Westward Ho

Historic Building Fact Sheet

westward ho historic building phoenix

The Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix as viewed from the east. (2008) Photo credit: Alan Levine

Need to Know Info

Address618 North Central Ave.,
Phoenix, Arizona
Coordinates33°27′17.9″N 112°4′25.82″W
Date Added to NRHPFebruary 19, 1982

The Westward Ho is a historic 16-story high-rise building in downtown Phoenix that originally opened in 1928 as a grand hotel but has since been converted into subsidized housing for the elderly and disabled after undergoing major renovations.

It held the record as Arizona’s tallest building for over 30 years and has had a fascinating history involving transitions in ownership, the broadcasting of Phoenix’s first TV station, and recognition on the National Register of Historic Places.

The In-Depth Story

The Westward Ho: A Historic Phoenix Landmark

The Westward Ho is a renowned high-rise building situated in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Standing at 208 feet (63 meters) tall to the roof, this 16-story structure held the distinction of being the tallest building in Arizona for over three decades until the completion of the Meridian Bank Tower in 1960.

Originally constructed to serve as a grand hotel, the Westward Ho welcomed its first guests upon its grand opening on December 15, 1928. For the next 52 years, it operated primarily as a hotel, offering not only guest accommodations but also housing several offices, restaurants, gathering spaces, and a large convention center known as the Thunderbird Room.

The Westward Ho’s construction was announced in the spring of 1927, financed by Sutherlin-Barry & Company of New Orleans for the initial owner, G.L. Johnson of Chicago. The architectural design was handled by the firm Fisher, Lake, and Traver, who had previously worked on the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California. However, the building’s construction faced challenges, coming to a halt in early 1928 with only six stories completed. It wasn’t until April of that year that the J.V. McNeil Company of Los Angeles was awarded the contract to complete the hotel’s construction.

In September 1928, ownership transferred to Charles V. Bob of New York City, who secured financing from August Heckscher. It was at this point that the hotel’s name was changed from its original moniker, the Roosevelt Hotel, to the Westward Ho. An interesting anecdote is that the renowned developer Del Webb, whose company would later construct an expansion to the hotel, got his start hanging doors during the initial construction phase.

One of the most notable features added to the Westward Ho was a 240-foot steel tower and 40-foot antenna erected in 1949. This addition allowed the building to become the broadcast site for Phoenix’s first television station, KPHO-TV Channel 5, making it the tallest structure in downtown Phoenix at the time, with a total height of 488 feet (149 meters).

After over five decades of operation as a hotel, the Westward Ho officially closed its doors on April 7, 1980. Its new owners then undertook renovations to convert the former hotel into a federally-subsidized housing complex for the elderly and those with mobility impairments. This transition was completed in 1981, with the first residents moving into the repurposed building.

To better accommodate its new role, the Westward Ho underwent another significant renovation project in 2003 and 2004. At an estimated cost of $9 million, these renovations included the installation of a centralized air conditioning system, the replacement of approximately 450 exterior windows with replicas of the originals, and upgrades to the fire sprinkler and alarm systems. Additionally, the exterior was restored to its original grandeur through power washing, stucco repair, and a fresh coat of the building’s signature beige paint.

Throughout its history, the Westward Ho has had several owners, including notable names like John B. Mills, R.H. Hawn, and the Republic National Life Insurance Company. In 1982, the building was recognized for its historical significance by being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the Westward Ho stands as a testament to Phoenix’s architectural heritage, serving as a reminder of the city’s growth and evolution over the past century. Its transformation from a luxurious hotel to a residential complex for those in need reflects the building’s ability to adapt and remain a vital part of the urban landscape.

NRHP Reference #: 82002082