three-weeks time. “The 992 loader is an amazing piece of machinery that can still perform and will continue to do so as long as we own it, Johansen says. “It is a personal favorite of Layne’s [the company owner and father of Lincoln] and admittedly was purchased somewhat out of passion. He loves running it.” Besides the concrete apron, the building’s original skeletal structure was also

Ground Level Spotlight: Layne Johansen

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Tom Harrison


ver the last five months, paramount shifts have been made by many industries across the globe in response to COVID-19. For construction businesses, these modifications are likely to remain in place even after the virus subsides. Construction industry leaders are re-evaluating their current organizational processes, including the impact of unionized labor, increased technology implementation to facilitate projects, and alternative hiring practices. These appraisals have been conducted to confront and address both the short and long-term challenges presented in the pandemic. A lack of digitizing and automating jobs, coupled with a competitive landscape, are only a few of the industry’s challenges in the past. The presence of COVID19 has only amplified many of these issues, forcing businesses to quickly make changes to their internal and external processes to account for these new circumstances. So, what exactly has changed, and how will this affect construction moving forward? Increased Technology and Automation With technology enhancing distanced working capabilities, the implementation of video conferencing will become more prominent to facilitate stages of project management across teams. This new technology function helps the flow of communication, but it may also become a necessary tool for the hiring process. For companies like Johnson Carlier, which is still hiring

amid the pandemic, virtual interviews are a great way to conduct socially distanced meetings while still considering and accommodating peoples’ safety. In addition to the increase of technology being used by internal employees, digitized tools have become a prominent part of external processes, such as presenting designs to clients and purchasing materials online. At the forefront is Virtual Design and Construction (VDC), the practice of digitally designing construction projects using computers and other technologies. During the pre-construction phase, VDC is an effective way to reduce waste, coordinate building elements and systems, and visually demonstrate ideas to clients while fluctuations in their industries. The imporidentifying potential conflicts in advance. tance of job safety and employee health has been at the forefront of many compaUnion Opinion Will Be Impactful Many construction companies rely nies during the current pandemic. Within on the presence of union workers to com- the construction industry, new policies plete projects. With working conditions are being put into place. From employee being adjusted to meet the new safety temperature checks before shifts, stagstandards presented in the wake of COVID- gered shifts, and new equipment sanita19, it will be interesting to see how union tion requirements, construction companies workers respond to these changes. Despite and contractors everywhere are doing their the rapid decline of union memberships part during these unprecedented times. in recent years, the pandemic has offered It’s likely these modifications will continue, trade unions an opportunity to re-establish even as the pandemic subsides. Safety as their influence. As the construction indus- a priority has always been a series of protry continues to accommodate the pan- cesses and procedures, and the additional demic by considering employee health, focus on personal health is no different. I safety, and wages, this period offers many see a continuation of and emphasis on businesses an opportunity to demonstrate overall “project hygiene” as an essential part of the future of construction. a commitment to their employees.


Where is Construction Today as a Result Of COVID-19?

Safer and Sanitized Job Sites Transitions made to the corporate and organizational protocol, prompted by COVID-19, will have long-lasting effects on how businesses respond to crises and

What does this mean moving forward? It may have taken a pandemic to highlight some of the construction industry’s positive changes, but these alterations will have long-term benefits. Technological tools will likely be picked up quickly, and businesses may be less timid to incorporate digital tools into their daily practices. The use of technology will continue to expand, and approaches to employee health and safety have also changed. Greater consideration to the voices within the construction community offering alternative methods to employee well-being may also arise. With all of the changes that have been made, it’s clear that these advancements will have a lasting impact far beyond the current conditions.

Tom Harrison is a senior vice president and managing director at Johnson Carlier, with more than 20 years of business development and construction management in Arizona. He has managed more than $1.2 billion of projects within various delivery methods, including Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) and Design-Build.

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Images courtesy of DCS Contracting

DCS “Bridges” Rittenhouse Road Improvements in Queen Creek


ith construction projects, it’s often not the job itself that’s the tough part but the outside complications. DCS Contracting’s job to make improvements to Rittenhouse Road in the town of Queen Creek is just such a project. When asked the most challenging part of the job, Eugene Hernández, DCS project manager, says “Handling the amount

DCS Employee Spotlight: Eugene Hernández


s a project manager, Eugene’s role is to ensure that his field team has the necessary tools and information needed to be successful. His tasks include reviewing the plans and specs, procuring materials, issuing subcontracts, coordinating with utility companies, and ensuring that projects are safe and come in at or under budget. “My favorite part about working with DCS is the people,” he says. “I feel like part of a family. I take pride in my job, and I’m honored to be a part of such a great environment.” Eugene enjoys spending time with his family, off-road driving, camping, and attending sporting events outside of work. His favorite destination is Lake Havasu and the Colorado River. “My family is the most important thing to me,” he says. “They give me the drive to work hard. I want to give my two boys the best childhood.”

of traffic on the project. There is not much room to divert traffic, and we needed to get creative with our traffic shifts.” But there’s another challenge that keeps Hernández on his toes. Hayden Building Group is concurrently replacing a 50-year-old bridge spanning Queen Creek Wash as part of the town’s transportation updates. “Coordination with the bridge project that is right in the middle of our project makes it a unique part of our work,” Hernández says. “Traffic closures need to be closely coordinated.” The roadway and bridgework are separate projects to increase efficiencies and reduce traffic delays for motorists. Hayden is installing a new 11-barrel cast-in-place concrete box culvert designed by Maricopa County Department of Transportation. Construction of the bridge commenced in February 2020 and is expected to be complete by October 2020. Concurrently, DCS is improving Rittenhouse Road by widening 2.8 miles of roadway between the 213th Street Alignment and Riggs Road. The work will increase the road to four travel lanes, add bike lanes, right-turn lanes, and raised medians at four intersections. Other enhancements are three traffic signal upgrades, the realignment of Cloud Road, and the widening of the existing Alliance Lumber spur track served by the Union Pacific Railroad. The project’s significant elements will include utility conversions, removals, new curb & gutters, pavements, sidewalks, driveway construction, underground retention systems, storm drain pipes, catch basins, retention basins, water system

improvements, signage and pavement marking enhancements. Work commenced in January 2020 and is expected to take a year. Subcontractors used by DCS on the project include UCC Construction for traffic signals and street lights, Pavement Recycling Systems for pavement removal, Sunline Striping for pavement markings, and Horizontal Boring for the water line bore. Kimley-Horn & Associates is the engineering firm that designed the project. “This is definitely one of my more challenging projects,” Hernández says. “I look forward to seeing how much this relieves traffic for commuters heading in and out of Queen Creek from San Tan Valley.”

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Hohokam Elementary School “Hohokam Elementary School was originally constructed in 1959 and designed by renowned architect Ralph Haver,” says Vicente Terán of CHASSE Building Team, who are presently working with the Scottsdale Unified School District and SPS+ Architects on the build. According to Modern Phoenix’s Ralph Haver archive, the sloped roofline, beamed ceilings, and ribbon windows are typical hallmarks of his preferred building style, echoing what he did with local single-family homes as well. “Not only are Haver designs beloved, but many people who still live in the community once attended Hohokam themselves, so they were personally invested in anything that might happen with the school, especially a modernization,” says Darlene Cadman of SPS+ Architects. As a result, before any plans were even developed to modernize, the team hosted public meetings to determine the best path forward. Stakeholders and the building team decided that the small schoolhouse buildings and courtyard spaces would stay, preserving the property’s historical importance, as would the lush greenery that has been growing proudly in the area for the past seven decades. “One area that we certainly needed to address was the administration building



Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 School The first of its kind in Arizona, this new school features a creative and specialized academic experience in an innovative 21st-century learning environment designed to give students the experience, knowledge, and skills they need to become lifelong learners and responsible citizens. Students will experience rigorous Computer Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (CSTEM) academics and learning tools. Every class exposes students to practical hands-on lessons, which have direct relevance to real-world challenges. Students will engage in exploratory, creative, hands-on learning from mobile devices, zSpace AR/VR, and Science Labs to makerspaces and outdoor learning areas. The utilization of the zSpace lab is an exciting opportunity for students. This combination of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality with subject-level content that engages students is truly a game-changer for education. The origination of the zSpace product was utilized in medical schools, and its K-12 product is specific to students’ changing needs to ensure greater success today and in the future. “This unique school building design is a celebration of student-driven learning and making,” says Leigh-Anne Harrison, of CHASSE Building Team. CHASSE worked with Marana School District, Corgan

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hile in-person instruction in schools amid COVID-19 has been a tough subject as of late, there is some good news on Arizona’s education front. Many institutions have been investing – and continue to invest – in critical updates to their buildings and facilities. Here is a look at one recently completed campus and one currently undergoing an impressive update:

Architecture & Design, Comfort Systems, P&M Drywall, J.B. Steel, K2 Electric, and Sun Valley Masonry. Large, highly visible and collaborative makerspaces line the heart, or the arroyo, of the building, fostering student awareness of the work being done by their peers. Classrooms have direct access to exterior outdoor learning areas, which allows students direct, relevant learning opportunities. “This site-responsive building acts as a teaching tool as it highlights the natural ecosystems and respecting the natural landscape,” says Harrison.

