Category Archives: landmarks

Efforts to restore Tucson’s Valley of the Moon under way

[Source: Ryn Gargulinski, Tucson Citizen] — Valley of the Moon is still shooting for the moon with the makeover and restoration of the 1920s-era fantasyland. The journey is well on its way, said spokesman Charlie Spillar, and it’s not stopping at rebuilding a troll bridge or a rabbit hole at the midtown park. Valley of the Moon, 2544 E. Allen Road, will be moving into the future with new additions, fresh landscaping and even compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The Tucson community is doing amazing things to help restore their treasure,” Spillar said.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Val Canez, Tucson Citizen. Pictured: A gnome in the Enchanted Garden at Valley of the Moon.]

Domed roof of Tempe’s former Visitor Information Center still without a home

[Source: Emma Breysse, ASU Web Devil] — A former Tempe landmark that was displaced last year is still homeless, and plans for its future are up in the air. University officials looking for a new home for the gold-domed roof of the former Visitor Information Center at the University have begun eyeing the new Vista Del Sol residential community currently under construction. The University preserved the dome after the building, formerly at Rural Road and Apache Boulevard, was demolished in February 2007, despite the protests of community members and historic preservationists.

The University announced at the time that it had plans to incorporate the dome into the design of the new honors college facility but earlier this year looked to the new luxury residences at Vista del Sol to include it. Though the dome is still in storage while the University debates plans, Leah Hardesty, an ASU spokeswoman, said the University does still intend to find a use for it. “ASU is actively looking to find a new home for the former gold dome roof of the Visitor Information Center,” Hardesty said.

While plans are still uncertain, Hardesty said one of the most likely options is a public ramada, or semi-enclosed shaded shelter, along a new pedestrian mall. “This mall is the major connection between the south campus residences and the center of the Tempe campus,” Hardesty said. Other plans were not specified. The University allocated about $1.3 million to preserve the dome. The Arizona Preservation Foundation fought against the demolition of the building, a Valley National Bank built in 1962, because the bank lent money to build many of the new homes in Tempe. Many older Tempeans have developed a bond with the building and its specific location, a representative of the group said in 2007.

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Jamie Scharer, State Press: a worker explains the system that holds the dome together. The dome was removed February 2007.]

Fate of famed Phoenix Rock Garden unknown

In the 1920s, at the age of 15, Louis Lee emigrated from China to New York. Eventually, Lee made his way across the country to Phoenix where he lived until his death in the summer of 2006. In 1958, Lee began building things in his front yard, purportedly because he didn’t want to bother with a lawn. “He was never much into dirt,” according to his son Errol. He started with small rocks but soon added to his creation with bottles, statuary, and other objects. He used rocks gathered from around the area where roads were being cut through the mountains. As Lee’s Rock Garden grew, intrigued neighbors began leaving objects at the edge of Lee’s property hoping he could find use for them in the growing construction.

Lee’s property, once at the outskirts of Phoenix, is now in the middle of an upscale, highly desirable neighborhood. Over the years his neighbors have included Senator Barry Goldwater, Hormel meatpacking company heir Geordie Hormel, and rocker Alice Cooper. On site, yellowing, framed newspaper articles feature luminaries who have visited the Rock Garden, including Goldwater who stands with Lee admiring his handiwork. “Lee’s Oriental Rock Garden” as Lee called it, includes many amenities: a goldfish pond, winding pathways, desert plantings, hand-built tables, chairs, and shrines of all shapes, sizes, and materials.

Asian ceramic elements dominate the landscape, including smiling Buddhas, foo dogs, elephants, and Samarai warriors. Arches and ledges of all shapes and materials are covered with bells, shells, vases, plastic toys, seashells, license plates, empty beer and wine bottles, piggy banks, hubcaps, theater masks, and various other embellishments, all intertwined with Christmas lights that illuminate year-round. From the street, the Lee home is completely obscured by the intricate tiers of the Rock Garden. “My Dad worked on his yard a few hours every day since 1958. Louis Lee kept adding to and caring for his special garden for almost 50 years. With Louis Lee’s death, his family has been trying to find a way to preserve the Rock Garden and Lee’s fantastical legacy. The ultimate fate of this uniquely envisioned and much-loved site is unknown.