Modern Phoenix Neighborhood Network

The Washburn Piano Company at 20th Street and Camelback

Landmark building designed by Valley legend Ed Varney was demolished by its Californian owner to build a bank

Interior photo by Jason Hill

On March 20 and 21 of 2007 the Washburn Piano building was demolished

Eyewitness account and photos by Alison King This morning I went over to go see the Washburn Piano building. The General Contractor (GC) saw me shooting photos through the barbed wire, so he came over and asked if I was from The Republic. I said no, I wasn't but that I was going to send them in to The Republic if they turned out okay. He was very nice and offered to show me the plans. We went to the trailer and there were tons of demo plans -- elevation drawings with huge black Xs through them. I had no idea that's what demo plans looked like. shot some photos of the plans and had a spectacular behind-the-scenes view of the gaping shell that once was Washburn Piano, originally First Federal Savings and Loan designed by AZ architect Ed Varney in 1964. Had I not been so awestruck, I should have asked him why they demo the interior first, then the exterior. I suppose it makes sense to weaken the cavity the best you can, if you're not using explosives The GC said that the final blows were coming "probably tomorrow". I asked if I could take some shots and he said of course, just wear a hard hat. Silly me, I'd run out for the shoot in such a hurry this morning I was wearing flip flops! So I kept my distance and shot what I could. The GC was VERY gracious and I am thrilled that I got to take a look inside. It was sad and awesome at the same time to be able to see such a rare and privileged view of the action.

I asked the GC what he thought about the building getting leveled and he seemed kind of nonchalant. Friendly, but distanced. "Well, it doesn't really fit in anymore," he said.

We were both gazing out toward Camelback Road, and within 180 degrees of vision I could see that monster of a Bahama Breeze restaurant that has been VACANT for my guess four years, done in sprawling plantation style. And the Big Box Best Buy. Then there's the Chili's restaurant done in Tudor-meets-Timothy Leary style. In the distance is the old Town and Country shopping mall, one of the last great outdoor malls in Phoenix once again threatened by redevelopment. Then Ralph Haver's Lou Register/Copenhagen building down toward the freeway. In my mind's eye three blocks down I could see the ghost of Haver's Cine Capri theater further east, where I first saw Star Wars and E.T.

Then I turned around another 180 degrees. And there's the Bank of America bank building right across the street and then all of those gorgeous garden apartments up along 20th street. I am looking at the neighborhood where my husband grew up in the mid/late 80s with grand old sprawling ranches, some of them by significant designers. Where he and I dated and fell in love, prowling Uptown for the latest in pizza by a then-unknown Euromarket employee named Bianco.

Three decades of memories flooded back.

Washburn doesn't fit in?!??!

Doesn't FIT IN?!?

My transmissions were temporarily jammed with the emotional impact and I didn't know how to react to this. So I finally managed to process it and remark, "You know that's a funny thing to say about not fitting in. This place is a part of my culture."

Without skipping a beat the CG replied, "It's mine, too."