A+ Work! - Chasse Modernizes Arizona Schools

and cafeteria, as well as indoor and outdoor physical education and recreation space,” says Cadman. She worked with CHASSE on a paperless 3D model of the school and its potential new plans versus putting pen to paper to save time, expenses, and impact on the environment. The new plan will move the school’s administration and lobby to the front of the property, which will help with security and check-ins by visiting guests, parents, and guardians. It also adds a stunning outdoor, shaded amphitheater where children can gather and take advantage of the Valley’s 300-plus days of sun. “A new cafeteria space is also in development, which will connect to a new P.E. building and be near the amphitheater so together they can serve as the heart of the school,” says Terán, noting a new roof developed in Haver’s style is also part of the plan. “All materials and colors are mid-century modern in homage to Haver’s preferred style, including brick, unpainted blocks, metal accents, and more.” Other upgrades, including property-wide Wi-Fi, upgraded insulation to new and existing buildings, and extensive upgrades to all mechanical and electrical systems.

Top: Hohokam Elementary School. Below: Dove Mountain CSTEM K-8 School.

Worker Spotlight: Vicente Terán Fave job task: People! Working and developing teams. Fave off-job task: Volunteering with the Scottsdale Active 20-30 Club and traveling. Toughest job task: Time management for sure.

Image courtesy of CHASSE Building Team

Image courtesy of Author

Project Manager, CHASSE Building Team

Arizona Contractor & Community


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Sep-Oct 2020

CONSTRUCTION AROUND ARIZONA People Images courtesy of Solterra

Hot liquid asphalt cement is metered into the drum and mixed with the dry aggregate mixture. Reclaimed/recycled asphalt pavement (RAP), fibers, and some other addiow did you start in the asphalt indus- tives are added at this point in the mixing try? As a lab technician with Speedie process when specified. and Associates in Phoenix, and I later The hot blended mixture falls into the worked locally for Vulcan Materials, New drag slat conveyor where the product is West Materials, and CalMat. lifted into the hot storage silos. The mix is How did Solterra Materials start in 2018? now ready to be weighed and loaded into It was a merger between Sunland Asphalt trucks to be delivered to the job site. The and Grey Mountain Construction. Grey entire process requires particle emissions control technology in the Mountain’s asphalt plant in Coolidge was com- “We initially had to win over form of a baghouse, which bined with a plant in Buck- some of the municipal­ities ensures that the dust created by this process is eye bought by Sunland. I with our granite mix, but contained and reused via was recruited to bring the pieces together to develop once they got on board, they augers back into the plant. This form of asphalt proan agile and responsive have been impressed.” duction is considered concommercial HMA business, where people, products, and processes tinuous and is computer-controlled. Some plants batch small proportions at a time, form our core foundation. but that conversation is for another day. What’s the basic process of asphalt production? Crushed rock and sand separated What maintenance is involved in your into specific sizes are precisely propor- operations? Safety is our #1 business fountioned through the plant’s cold feed sys- dation since this is dangerous work. We tem. Mineral admixture is then blended employ full-time maintenance technolowith the moist aggregates through a pug- gists at each facility to ensure that the plant mill and then conveyed across a weigh- remains operational. These folks know bridge into the drier-drum. As the drum every aspect of the plant, including electurns, the aggregate mixture is heated and trical troubleshooting, mechanical engidried by a 100 million BTU per hour low neering, fluid dynamics, thermal dynamcombustion and noise emissions burner. ics, airflow, combustion principles, proper

Making Asphalt: A Conversation with Solterra’s Pat Weaver


Top: The Solterra Materials Buckeye plant. Above: Pat Weaver.

lubrication principles, computer troubleshooting, and metal fabrication. They work at heights, in confined spaces, around hot liquids, and open flames. Our products are precisely engineered for each application; they understand that we are in business to make great products, not just to make mix and fix things. What are the advantages of new asphalt plants? The most significant difference is in the plant control systems. Most old plants used buttons, switches, and relays systems to control each aspect of the plant. Newer plants use PLCs which are fully controlled Arizona Contractor & Community


What’s the capacity of your asphalt production? Our plants are limited to specific permit conditions, and we have hit those limits many times.

Images courtesy of Solterra

Describe the modern asphalt plant? They are amazing engineering facilities that utilize the best available control technologies to create clean, quiet, and environmentally friendly plants that employ more recycled and reclaimed products than any other industry. The resulting asphalt pavements are smooth, quiet, economical, and easy-to-maintain. What is your son’s role with Solterra? Patrick Weaver is the director of plant operations and responsible for the production facilities and capital projects.

What is Patrick’s training? He served a 4-year commission in the Marines and had three years of asphalt paving experience. Patrick then completed a multi-year comprehensive plant management training program, which required him to master every position at an asphalt plant. Is Pat Weaver III interested in working for the company? Patrick’s son “Junior” just turned 11, but I am certain he will follow in his father’s footsteps…Marine Corp then asphalt plants (time will tell).

Top: The Buckeye plant’s cold feed and stockpiles. Above: The Solterra Materials Buckeye plant.

by computers. Older plants may even have the burner on the drum’s front end (parallel flow), while newer plants have the burners at the end (counter flow). Baghouses have improved, mixing flights have evolved, burners have improved yielding lower combustions and noise emissions. The good news for older plants is the new technology can be added via individual components from several manufactures and are virtually plug-n-play. How many types of asphalt do you produce? There are hundreds of asphalt mixture types. Pavement applications and operating regions dictate the need for flexibility. We use up to six different liquid asphalt grades along with various aggregate size combinations and additives, each requiring a different job mix formula. We have developed more than 50 mixes. What’s unique about your mix design? Mixes at our Buckeye plant use 100 percent crushed granite, which has a very low absorption rate and allows for very high resistance to long term moisture damage.

What are you most proud of with your career? Relationships. I have had the privilege to meet, work with, befriend, build, and maintain many business relationships. Solterra wouldn’t be as successful if it were not for old friends trusting me. For The Phoenix area has struggled over the that, I am humbled and thankful. years with pavements stripping and rav- What’s life like outside of work? My wife eling, due to clay that is inherent to river and I share our time with eight grandkids. I deposits, which other asphalt plants use. like a challenging jigsaw puzzle and fiddling Our aggregate source is free of clay depos- in my garage. Patrick is raising five kids with its and very resistant to moisture damage. his wife. He’s a grill master who loves to Granite’s extreme angularity allows for cook and spend time outdoors. very stable asphalt and our binder selection, and additive technology allows for improved cracking and rutting resistance along with super easy compaction. We design our products to be very contractor-friendly and to last longer than the competition. Granite is used all over the world to make asphalt mixtures, but not in Maricopa County. We initially had to win over some of the municipalities, but once they got on board, they have been impressed. Right: Patrick Weaver and his son, Pat Weaver III. Arizona Contractor & Community



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Jason Krankota


onstruction has been one of the slowest industries to adopt technology. That’s partly cultural—folks in the industry like to solve problems with their own ingenuity. Many firms are still family-owned, and there’s a lot of reverence for tradition. Finally, this industry has thin margins, where the first funding priorities are equipment and personnel. But, it’s also partly because there hasn’t been a lot of technology built to meet the industry’s needs. Before smartphones, it was hard to bring technology to the field. Even then, you had to have a good Wi-Fi connection, which wasn’t consistently available or an expensive data plan. A lot of early field-capture technology was based on someone having to manually input data into a device. That was a non-starter; having superintendents manually entering data didn’t provide much in productivity gains, and made for a lot of unhappy managers. Now all that is changing. Founders are aging out of the industry, creating an opportunity for younger generations to apply technology with less resistance. Project owners are requiring the use of different technologies as a condition of funding. And, there is an increasing number of excellent solutions specifically designed for the industry. Connectivity and computing power have increased dramatically, making mobile applications a lot more reliable, robust, and user-friendly. Cameras, drones, GPS, and RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology make it easy to capture data without human intervention. As more technology comes into play, the industry is finally waking to the impact it can have on bottom-line profitability.

