I’ve often remarked—half jokingly—how my dad’s tenure at Hallcraft Homes in the 1970s reshaped the look of mass-produced residential architecture in Phoenix. Driving around town this afternoon, I realize I’m probably not far off the mark for saying that. You can’t go fifteen minutes in any direction without running into a house, townhouse or fourplex that my dad designed. But while driving around, I’m also reminded of the other builders who left their own unique mark on the Valley: John F. Long and Cavalier Homes are two that come to mind.
In my memory, it always seemed to be a bit of an arms race between the big builders at that time. Every year there’d be a slew of new floor plans (or at least new exteriors), with everyone “borrowing” design clues from everyone else; some more successfully than others.
I recall how as a family we used to tour the competition under the pretense of simply being potential homebuyers, and even then I remember remarking (sometimes to the point where I had to be shushed by my folks (because the model homes often did conceal hidden microphones) about how so-and-so blatantly ripped off one of Hallcraft’s design ideas from the previous year.
I wasn’t totally biased however. When dad’s designs stumbled I wasn’t afraid to say so. His response? “They put food on your table.” While he was the lead and chief architect, there were other designers in the mix, and I could tell without asking whether something was dad’s design or one of the juniors’. Perhaps not surprisingly, while they weren’t as good as what my dad did, I didn’t find their designs nearly as terrible as he did.
At one point I had a 3-ring binder that contained floor plans of everything Hallcraft built in the 1970s. (I seem to remember giving it to my dad for safekeeping in the 80s when we both lived in California and it was only many years later when I asked for its return that I learned he’d thrown it out before moving back to Arizona, thinking I no longer wanted it.) I now have only a few sheets remaining that were duplicates of what was in the notebooks, but they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what was lost and after scanning and posting to a website would’ve made an excellent online resource for the new generations buying these homes now.