No matter how many times we bike through the quaint little neighborhood nestled between Thomas and McDowell Roads from 1st to 7th Avenues, its dreamlike setting never ceases to amaze. Indeed, the Willo Historic District has weathered its fair share of architectural movements over the years; it feels magical.

Willo sign resizedBut since its initial acquisition by J. P. Holcomb in the late 1800s, the transformation of Willo into the celebrated blend of structural expression we know today has not come easy. Having sustained the Great Depression, it has taken the support of both local and national real estate developers, community residents, prominent civic leaders, and even the Federal government to continue to help shape and preserve its visual and social characteristics. Fortunately, Willo’s tradition of resiliency was recognized in the late 1980s through its designation as a conservation district, securing its place in the vault of Phoenix history.

Now with over 900 homes, Willo remains one of the largest, most beautiful and oldest historic neighborhoods in the city. For those of us clamoring to get a peek under the hood, on February 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 2017 Willo Historic District Home Tour and Street Fair is offering a look inside a selection of these charming homes. At least a dozen homes will be open to the public for viewing, dating from the 1920’s through the 1940’s and featuring a variety of architectural styles including English Tudor, Greek Revival, American Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, and Pueblo Revival. Visitors can hop on a trolley and be carried throughout the neighborhood or stroll Willo’s iconic tree-lined streets on the way to each home.

A few of the must-sees are:

326 W. Granada | The Edward Sweeney House

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Built in 1931 by builder C. Startzman, this Tudor Revival features stone quoins at the windows, cornice molding on the eaves, and elaborate focal windows.  It is a one and a half story home with countless bold and surprising nooks and crannies throughout the interior.

517 W. Wilshire | The David Jones House

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Constructed in 1940 by the prominent architect, John H. Lester.  Lester described this home as French Provincial because of its hip roof and enclosed eaves.  This Period Revival is part of the Broadmoor Park building boom of the late 1930s.  It too has been completely re-purposed by the current owners, gutting the dining room, kitchen, and laundry room into a kitchen/dining/gathering area.  A 600 square foot master suite was added to match all of the interior architecture, including the arched entryways and recessed niches.

26 W. Vernon | The Glen H. Foster House

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Built in 1926 by A.F. Wasielewski, it is a Spanish Mission style that has been completely restored. It illustrates the initial development of small home tracts in Bennett’s Subdivision, 1921-1929 and directly relates to Phoenix’s first major building boom.

The tour is being put on by volunteers who live in the area, is self-guided and presents a rare opportunity to visit some of the most architecturally significant and finely decorated homes our city has to offer. Your participation provides direct support for future Willo events, neighborhood programs and maintenance efforts.

The streets will be lined with vendors selling handcrafted goods, jewelry, antiques, and local artwork. And the ever-popular Wine and Beer Garden will be there to help lighten the load as you round out your passage through Arizona history. Food vendors will be on site throughout the day should you elect to wander the classic car show right there on Holly at Third Ave.

If You Go

Where: Willo Historic District, Third Avenue and W. Monte Vista Road, Phoenix, AZ 85003.

When:  Sunday, February 12, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Travel:  Parking is available at the parking garage located at 1st Avenue and Holly, or at any accessible location within the neighborhood. Trolleys will be continually running throughout the day and you are welcome to hop on and off at your convenience.

Cost: Presale tickets are $15 and can be purchased online here. Tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the neighborhood park at 3rd Avenue and Holly. Tickets are $18 the day of the tour.

For additional news and updates on the tour, please visit the Facebook page, or

Photos courtesy of Diana Herman, Willo