Here are some of the technology opportunities construction companies should have on their radar: 1. AR and VR Whether it’s on a computer screen or through a headset, augmented and virtual reality are taking the output of BIM (building information modeling) software and creating virtual models of a structure that subcontractors can walk through before it’s even built, allowing them to collaborate and spot potential issues in a virtual environment. For example, an electrical contractor could walk through the schematic of what the mechanical contractor would have built so they can say, “Okay, I see that there’s going to be a standpipe here, so we’ll run our conduit right next to it.” That leads to less rework and fewer scheduling delays. AR can also be used to help train workers in a more effective and cost-efficient manner. 2. AI: Not Yet Artificial intelligence could potentially have a big impact on the industry, but probably not for quite a few years. One immediate application is job-site safety. There are already rudimentary tools that can analyze video from job-site cameras and spot hazards. They can also determine from workers’ movements whether they’re accessing a scaffold or carrying materials up a flight of stairs correctly. Eventually, AI could help improve project scheduling by learning from data from past projects and flagging issues that could lead to delays. It could analyze the performance of buildings over time and offer materials recommendations. But AI needs relevant data to learn from, so the industry needs to digitize first. 3. Internet of Things If you look at industries starting to see some success with AI, such as health care and manufacturing, everything is happening more or less in one place. That makes it easier to put sensors on a machine or robot and capture data. It’s a bit more of a challenge when you have multiple job sites and a lot of portable equipment. Taking data capture out of individuals’ hands and automating it, and storing data in a centralized place where it can be managed is the frontier right now. 4. Back Office Efficiency Most firms are using some sort of automated accounting platform. But there are still gaps that need to be filled. Invoice routing and approval is a big one. People are having the back-office scan invoices and then email out invoice images to the


The Five Best Tech Opportunities for Construction Companies

project superintendent. Invoice images are “digital paper,” meaning they’re not actual digital artifacts. Any data on them has to be manually entered, and the entire routing and approval process is manual as well. Then there’s the payment process itself. Solutions built to handle “procure to pay” actually only handle “procure to invoice approval,” so then you need a payments automation solution on top of that. The good news is that automating payments is easy to do, and it doesn’t depend on automating the invoice workflow, which is a much bigger project. 5. Business Intelligence Most ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems offer tons of reports, but people want to combine that with data from other sources. They want to be able to look at the data three-dimensionally and be able to drill into it. ERP systems don’t have that kind of capability. As the amount of data companies have access to grows, so does the need to have a business intelligence platform to pull it together and generate analyses and models. There are a lot of challenges to overcome before construction becomes a fully digitized industry. It’s still hard to deploy technology organization-wide when you have workers on multiple job sites. Do you pull everyone off the job to come in for training? Probably not. Adoption can move pretty slowly, with some workers using the technology and others holding on to traditional practices. This results in the industry overall heading in the right direction of the benefits, even if adoption is not happening rapidly. Jason Krankota is VP of Construction Sales, West Region, at Nvoicepay. His construction business technology expertise spans 20 years, with 10+ years focused on corporate payments, accounts payable, and expense management solutions. Arizona Contractor & Community

ALL THE GEAR YOU NEED Call for rates and reservations Gilbert: 480-507-1680 Phoenix: 602-269-5931 Peoria: 623-760-0631 Tucson: 520-573-1344

twenty eight

Sep-Oct 2020



and reach up to the underside of the vehicle above him. Even in regions where the Michael Bernstein ground freezes, sewer lines may lie just 2 or 3 feet below the floor slab. The floor bout 12 years ago, I was assigned to of the pit at this property was almost cerperform a Phase I Environmental Site tainly below the level of the sewer, which Assessment of a property in Southern Calmeans the drain didn’t discharge to the ifornia. Our client was considering buying sewer because sewage doesn’t naturally a building that was a mix of office, wareflow uphill. If anything had entered the house, and laboratory space at a good locadrain, it was undoubtedly released to the tion, constructed during the 1970s. The environment. current owner provided us with a copy of The forklift maintenance shop had the Phase I report prepared by the prior been converted to a lunchroom and locker owner’s consultant. The current owner room. New tiles covered had based his decision the floor. Like many to buy the property, in One sentence in an old municipalities that lack part, on that report. storage space, the city report, referring to a Because the report keep old build3-inch hole in the floor, didn’t listed no concerns, the ing plans. If not for that current owner felt com- cost the owner something report, I would not have fortable passing it on like $12 million! known about the pit and to us. Unfortunately the drain. for him, the report conI told my client that a geophysical surtained a smoldering ember and re-using veyor could find the pit. We knew approxithe report fanned the ember into open mately where it was located, and we knew flame. It caused great consternation, killed we’d be looking for a rectangular feature. the real-estate deal, and left him stranded. Then a driller could advance borings so that The report contained a paragraph we could collect soil and groundwater samabout a forklift maintenance shop. The ples. But first, the owner would have to shop was an area of general environmenconsent to the investigation. tal interest, due to the likely use of hazThe owner hesitated. “Should I let ardous substances and the possible genthem do this? If I let them do this, what eration of hazardous waste. A walk-down are the possible outcomes?” maintenance pit for the forklifts was menIf no contamination was found, all tioned. That’s a feature of potential conwould be well. But what if significant concern because it was an open basin that tamination was found? The buyer could extended into the subsurface. The last sendemand a price cut to offset his costs for tence noted a drain in the floor of the pit – environmental cleanup, building restoan immediate concern. I was troubled that ration, etc. Or he could require to withhold the report did not comment on the drain. a chunk of the purchase money to cover It’s not enough to just say what; the assesthose costs. Unspent money – should there sor must say what about it. be any – would be paid to the seller in a The floor of a typical maintenance year or so. Or he could simply walk away. pit lies at least 6 feet below the building Even if the investigation results weren’t slab so that the technician can stand erect

Beware of Environmental Gifts

provided to the owner (a sly accommodation, so that the owner can plead ignorance to the next prospective buyer), the transaction’s failure to proceed would imply that the property was contaminated. The owner would be left in a quandary, while the troublemaker just goes home. The seller refused to allow the investigation. But the terms and conditions of my client’s business practice prohibited him from purchasing a property at which a potential environmental concern had been identified but not investigated. The deal died. One sentence in an old report, referring to a 3-inch hole in the floor, cost the owner something like $12 million. No wonder some businesspeople are unwelcoming to environmental work. If that second-generation property owner had been smart, he would have paid his own consultant to review the old report critically. He should have done so before he bought the property in the first place. Hopefully, the reviewer would have recognized the concern associated with the drain. The owner would have shredded the report, and my client and I would never have been the wiser. And because he had no contractual relationship with the report preparer, the second-generation owner didn’t have a reliance on the report; he had no recourse, he couldn’t sue the consultant for errors or omissions. Parties without reliance can use reports only for informational purposes. If you’re looking to purchase a commercial, industrial, or multi-family residential property, hire your own consultant to perform a Phase I ESA for you. Or, if the seller offers you a Phase I report prepared by their consultant, you must have the report reviewed by your consultant. Get a reliance letter from the consultant who prepared the report, or have the report re-addressed to you. Be particularly wary of a report that provides conclusions but makes no recommendations; it reveals a lack of candor. Don’t risk losing millions in the future to save a few hundred or a couple thousand today. Beware of sellers bearing environmental gifts. Arizona Contractor & Community







601 North Jackrabbit Trail Buckeye, AZ 85326 Phone: 623-853-8300

9430 North 16th Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85021 Phone: 602-944-1304

1601 W Hatcher Phoenix, AZ 85021 Phone: 602-944-4594

Sep-Oct 2020

Back When When Contractors Clean up

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community



ll it took was a loose wheel on an empty flatbed to inadvertently distribute dog food, peanut butter, office furniture, and 15 new Chevrolets along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks between 35th and 43rd avenues in west Phoenix in 1972. These were the contents of the 30 cars that derailed, part of a 96-car train hauled by five locomotives from Los Angeles traveling at 46 miles per hour.

“As the cars left the rails, one or more hit two additional cars on a siding and knocked them over, so we had 32 cars altogether that were damaged,” Southern Pacific spokesman John Carruth told The Arizona Republic. The accident adjacent to the Reynolds Aluminum plant caused no injuries, but the damage was estimated at $650,000. Southern Pacific hired two local contractors to clean and repair the derailment site. Marco Crane Co. provided two large cranes and B.L. Gustafson Construction dispatched

four Caterpillar dozers and three loaders. The two companies removed the debris and installed temporary tracks to reopen the line. During the past six months, Southern Pacific had suffered 13 accidents in Arizona, many due to maintenance issues. Southern Pacific was founded in 1865 and grew over the years, becoming one of the nation’s largest corporations. But they developed financial issues in the 1970s and were acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1996.

Head Image courtesy of Mary

Background: The derailed train facing east towards 35th Ave., 1972. Below: Wrecked train cars behind Reynolds Aluminum at 43rd Ave., 1972.

Arizona Contractor & Community

thirty two

Left: Van Gustafson at an Arizona Highway Dept. sign citing her husband on U.S. Highway 87, 1951. Right: One of B.L. Gustafson’s dogs plays by his work truck, 1947.

