Sweet Home Arcadia: A Paradise of Our Own

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A few years ago, my spouse and I were on a mission to buy our first home together. Our search spanned the historic districts of central Phoenix to the suburbs of Ahwatukee. We liked some of the homes, put offers on a few, and walked away from a couple others. None of them gave us the warm fuzzy feelings we wanted in our first home.

Arcadia Neighborhood

 

A year into the search, I was growing tired of showings and open houses when a thought occurred to me: “What about Arcadia?” We immediately shifted our search and asked our ever-so-patient real estate agent to show us available homes in Arcadia the following weekend. When we pulled down Fairmont Avenue and into the driveway of the second available home, sparks flew. We’d found the one.

Two years later, we love our home and community more than we ever thought we could. When friends and family come to visit, they are often bewildered to see neighbors wave from their cars, roll down their windows to say hello and even walk across the street for friendly conversation. I’ve been asked, “You actually know your neighbors?” more times than I can count.

This is the reputation our community has. Arcadians- and most valley residents, for that matter – can attest to it. But is our community unique? After all, we’re not the only neighborhood that bears the Arcadia name. From Arcadia, California to Arcadia City, Florida, there are more than 15 towns and cities that claim the name our community proudly boasts.

Most of these cities and towns date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of them are small, quiet places known for laid-back atmospheres and picturesque surroundings. And the majority of these cities and towns were named for the ancient region in Arcadia, Greece, which is depicted as a paradise in Greek and Roman poetry and Renaissance literature. Merriam-Webster echoes this sentiment defining arcadia as a “very pleasant and quiet place.”

The Arcadia we call home was founded in 1919 by four businessmen: Seymour Jordan and Robert E. Grace, from the Phoenix real estate firm Jordan & Grace; a California citrus grower named Mike Krieg; and Phoenix real estate investor Charles Keafer.

Arcadia Homes for Sale

The first announcement of Arcadia from 1919

A 1919 promotional article written by S.E Jordan details his “dream of Arcadia”: 1000 acres, split into 5-acre tracts, creating an “exclusive and ideally beautiful” subdivision at the southern base of Camelback.

The four pioneers formed the Arcadia Water Company in1919 and built the first house for their irrigation foreman. Today the little house is part of the Shemer Art Center. In the early 1920’s ownership of the land went to Henry Coerver, a banker from Kansas City. Coerver later split the land into lots and sold them.

The Knoell family also moved to Arcadia in the early 1920s, according to an Arizona Republic article provided by the City of Phoenix Planning and Development Office. In the Early 1950s, two of the family’s sons, Frank and Hugh, formed Knoell Brothers Construction Co. and built the Arcadia Villa subdivision on their family property, which was located on the northeast corner of 40th Street and Camelback Road. Arcadia continued to suburbanize and by mid-1950s, Phoenix reached the area and annexed most of it.

Today, Arcadia spans 40th Street to 68th Street and from Camelback Road to Thomas Road. Despite the community’s growth, reminders of its past-from orange, lemon and grape fruit trees to mature landscaping and irrigated lots – surround us.

But even more than our distinctive landscape, today Arcadia is better known for something else.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who has represented Arcadia for more than a decade during his time on the Phoenix City Council, believes Arcadia’s factor is simple: It’s the community.

“On a daily basis, we see residents outdoors taking in the evening, walking their dogs, catching up with their friends and neighbors and just generally enjoying life in our neighborhood,” DiCiccio says. “The sort of community feeling Arcadians enjoy is something we would like to see everywhere in Phoenix.”

Kathy Halter grew up in Arcadia after her family moved to the area in 1972.

She fondly recalls citrus tree picking boxes lining the streets, riding bikes with friends and playing kick the can in the street at night. She recalls summer being all about swimming and moving from house to house, and finding your friends by looking for whose bike was in whose front yard. Moms would keep track of each other’s kids and there was never a worry.

“It is definitely more upscale and sophisticated,” Halter says of Arcadia today. “Though if you see a pack of long-haired girls riding bikes down the bike path on Lafayette, I know those are the daughters of my friends. They look just like we used to, thought the Abercrombie shorts would be replaced with a great of Ops and our bikes had banana seats.”

Like many other residents, Halter’s favorite thing about the neighborhood today is Arcadia’s community pride.

Halters ticks off reasons she loves Arcadia: “I love my Arcadia News, I love the Fourth of July parade, I love that so many people I knew as a kid still live here, I love the views, I love the location, I love the Plethora of dogs and dog walkers”

She also believes the fact that generations of families have lived in Arcadia sets our community apart from similarly named places across the country. Halter is one of these families, as she now watches her 11-year-ols daughter Emmie, a third generation Arcadian, grow up in the same neighborhood she did more than 40 years ago.

So what’s it like to grow up in Arcadia today?

“I like that I have awesome neighbors and that my mom tells me awesome stories about almost every place we go in Arcadia,” Emmie Halter says. “It feels like a little town in the middle of really big Phoenix.”

By Michelle Donati-Grayman / Photo by NTK Photography

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