Located about nine miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, Glendale has a rich and
colorful history that stands in contrast to some its neighbors such as Sun City that is a comparative newcomer to the Valley of the Sun. A blending of Russian, Hispanic, and Japanese settlers gave the community a unique cultural diversity that continues to this day. Within a few years of its founding in 1892, Glendale was a modern progressive community largely resultant of its location on a Santa Fe Railroad line that connected it with Prescott, and the main east-west line at Ash Fork.
In 1895, Glendale had a public library with more than 400 books. Within a decade the town was the center of a thriving agricultural region dominated by sugar beet farms, and then cotton farms as prices for this commodity soared during WWI. With banks, grocers, department stores, theaters, two newspapers, and an array of other storefronts, Glendale by 1920 was a thriving prosperous community. Vestiges of this historic past abound. There are nine histrionically significant neighborhoods, and more than twenty buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of these is the sprawling red brick beet sugar factory located at 5243 W. Glendale Avenue that was built in 1906.
Other historic structures of particular note include the distinctive Glendale State Bank building at 6838 N. 58th Drive. Now housing law offices, it was designed in a Beaux-Arts style with distinctive classic Greek architecture and remains as the only historic commercial building in Glendale with original facade. Listed on the National register of Historic Places in 1983, the facade features the earliest known use of Terra Cotta in the Salt River Valley.
The establishment of Thunderbird Field, and Luke Field, now Luke Air Force Base, during WWII, marked the beginning of a new era in Glendale. The towns economy diversified from its agricultural origins, and with the transformation of Thunderbird Field into the Thunderbird American Graduate Schools for International Management, it also became a leader in the provision of educational services. All of this development led the city to expand on services offered, and focus on the future with development of parks and schools.
As with numerous communities, the City of Glendale and its residents are looking for ways to restore vibrancy to the historic business district that languished in the era of strip malls, malls, and the rise of chain stores. In late spring 2017, the city approved a three year contract with the Glendale Chamber of Commerce for the hiring of a downtown manager tasked with serving as a liaison between business owners, property owners, and the city. There are also plans being developed for summer evening festivals.
Often the catalyst for dynamic historic district revitalization is new and unique businesses managed by passionate, community minded people. And that takes us to Meli Lips, the premier distributor of all natural bath bombs, skin care products, candles, and handmade soaps in Glendale.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America