Sep-Oct 2020


Adept with Horses and Horsepower

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Mary Head


Douglas Towne

fter World War II, a Phoenix contractor became renowned for his talent moving materials and building highways across the state during Arizona’s boom years. Buford Leon “Gus” Gustafson founded and owned a well-known construction company bearing his name. Although Gustafson was a gifted businessman, he might have been happier as a cowboy instead of a contractor, as he seemed most content in the saddle with a pooch at his side. “Gus loved horses and dogs, and had lots of them,” Mary Head, his adopted daughter, says. “But he couldn’t stand cats.” She goes on to say that he could be a tough man to work for on a project. “Once he got mad at you, he stayed mad at you.” Still, people remember Gustafson fondly as one of the industry’s more memorable pioneers. Gustafson grew up in the farming town of Clarkfield, located in the prairie of southwest Minnesota. He was born in 1905 and started providing for his family at a young age. “He never went past third grade and was working by the time he was 14. And he continued the rest of his life,” Head says. “His first job was carrying buckets of water to give workers a drink.” At some point, Gustafson married his first wife, Van, and moved to California. He had many jobs, including working on Hoover Dam, but he soon became his own boss. “Gustafson told me he started in the business after one of the California earthquakes,” says Shane Dikoff, president of Shane’s Grading & Paving Service, Inc. “He purchased a bobtail truck and loaded it by hand, taking several loads of the rubble each day to the dump. He decided to move to Phoenix around 1935 and had one of the biggest trucking companies in the 1940s and 1950s.” In Phoenix, Gustafson founded B.L. Gustafson Construction. “Nothing Too Big or Too Small: Just Give Us a call” was its

Top: Trucks for B.L. Gustafson being fitted with new dump beds at Fruehauf Trailer Co., 1941. Left: B.L. Gustafson mechanics at the company’s yard, early 1960s. Arizona Contractor & Community

Image courtesy of Mary Head Images courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Above: Fleet of B.L. Gustafson’s dump trucks hauling dirt, mid 1940s. Below: B.L. Gustafson, 1955. Right: Gustafson’s sand & gravel operation along the Salt River southeast of Sky Harbor Airport, 1977.

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Sep-Oct 2020

Images courtesy of Mary Head

advertising jingle. Gustafson and his wife lived on a 10-acre homestead at Campbell Avenue and 16th Street, raising horses and chickens. At the time, the area was located out in the country. “I recall one day a huge snake swallowed a chicken, and Gus went out, sliced the snake open and pulled out the bird that was still alive,” Head says. In 1945, Gustafson adopted a burro

Above: Gustafson in Northern Arizona, 1939. Top right: Gustafson family at an accident in California, 1940. Right: Trucks #1 and #2 for the B.L. Gustafson Dump Truck Service, 1947.

named “Minnie.” According to an article in The Arizona Republic in 1970, Minnie was abandoned after a career herding sheep in an unfenced, mile-square area between Indian School and Camelback roads and 16th and 24th streets. Gustafson’s show horses shared an irrigated field with

Image courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Mary Head

“He could look at a piece of property and know exactly how much it would cost to build a road through it.”

Minnie. “I learned to bray from Minnie, and she would come running when I did,” Head says. Gustafson’s equestrian passion drove him to help upgrade the Murphy Bridle Path along Central Avenue in Phoenix. In 1948, he organized the 16th Annual Phoenix Horse Show at the Arizona Biltmore Stables, which drew 5,000 spectators. Future Arizona Governor Howard Pyle served as the show’s announcer. The Gustafsons were involved in the event as representatives of the Arizona Horse Lovers Club; Gus was president, and Van served as secretary-treasurer. But Gustafson’s horseback riding days came to an abrupt end during a rodeo parade in the late-1950s. “Gus was hurt riding with the Maricopa Sheriff’s posse,” Head says. “His horse reared up and fell on him, crushed his pelvis. He didn’t ride much after that.” His company, B.L. Gustafson Construction, however, continued to thrive, building and resurfacing highways across Arizona. The secret to Gustafson’s contracting success? “He was the best,” Bob Gustafson, his nephew, declares. “He could look at a piece Far left: Gus, Minnie the Burro, Van, and his mother (r-l) at their 16th St. home, 1958. Left: Van at their home, late 1930s. Arizona Contractor & Community

Images courtesy of Arizona Contractor & Community

of property and know exactly how much it would cost to build a road through it.� Just during the mid-1960s, the company’s work included State Route 96 south of Bagdad, State Route 77 south of Globe, State Route 177 south of Superior, State Highway 160 between Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, State Highway 77 north of Show Low, U.S. Left: Dirt operations for new custom home Highway 60 being atop a mountain at 12th St. and Butler east of Show Dr. in Sunnyslope, 1971. Low, U.S. HighTop right: Gus (right), visiting a jobsite during way 70 east of concrete pumping for a bridge, 1970. Globe, Route


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66 between Kingman and Ash Fork, State Route 79 from Cordes Junction to Flagstaff, U.S. Highway 60 east of Aguila, and State Route 65 southwest of Winslow. B.L. Gustafson Construction also built roads leading to three hilltop residences. Two projects were located in Sunnyslope near 11th Street and Butler Drive and Seventh and Vogel avenues. The third was Clearwater Hills in Paradise Valley. Working for Gustafson could be a roller-coaster ride, according to Dikoff. The two became acquainted in 1984 when Dikoff helped Gustafson run his scale operations at its crushing plant north of 35th Avenue and Cave Buttes Dam. “After an altercation with one of his supervisors, Gus let him go,” Dikoff says. “He told me that I was running the company now! I was only 20 years old, nervous, and he kept reassuring me I could handle it.” Gus was a good man with a fun sense of humor but would become distracted while driving, according to Dikoff. “I remember riding in his truck as he veered towards oncoming traffic because he had turned around to give treats to his black labs in the back seat. I would have to yell at him to get his attention. I always tried to avoid riding with him after a couple of those trips.” Dikoff recalls that Gustafson once bought a new truck. A week later, the entire side of it was scraped, where he said a fence got in the way. “He didn’t get too bothered by much at his age,” he says. Two of Gustafson’s closest friends were Ed Kelton and Emery Harper, both local aggregate suppliers. His lightheartedness away from work displayed itself at industry gatherings. “My dad attended many AGC [Associated General Contractors] meetings over the years,” says Duke Francis, the owner of C&F Equipment. “As a gag, B.L. would sometimes show up at them dressed as a woman. He took his profession seriously but also wanted to have a good laugh.” Gustafson’s life changed after his wife, Van, died in 1990. Velma Fulton, whose husband, Bob had recently passed away, stopped by to offer her condolences. “We all went to Bob’s Big Boy,” Head says. “Gus’s eyes lit up and sparkled in her presence. Velma just made his life.” The widower and widow married a few months later, and Gustafson tried to bestow gifts upon Velma. “Gus wanted to

buy Velma a brand-new Cadillac,” Head says. “But she declined, declaring that his dogs would have just jumped into the car and ruined the leather seats.” The couple became devoted members of First Southern Baptist Church, located near Grand Canyon University. Gustafson graciously paved the church’s parking lot for free, Head recalls.

“Gus loved horses and dogs, and had lots of them,” Mary, his adopted daughter, says. “But he couldn’t stand cats.”

Gustafson closed his construction company around 1990, to devote more time to his second marriage. He died in 1998. “Those were the best years of his life,” Head says. Head says that, while Gustafson always treated her wonderfully, that kindness didn’t always carry over when you had to deal with him in business. “Gus didn’t get to where he was without stepping on a lot of people,” she says. “He seemed to prefer animals to humans.”

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Albert Chase McArthur’s Arizona Biltmore:

the Jewel of the Desert

lbert Chase McArthur, a 44-year-old Chicago architect, arrived in Phoenix in 1925 to join his two younger brothers, Charles and Warren Jr. McArthur. The brothers had been city residents for more than a decade and were successful businessmen having launched a Dodge dealership in 1914 and the city’s first radio station, KFAD 930 AM, in 1922, which became KTAR in 1929. Yet, Albert’s contribution also shines brightly, having designed one of the Salt River Valley’s most loved and enduring landmarks: the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Moreover, his architectural piece de résistance in the Valley would through, rumor, marketing ploys, and outright lies often be credited to his old employer, a man he would hire for a small piece of consulting on this hotel, none other than Frank

two children. They settled in on the edge of the city just north of Thomas Road and Seventh Street in the Phoenix Country Club. Albert’s brother, Charles, had developed a golf course there around 1920 with Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was known as a landscape architect in Los Angeles and went by the name, Lloyd Wright. He later helped his

Images courtesy of Author

Top: Albert Chase McArthur. Below: The 1926 D.B. Morgan residence was perhaps the city’s first “International Style” building and features Viennese-influenced blue tiles, 2020.

Lloyd Wright. The fact that Wright was in personal, legal, and career difficulties adds much to this drama. And Wright’s betrayal of the McArthur family’s generosity toward him adds to the irony in the birth of this landmark resort. Albert Chase McArthur possessed good looks and quiet charisma. He graduated from Chicago’s Armour Institute of Technology in 1899 and went on to study architecture, mathematics, and music at Harvard in 1905. He enjoyed a distinguished career working for two years for Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park, Illinois, from 1907-1909. In 1912, McArthur passed his architectural licensing exam in Illinois at age 31, still a common age of licensure today for such a demanding profession. He subsequently had a successful career with his Chicago partner, architect George S. Coffin, designing large industrial buildings. McArthur moved to Phoenix in 1925 fresh from touring Europe and his study of the architecture of France and Germany with his Viennese-born wife, Irna, and their

Image courtesy of Franziska Peake


James Logan Abell, FAIA

thirty eight

Sep-Oct 2020

Image courtesy of ASU Special Collections

Above: The Arizona Biltmore Hotel oasis alone in the Sonoran Desert, 1929. Right: Arizona Biltmore Corporation lawyers required Wright not to claim any authorship for design in advance of his limited consulting. Bottom: Albert McArthur’s perspective study for Tucson Resort Hotel, 1924.

Images courtesy of Author

father develop the large, thin concrete block used to build four experimental homes in the Los Angeles area, starting in 1923. Albert McArthur was a born held one of the earliest Arizona inventor like his father and his brothers and license numbers. He rented offices on the Style” Luhr’s Building designed in 1924 by was very civic-minded. He soon applied second floor of the new “Sullivanesque El Paso’s Trost and Trost Architects. for a license to practice architecture and The three brothers planned a tourist hotel in Tucson in April, 1925 and had plans for other Arizona locations, including one near the San Francisco Peaks in northern Arizona, and a development near Casa Grande named “La Palma.” The latter site already had 500 palm trees planted for the proposed extravagant resort hotel, and there were preparations afoot for an adjacent housing development and railroad stop. Albert received some telegrams in his office in Chicago from Frank Lloyd Wright, who was in the midst of those “textile block” homes in Los Angeles. It seemed that Wright knew of the McArthur family’s ambitions in Arizona, and thought keeping

Arizona Contractor & Community

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hotel dreams. Still, with the Phoenix Country Club and golf course finally gaining market approval, the three McArthur brothers embarked on their boldest venture. A corporation was set up with investors, many from Chicago, and several land options were purchased north, south, and west of Phoenix to discourage land speculation on their development plans by others. The consortium ultimately settled on 600 acres along the Arizona Canal, near 24th Street and Missouri Avenue, 8 miles northeast of Phoenix.

McArthur drew extensive hotel plans to secure financing. The group decided to align with the John McEntee Bowman chain of Biltmore Hotels, the most recent being the $6 million Atlanta Biltmore Hotel of 1924, organized by Coca-Cola heir William Candler. When Albert McArthur’s plans were nearly completed for the new Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Top left: Musicians at the he decided to Arizona Biltmore Hotel, 1929. manufacture Top right: Postcard of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, 1929. Below: The Arizona Biltmore Hotel, 1930.

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in touch with Albert might be a good idea. By 1926, McArthur had seen his ultra-modern white stucco design for the Morgan Residence built on North Central, way outside of town. He also had a 10-story Art Deco design for a theater and office building for downtown Phoenix on the drawing boards. The Phoenix main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed that year, and intercontinental rail travel instituted in 1927. With these unrealized hotel designs all over the state, McArthur might have been jaded by little action on his brothers’


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concrete block units on-site using local sand and gravel on the property. He licensed the experimental concrete block system developed by father and son Wright. A legally executed and notarized document was signed by Frank Lloyd Wright, authorizing use of the block system for $10,000. The document made clear that McArthur, only 14 years younger than Wright, would remain the sole architect for the project. Wright has anxious to receive such a large sum of money, as his residence and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin, was still in receivership with the Bank of Madison. His second wife, of 5 years, Miriam Noel, had him jailed in Minnesota under the Mann Act for his carrying-on with Olga Lazovich. Now 60 years old, Wright’s doctors urged that he winter in a dry, sunny climate. The three McArthur brothers were generous with Wright, trading a used Dodge automobile for two of Wright’s rare Japanese prints. They allowed Wright, his lover Olga, and her daughter to temporarily live in one of the McArthur family homes at the Phoenix Country Club. Albert Chase McArthur’s nephew, Warren McArthur III, notes in his family history that Wright was constantly argumentative, even within his contractually limited area of the concrete block system. Adding to Wright’s acrimony, when Charles and Warren McArthur, Jr., learned that Wright owned no such patent on the block system, he was fired after only 12 weeks. The hotel was completed rapidly in six months time, opening in February, 1929. With the stock market crash that fall, all three McArthur brothers sold their stock at a massive loss to principal investor William Wrigley, Jr. and moved on to other endeavors. This allowed Frank Lloyd Wright to spread the myth of his authorship of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, even though he wasn’t licensed as an architect for commercial building design work in Arizona. And because of Wright’s notoriety, each subsequent hotel owner has “played up” Wright’s very brief involvement, as he is the only architect most Americans can cite by name. Today, Phoenix is slowly awakening to the gifts these three brothers bestowed on their adopted city. Although the resort will forever be linked to a famous name that had a small role in a unique concrete block system, this 1929 place of luxury would still define high-style Sonoran living for nine decades into the future. The genius of architect Albert Chase McArthur lives on, in the elegant Arizona Biltmore Hotel, the “Jewel of the Desert.”

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Porter “P.W.” Womack:

Powerhouse Constructor in Phoenix-and Beyond


Tom Pickrell

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orter and Andy Womack were prominent residential and commercial builders for more than 40 years in Phoenix before and after World War II. The similarities end there, however, as the brothers were very different men. Porter worked to achieve higher social standing. He created P.W. Womack Construction Co., a powerhouse that built more than 3,000 homes and many commercial, education, and military buildings across the Southwest. Andy, an entertainer at heart, sold homes to pay for his love of rodeo. He was the first Phoenix builder to undertake a mass home construction project using an assembly line method. In their own way, each contributed significantly to the history and culture of Phoenix. Their lives are Top left: Porter Womack colorful, rags-to-riches working as a carpenter. Left: Porter and Andy Womack. stories with an “only in

America” ring to them. Born in Tennessee, Porter and Andy were two of four young brothers who moved with their parents to Phoenix in 1908. The boys had a hardscrabble childhood. Poor health prevented their father from working, and their mother labored as a domestic. Porter was not the oldest brother, but he was the tallest and most dependable, and he became the mainstay of the Womack family. Porter skipped most of high school and became a carpenter, as did brothers Hagan and Richard. Andy became a mason and would be continually reminded by his brothers that laying bricks was less prestigious than pounding nails. Womack Brothers Construction, an informal partnership led by Porter, built its first home in 1927 and completed eight more by 1930. These homes remain in

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Below: Palms Theatre, 1945.

Sep-Oct 2020

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the beautiful Encanto-Palmcroft and Willo neighborhoods of Phoenix. The Womack brothers’ early success was remarkable because few Phoenicians could afford a custom home, and Porter was only 24 years old, and Andy and Rich were still teenagers. Building a quality home every time is the key to every new home-builder’s success. But the Womack brothers also had a little help along the way. Whenever a house or even a residential lot was purchased, The Arizona Republic covered it in a small “space filler” article. Everyone read the newspaper, so the “Womack” name

Top left: Porter Womack.

became associ- Above: Palms Theatre, 1961. ated with home Below: Porter Womack. construction. The Great Depression slowed home construction to a trickle. At its lowest point, 1933, Phoenix issued only 11 permits for new homes. Congress enacted New Deal programs in 1934 to revive the construction industry. The Federal Housing Authority created the government-insured, fixed-rate, long-term home mortgage, and the Public Works Administration began distributing millions of dollars to state and local governments for construction of school, hospital and other public buildings. Porter formed P.W. Womack Construction Co. (PWC) and bid on public projects. His success enabled the company to develop its commercial and government business in the years ahead. PWC’s first public contract, the Phoenix Subsistence Homesteads, was designed to enable low-income families to rent and eventually purchase a home with enough land to grow their own food. It nearly slipped through Porter’s fingers when he inadvertently tossed the first award letter into the trash. PWC built 25 small Spanish Arizona Contractor & Community

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Mission-style homes, each on three-quarters of an acre near Thomas Road and 28th Street. The houses were made of adobe stucco with a roof of slab stone quarried from the southside of Camelback Mountain. More complex projects followed. PWC’s first education building was the women’s dormitory at Northern Arizona University. In 1938, PWC completed three education buildings still in use today: Phoenix’s North High School’s science building, Phoenix College’s Bulpitt Auditorium and administrative wings, and University of Arizona’s Gila dormitory. Porter became more prominent in the business community with PWC’s success and joined the Arizona Club on the Luhrs Building’s top floor. Businessmen gathered for lunch at the “big table,” where they socialized, talked business, and made a deal or two from that lofty perch. Years later, Porter told his daughters that he was hesitant about joining the Arizona Club because he hadn’t completed high school and would rub elbows with college men.

As it turned out, Porter made many friendships, including influential business leaders Frank Snell and Walter Bimson. Construction slumped again when the U.S. entered World War II in 1941. Most non-war related residential construction was prohibited to conserve materials, but Arizona was exempted for military-related projects. PWC built large housing projects at Davis-Monthan in Tucson, Goodyear Aircraft west of Phoenix, Phelps-Dodge at Morenci, and White Sands

During these years, there were more buyers than homes

Missile Proving Grounds in New Mexico. After the war, Phoenix’s home construction industry boomed, fueled by population growth and by the FHA home mortgage and GI Bill, which made a new home affordable for middle-income families and war veterans. Contractors built small, lowcost, tract homes in mass, on speculation. As the Republic described it, “subdivisions that had previously grown one home at a time, sprouted hundreds of homes overnight.” In 1946, PWC built 150 homes on a 40-acre subdivision, Woodlawn Park, at

Top: Bulpitt Auditorium at Phoenix College, 2020. Right: Bulpitt Auditorium at Phoenix College, 1941.

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15th Avenue and Indian School Road. Phoenix’s first post-war subdivision featured simple homes for frugal, first-time buyers: ranch-style, two or three bedrooms, and carport. Air ducts for an evaporative cooler was a new amenity. PWC built several more subdivisions between Seventh and 19th avenues, north to Campbell Avenue. “Melrose” and “Belair” became PWC subdivision tradenames. Porter added the small Melrose shopping center on Seventh Avenue, which is now the center of the trendy Melrose District. PWC did not have a big advertising budget, but it made a splash when, in collaboration with Hollywood’s RKO Productions, it built a “Dream Home” as a promotion for the movie, Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House, starring Cary Grant. The extra-large ranch style home looked nothing like the film’s residence, but an estimated 5,000 people visited. During these years, there were more buyers than homes. As the housing boom continued, Porter struggled to manage both the home and commercial lines of PWC’s business. He recruited his brother, Rich, a successful home builder too, to become an equity partner in charge of residential construction. Richard Creswell took the reins a few years later. Porter turned his attention to commercial projects and civic activities. PWC built the Central Methodist Church, which he and his wife, Leta, attended. Porter served as president of Goodwill Industries, and Leta was a founder of the Goodwill Auxiliary, which organized an annual used book sale at the State Fairgrounds. Porter was a founder and the first president of the Paradise Valley Country Club. PWC built PVCC and the Paradise Valley Racquet Club, later renamed the John Gardiner Tennis Ranch, and today known as The Sanctuary. Other significant projects were the worker’s housing district at Glen

Canyon Dam and the entire mining town of Gabbs, Nevada. PWC built three buildings that were notable examples of mid-century architecture: The Bank of Douglas building, the Palms Theatre, and a Valley National Bank branch. Only the VNB building at 201 West Indian School Road remains. In the 1960s, Porter closed the company’s commercial business to focus on home construction. The most prolific builders – Del Webb and John F. Long – were now building master-planned communities. But Porter stayed with his conservative

business model to the end. Lennar Corporation purchased PWC and its landholdings following Porter’s death in 1968. Porter was not a man of many words, but in a company advertisement, his outlook was eloquently expressed: “There’s more than the hand of man in building a home, a school, a church, a theatre, a skyscraper. There’s the conscience of one who conceives, whether he builds great or small. And as he builds more and more, does he become indebted to those who believe in him.”

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Andy Womack:

the Rodeo Clown Who Helped Build Phoenix


ndrew Jackson Womack was a gregarious and generous man who was quick with a joke and comfortable taking risks. He enjoyed socializing with friends over drinks and poker and was an eternal optimist about marriage since he tied the knot eight times. In Phoenix, Andy started with Womack Brothers Construction and then became a brick contractor. In 1935, he got a general contractor license, formed Andy Womack Building Co., and built several custom homes in the Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood. Andy, like Porter, became a wellknown home builder. They were business competitors but remained on cordial terms. Several years later, together, the brothers built a new home for their parents. By 1937, the housing industry had

Left: Andy Womack with Dynamite and Hugo. Below: Andy Womack with Dynamite and Hugo in the Phoenix Jaycees Rodeo of Rodeos Parade. Right: Ad for Andy Womack’s biggest subdivision, Stardust Skies.

Tom Pickrell rebounded, thanks to an improved economy and new FHA-backed, long-term, fixedrate home mortgages. Andy commenced Womack Estates, a residential project covering two-square blocks in the Coronado neighborhood, and built 23 ranch-style homes using an assembly-line process. This development was the first mass-produced subdivision built on speculation in Phoenix, as Andy recognized the market for small tract homes. During the pre-World War II years, Andy developed another profitable business niche: the roadside motel. U.S. Highway 80, the route of travelers driving east from San Diego, included West Van Buren Street on its path through Phoenix. Andy built and sold four motels on the street between 16th and 12th avenues: Park Lane Motor Court, Mayfair

Motor Hotel, Palomine Hotel Auto Court, and Greenway Terrace. Construction slowed during the war, but Andy built the Palmcroft Apartments, a defense housing project with 24 units, on West McDowell Road. Phoenix encouraged its residents to share their home with a war worker’s family due to a severe housing shortage. Andy did one better and let war workers live at these apartments rent-free. Andy was a true horseman who embraced Arizona’s cowboy culture and the rodeos across the state that celebrated their skills. He was also a bit short and

His act included a chimpanzee, Cousin Hugo, that rode attached to a small horse named Dynamite

Arizona Contractor & Community

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of the Arizona Canal, where Sunnyslope High School is today. Andy served as chairman of the Rodeo of Rodeos in 1939 and 1942-43. At his ranch, he entertained many rodeo performers. Jasbo Fulkerson and George Mills, the bestknown rodeo clowns of their time, became Andy’s closest friends. Rodeo clowns had two jobs. They were visual comedians who performed skits to entertain the crowd as well as “bullfighters,” who stood in the arena trying to distract the bull from the fallen rider. Jasbo was the first rodeo clown to use a large barrel for protection when bullfighting. Andy got a taste

His wife persuaded Andy to open Chez Nous, a stylish cocktail lounge

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stocky with lots of grit – perfect qualities for a rodeo clown. During the war years, Andy achieved prominence in the Phoenix Jaycees, a boisterous young men’s civic organization. He organized the first Phoenix Jaycees Rodeo of Rodeos. This three-day extravaganza began with a horse-drawn, pageantry-filled parade down Central Avenue followed by two days of rodeo competition at the State Fairgrounds. Schools and businesses closed so that residents could attend the parade. The rodeo was a sell-out event that featured Hollywood celebrities, such as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Andy lived with his wife and daughters on a 60-acre ranch on the north side

of clowning when Jasbo worked him into a comedy skit. As rodeo chairman, Andy sat prominently along the rail. With help from the rodeo announcer, Jasbo engaged Andy in a heated conversation, resulting in Jasbo grabbing Andy’s hat and tossing it into the arena near the bucking chute. Ignoring the announcer’s dire warnings, Andy climbed over the rail and reclaimed his hat just as a raging bull “escaped.” As the beast was bearing down on him, Andy jumped into Jasbo’s barrel, which then rolled over. Andy timidly crawled out on all fours, grabbed his hat, and then scurried back into the barrel. The audience split a gut, and a new rodeo clown was born. In 1947, Andy hit a rough patch. His wife divorced him and moved into town with their daughters. Then Jasbo Fulkerson was killed in a truck accident. After some soul searching, Andy decided to put his business on hold and work the rodeo circuit with George Mills. Andy became well known for his frantic, spectacular leaps into the barrel to avoid rampaging bulls. His act included a chimpanzee, Cousin Hugo, that rode attached to a small horse named Dynamite. As Andy galloped around the arena on his horse, Dynamite with Hugo aboard followed every twist and turn, leaving the crowd to believe that Cousin Hugo was an ace rider. The trio worked the biggest venues, including Madison Square Garden and the Cow Palace, and appeared in Western stage shows with Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey. The job, however, came with a price. Andy got his share of bruises and broken bones, and one “bull wreck” landed him in a hospital for several weeks.

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Top left: Chez Nous Cocktail Lounge by Jason Hill Design. Left: Andy Womack riding War Bond. Far left: Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, War Bond, Rodeo Queen, and Andy Womack, 1942. Sep-Oct 2020

Images courtesy of Douglas Towne

Top: Motels built by Andy Womack.

heads as he drove around Phoenix in his for the last time for the Old-Timers Rodeo By 1954, Andy was building homes in Cadillac with the top down and Cousin at Arizona Livestock Show. Andy was Phoenix again. But for many more years, Hugo in the passenger seat. At age 84, inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame he rode in the Phoenix Rodeo of Rodeos Andy put on his face paint and clown rags six years after his death in 1992. parade, performed at rodeos and shows, and made it to the silver screen. Andy portrayed a rodeo clown, with his beloved Phoenix Rodeo of Rodeos as the backdrop, in the Hollywood movie, Bus Stop, starring Marilyn Monroe. As Phoenix’s housing boom continued, Andy developed one residential subdivision after another, following the city’s EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO northward growth. His biggest with 500 homes was Stardust Skies, located west of 35th Avenue and south of Butler Drive. Andy also built two more motels, the El Rancho on Route 66 in Flagstaff and the Hotel Stardust, a large resort motel, on Highway 80 in Yuma. In the mid-1960s, these ventures suffered when the U.S. Interstate System bypassed their respective business districts. Andy had to unload the Hotel Stardust to avoid foreclosure. He also sold the El Rancho, but it came back to him when the buyer defaulted. He operated the ✓ Large selection of top-quality, motel after renaming it Andy Womack’s low-hour equipment Flamingo Motor Hotel. The motel’s bright orange sign became an icon of Mother ✓ 15+ premium brands like Cat, Road nostalgia, which locals called the Genie, Trimble, Broce and more! “Flaming Motor Hotel,” when the neon for ✓ 24-hour emergency service the “O” in flamingo burned out. ✓ Complimentary operator training Selling homes made Andy a small fortune, but his best investment may have ✓ Manage rentals anytime from been Bill’s Rite Inn, an old filling station, anywhere with the store, and bar at the southeast corner of Cat Rental Store Portal Seventh Avenue and Indian School Road. Andy, a long-time patron, became incensed when the owner started to close the bar 16 LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU amid his poker game. He offered to buy the bar on the spot, and to his surprise, the ARIZONA Apache Junction Phoenix (Deer Valley) owner accepted. Phoenix Power Systems Blythe Andy took over the bar, adding an outPrescott Buckeye CALIFORNIA door cage for Cousin Hugo, and eventually Show Low Eloy put a new building on the property. Andy Thatcher Flagstaff wanted a cowboy bar, but his wife, MauTucson Imperial reen, a Phoenix socialite, persuaded him Tucson Power Systems Kingman Yuma Mesa to make it a stylish cocktail lounge, Chez Nous. Perhaps jokingly, he said that the bar made so much money it more than covered his alimony and child support payments. Even as he slowed down, Andy remained an entertainer. He often turned




Arizona Contractor & Community

Building on the Past


lthough it’s called the Murphy Bridle Path, you’re not likely to see any mounted riders on the dirt trail that parallels North Central Avenue in Phoenix. But it was a different story in 1948 when the Arizona Horse Lovers Club formally dedicated the 5-mile-long trail. Equestrians gathered for a Sunday morning pancake breakfast near the path’s gateway at the northeast intersection with Bethany Home Road. An oversized, 125pound iron horseshoe dangled underneath the entrance. B.L. Gustafson, who founded B.L. Gustafson Construction, and provided the gateway’s juniper posts, was among the mounted posse. Riders could refresh their horses on the opposite side of Central, where a Salt River Project irrigation lateral often carried water. The 10-foot-wide path was established by developer William J. Murphy, who deeded the right-of-way, shaded by Arizona ash and olive trees, in 1895. He had recently platted the Orangewood subdivision, a two-square-mile area bounded between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street from Bethany Home to Northern Avenue. Murphy sought to attract wealthy residents by creating a Phoenix suburb with homes on large, 20-acre lots

surrounded by citrus groves. Owners later subdivided these parcels. Houses were built on smaller lots, which often retained some of the citrus trees in their landscaped lawns. In 1951, the Bridle Path was extended north to the Arizona Canal, and south to Camelback Road. The latter segment was later discontinued. Phoenix annexed the neighborhood in 1959, and the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Library Department currently maintains the path. Since annexation, the city has rejected plans to bury the SRP lateral, widen Central, or allow homeowners to pave over sections of the Bridle Path for residential driveways. In a rare misstep, the city planted Aleppo pines to replace the original ash trees in 1963. Nine years later, the city acquiesced to the resident’s wishes, removed the pines, and replanted ash trees. The Bridle Path has outlived its initial function, as most of the neighborhood’s horse properties have been redeveloped. But the trail is much beloved by pedestrians and cyclists, especially for its shady tree canopy during the summer.

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1948: Equestrian Promenade

Top: W.J. Murphy at the Roosevelt Dam Ceremony, 1911. Right: W.J. Murphy Bridle Path Memorial dedication, with B.L. Gustafson (at left) on horse, 1948. Sep-Oct 2020

Arizona Contractor & Community

Architect’s Perspective: Rushia Glen Fellows, AIA: Courageous Community Leader Doug Sydnor, FAIA uring these challenging times, Amer- four class speakers for the 1948 Phoenix icans desperately want sound leader- College commencement. While at Phoenix College, Fellows ship. Rushia Glen Fellows, AIA, was an African-American architect, educator, entered a national “Dream Home” design and civic leader in Arizona who led with competition sponsored by the Ameriknowledge, diplomacy, and exhibited grace can Builders Association and AIA. Fellows received second prize for his entry, which under pressure. Fellows was born in Arkansas, and he found “astonishing.” This prize provided his family moved to Phoenix in 1925. Fel- him a two-year scholarship to the engineering college at Harvard Unilows grew up with six sibversity, which he attended lings and attended seghe was always regated schools starting sharing his stories in 1949. Fellows married Alice with Booker T. Washington of people and Tease in 1950, and they Grammar School, where he received the “Medalist” architecture’s impact had two sons, Darvis and to change individual Daryl. He attended Arizona honor awarded by the Sons lives, families, and State College (now Arizona and Daughters of the AmerState University), where ican Revolution. He became communities. he received his Bachelor of a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop No. 7 while attend- Science degree in architecture in 1951. He ing George Washington Carver High School. was the first African-American graduate in Fellows entered the U.S. Army at age 17, the program. His first job was as a draftsman for the where he finished high school under the architect Frank R. Fazio in the early 1950s. V-12 program. After serving in World War II, Fel- Fellows later worked as a designing draftslows enrolled at Phoenix College and man for Floyd Le Raine Pike in the early co-founded an NAACP Youth Council, serv- 1960s. Fellows was employed by the Del ing as the vice-president in 1947. In ROTC, Fellows became a U.S. Army Reserve Sec- Webb Corporation from 1963 to 1972, ond Lieutenant and was later promoted to working in the Community Development First Lieutenant. He was selected as one of Division architectural department and on

Image courtesy of Donna Reiner


the project in Sun City, California. He also helped teach an ASU summer course, “Construction, Materials, and Technique.” While at Del Webb, he became the first African-American registered architect in Arizona in 1965. Fellows subsequently formed his own Phoenix-based architectural practice and completed municipal, community, and religious projects from 1973 into the 1980s. During his career, Fellows completed more than 50 buildings during 21 years of professional practice. An early project was the Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church at 901 West Buckeye Road in Phoenix in 1973. Fellows was a church member there for 26 years and held many leadership roles. The building is a modest, simple structure with slump block walls and a pitched roof with gable ends. The walls have vertical windows and some projected masonry units that visually modulate the long walls. Another project is the South Mountain Community Center in Phoenix’s El Reposo Park at 212 East Alta Vista Road, which was completed in 1976 for the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. The structure utilized a T-shaped floor plan and slump masonry units as the walls. Vertical windows admit daylight and are framed with precast architectural concrete units. The structure is capped with an architectural precast concrete fascia with a sculptural detail. Fellows was hired by Hugh Burgess, dean of the ASU College of Architecture and Environmental Design in 1977 to teach

Top: Rushia G. Fellows, AIA portrait, 1980. Left: Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Phoenix, 1973. fifty two

Sep-Oct 2020

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undergraduate design studios and advise students. “As an advisor, he was very patient and empathetic. He looked forward to meeting with students to help guide their academic careers. He was a wellliked member of the office staff,” said David Scheatzle, FAIA, retired ASU professor. Fellows also served as the Coordinator of Student Services, where he traveled Arizona and the South, encouraging minority students to enter the architecture and design professions. First-year architecture students were taught jointly by Fellows and Tim McGinty, ASU assistant dean. Around 1988, “Rushia… also led the students’ first engineering/ architectural graphics class, refining the syllabus, and managing the 8-10 teaching assistants,” McGinty said. “It was a good fit. Rushia did not accept incorrect work by the students or sloppy grading by the TA’s. It was also a good opportunity for students to find a role model. Rushia was reserved and unflappable. I remember seeing him being gently patient and helpful with both his teaching assistants and students.” Fellows also taught first and third years with Max Underwood, AIA, ASU ACSA distinguished architecture professor. “What I recall was that Rushia was quiet, soft-spoken, and greatly admired by his students,” Underwood said. “He cared about each one and built upon their backgrounds and made architecture come alive. As a practicing architect who was building modest community design-build projects, he was always sharing his stories of people and architecture’s impact to change individual lives, families, and communities. Rushia’s modest churches and community centers – and impactful teaching – continue to be Fellows Minority Student Scholarship was life-affirming and cherished.” created to “eradicate inequity, quietly and Fellows also found time for community persistently.” Architect Lorenzo Perez was service that included being the first ASU student to Chairman of the Neighbenefit from the scholar“Rushia’s modest borhood Revitalization ship. “I love and cherish Task Force for the West- churches and community my relationship and history ern Region of the National centers - and impactful with Rushia and the impact teaching - con­tinue to he had on my life,” Perez Urban Coalition. Fellows co-founded the Arizona be life-affirming and said. “Rushia was my adviArchitects Foundation Inc., cherished.” sor when I entered archiand was involved in the ASU tecture school in the fall Architectural Guild, AIA, the City of Phoenix of 1990. He proved to be quite the pivotal Board of Appeals on Signs, the Phoenix Dis- person in my life.” trict Advisory Council of the Small Business African Americans are only about 1 Administration, and the Phoenix Urban percent of the 95,000 registered architects League. in the U.S. A recent National Organization During his teaching period, he earned of Minority Architects (NOMA) Chapter a Masters in Architecture from the Univer- meeting featured Fellows and noted that sity of Arizona in 1985. Fellows taught until there are only 14 African Americans his passing in 1990 at the age of 65. licensed among Arizona’s 2,164 registered After Fellows died, the ASU Rushia G. architects. Fellows began this legacy, but

Above: Sunnyslope Community Center, Phoenix, 1978. Top: South Mountain Community Center, Phoenix, 1976.

there is a great need to continue his fine work and encourage young black men and women and other minorities to consider a career in architecture. Douglas B. Sydnor, FAIA, is Principal at Douglas Sydnor Architect and Associates, and author of three architecture books. Other Works by Rushia Fellows: • Ebenezer Baptist Church renovation, 1407 North Second Street, Phoenix. • People’s Church, 3215 North 70th Street, Scottsdale (demolished). • Tanner Chapel AME Church renovation, 20 South Eighth Street, Phoenix. • Sunnyslope Community Center, 802 East Vogel Avenue, Phoenix. Arizona Contractor & Community



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Digging Through the Archives: Joe Roybal William Horner


oe Roybal was a seasoned, multi-skilled operator when we met at Ace Asphalt. I was sent to assist in finishing a grading project in Peoria, and had been given the skinny on him by another blade operator. “I’ve worked with Joe before,” said Scott Davis. “He’s like us and cool,” which was code for being a fun guy. We quickly became allies in the construction industry, although we rarely saw each other. When we did work together, inevitably, the conversation would revolve around old construction equipment. Roybal later spoke of his early career in the industry once he learned that I was publishing Arizona Contractor & Community magazine. What was most surprising was how focused Roybal was on fitness and health, a passion that would later prove to save his life. Roybal grew up the youngest of four kids in Minturn, Colorado, a small town near Vail. “We were very active, always outside no matter the weather, riding bikes, four-wheeling, hunting, hiking, and camping in the mountains,” he recalls. “Once the snow fell, we went skiing and snowboarding.” This upbringing was vital to Roybal, as he learned many valuable lessons in Minturn. “Things such as opening a door

and learning to respect your elders were instilled in us,” he says. “We learned the value of earning your keep, and doing chores like mowing the lawn, cleaning dishes, and shoveling snow off the porch, which translate to almost everything in life to this day.” Roybal’s construction career began at age 13 when his dad’s friend hired him at $6 an hour to clean his scrapyard that included railroad ties, tin roof panels, and construction equipment. “While it mostly involved physical labor, I was allowed to operate an old backhoe on a fully assisted basis,” he says. “But when I took the controls, I instantly grasped how to handle it, as I’ve always had a mechanical mind.” He next worked for B & B Construction, with his dad, Juan Roybal Jr., in Colorado. “We moved dirt, but when the snow fell, most work came to a stop,” he recalls. “I

later had a job with Kirkland Construction building mountain roads.” Roybal moved to Arizona and landed a position with R.J. Meyers Construction. Afterward, he worked for Haydon Building Corp., Rummel Construction, Austin Bridge & Road, Ace Asphalt, and as a general superintendent for Weber Services. During his construction career, Roybal worked on dozens of job sites that ranged from digging underground utilities to moving millions of yards of dirt to operating a finish blade on small parking lots. His most memorable project was for Freeport McMoran in Safford. “Rummel Construction worked for a year building a leach pad that was 8,000-feet long x 2,600feet wide, and moved more than a million yards of material with over 40-foot cuts and fills,” he says. Another notable project was 7 miles of the Loop 303 with Austin Bridge

Top: Roybal operating a Cat 637 scraper for R.J. Meyers Construction, late 1990s. Right: Roybal when he qualified to compete in a national body-building contest in Vegas. Far right: Roybal after he lost 67 pounds after 11 surgeries in 12 days, compared to how he appears three years later.

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Top right: Roybal operating a Cat D10N for Haydon Building Corp., early 2000s. Middle: Roybal’s view from a Cat 657 of other scrapers working for R.J. Meyers Construction building a landfill, late 1990s. Right: Roybal linking up Cat 657 push-pull scrapers for R.J. Meyers Construction while building a landfill, late 1990s.

Images courtesy of Author

& Road. “It involved blasting, soffit fills, and numerous bridge constructions that were part of the sub-grade work,” he says. “I ran dozers, blades, and large loaders.” His toughest job was performing utility installations in Downtown Phoenix. “We had to navigate the excavator bucket through extremely tight spaces avoiding the main fiber optic lines feeding Sky Harbor Airport and the Maricopa County Jail,” Roybal recalls. “Spotters from the fiber companies watched every bucket of dirt removed to ensure no lines were damaged. This scenario was by far the most stress I’ve experienced as an operator.” But that stress was nothing compared to what he encountered when his life almost came to a screeching halt in late 2015. Roybal lost control of his brother’s Ducati 848 Evo motorcycle and drifted across three lanes before striking the curb. He was thrown more than 330 feet through a road median filled with Palo Verde trees, cactus, and boulders. An off-duty paramedic initially reached Roybal, who was loaded onto an Air-Vac helicopter 15 minutes later. “My injuries were severe enough that aggressive resuscitation was required numerous times to keep me alive,” he says. “My blood pressure was 40/20, a range at which paramedics see few people survive. I was conscious and answering questions, which I have no memory of.” What likely saved Roybal’s life was his excellent physical condition. His list of injuries is extensive and sobering. “Surgeons stated my muscle mass was what allowed me to undergo 11 surgeries in 12 days, which were prioritized in life-saving order,” Roybal says. His weight plummeted from 204 pounds to 137 pounds. “To say I’m grateful to be still alive would be a huge understatement,” Roybal says. “It’s a testament to the amazing people that came to my aid in the worst time of my entire life. To them, I’m forever indebted.” Roybal hasn’t worked construction since the accident but hasn’t ruled out a comeback. “There’s a chance I might assist Buddy Escapule when he does some work at Castle Hot Springs,” he says.

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Bid Results - July & August 2020 7/1/2020 FY 20 Rd Recovery Local Streets Package 5 Southern AZ Paving $5,849,329

7/17/2020 Thornydale Reclaimed Reservoir Rehabilitation Ashton $1,916,096

7/2/2020 Chandler Blvd Bike Lanes I 10 56th St Combs $904,827

7/22/2020 Arcadia Timrod Bicycle Boulevard Whelcon $1,332,654

7/9/2020 Alma School Road Arterial Reconstruct Fishel $3,425,587

7/23/2020 Mesa Gateway Shared Use Path Stratton Builders $1,665,131

7/15/2020 Minor Concrete Improvements 2020 2021 Visus $2,071,800

7/24/2020 St Johns Sanders Hwy Show Low Const $2,522,954

7/15/2020 FY20 Chip Seal Cactus Asphalt $1,695,041

7/24/2020 El Paso Gasline Multi Use Path TALIS $1,507,528

7/15/2020 Kolb Road Sabino Canyon Sunrise Dr KE&G $15,361,163

7/28/2020 FY 19 ARAC NE Overlay Arterials Nesbitt $2,230,055

7/16/2020 Chandler Heights Rd Power Rd Via Del Arroyo Sunland $5,720,313

7/30/2020 Mill Replacement Cliff Rose Subdivision PAP $883,845

7/16/2020 Riley Drive Wastewater Lift Station Overleys $621,621

7/31/2020 (CMAR) Inter Improvements Rural Rd Uni Dr Haydon $3,200,000

7/17/2020 Parker Bullhead SR 95 7th St Combs $533,976

8/4/2020 Staff Parking Lot Upgrades Estrella Jail ACE Asphalt $845,709

Sep/oct 1951 Water Main Installation Osborn from 23rd to 27th Ave C. Calderaro & Sons, Phoenix $9,116 7½ Miles of Road Reconstruction HWY 66 Between Holbrook and Lupton Lyle Price Contr., Holbrook $284,747 Paving and Traffic Signal Installation Along Grand Ave. in Glendale Tanner, Heuser & Garnett, Co., Phoenix $58,882 1½ Miles of Road Reconstruction Iron Springs Rd. Extending North W.J. Henson, Prescott $25,719 11 Miles of Road Resurfacing HWY 66 at Canyon Diablo Extending West D.M. Bradley and S.R. Dysart, Phoenix $31,840 2.3 Miles of Road Improvements McDowell Rd. East to Gilbert Rd. Iben Const. Co., Phoenix $75,793 3 Miles of Road Construction Prescott-Ashfork HWY and Rock Springs HWY W.J. Henson, Prescott $784,798 3 Miles of Road Construction New Black Canyon HWY at Camp Verde Arizona Sand & Rock Co., Phoenix $960,730

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