By Douglas Towne Some Valley residents probably know Bentson Contracting Co. only from its sidewalk stamps around the city. That’s a shame, because the company was one of the most successful midcentury paving contractors and construction materials providers. Its owner, Kenneth G. Bentson, also had a long and admirable track record of civic service in Arizona and truly helped build the community in many ways. How did Bentson become such an essential player in the Arizona const
By Douglas Towne The Security Building was the toast of Downtown Phoenix when it opened in 1928 at the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren Street. Arizona’s tallest building was an ornate structure financed by a 15-person syndicate headed by powerbroker Dwight B. Heard, the then-Arizona Republican publisher. His newspaper labeled the building an “architectural gem” and devoted pages describing its amenities, from the gilded ground-floor marble lobby detailed in g
By Douglas Towne There was a running joke between my wife and me before Arizona Contractor & Community debuted in Spring 2012. “I’m going over to Billy’s to work on the magazine, so I'll be home late,” was my regular message. She’d tease me about the name being "Billie," and eventually became concerned about my frequent absences. Billy Horner and I solved that problem by hosting the next meeting at my house. But the challenges Billy and I encountered starting this magazine we
By Douglas Towne #CudiaCity #DouglasTowne To read the rest of this article, you are invited to purchase the digital issue here. This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Mar/Apr 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 2.
By Douglas Towne After World War II, a Phoenix contractor became renowned for his talent moving materials and building highways across the state during Arizona's boom years. Buford Leon “Gus” Gustafson founded and owned a well-known construction company bearing his name. Although Gustafson was a gifted businessman, he might have been happier as a cowboy instead of a contractor, as he seemed most content in the saddle with a pooch at his side. “Gus loved horses and dogs, and h
By Douglas Towne “If all the roads that W.R. Skousen Construction paved were taken up, Arizona would be in pretty rough condition,” Ed Erck says. The 87-year-old worked for the company for 25 years, starting as a truck driver and finishing as an asphalt plant foreman. “We probably laid 25 million tons of asphalt.” W.R. Skousen Jr., 1969. But W.R. wasn’t the only Skousen in the construction industry. Three generations of the Skousen family, Willard, W.R., and Bob, along with o
By Douglas Towne For most of us, living in an architectural masterpiece is something we can only dream about. Not so with the Ball-Paylore House, which was declared one of the state’s five most important architectural works by the Arizona Daily Star in 2011. The meticulously restored mid-century modern house in Tucson is available for overnight stays as an Airbnb rental. The listing invites guests to step back in time to Tucson in the 1950s and “spend easy afternoons reclined
By Douglas Towne There are many ways to illuminate a city’s history; Jude and Monica Cook’s version is resplendent. The couple’s creation, Ignite Sign Art Museum, is a collection of Tucson’s discarded signage. Relighted, these advertisements electrify the city's past. "Visitors thank us for what we're doing in preserving and restoring Tucson's historic signs; it's not something we expected," Monica says. How did this couple from Iowa come to be de facto keepers of the Old Pue
By Douglas Towne In Tucson these days, all eyes are on Tucson’s Broadway Boulevard. The street is undergoing a major transportation improvement project, and the historic structures that line the road have been recognized as one of the nation’s most unique commercial strips. In May 2020, the impressive collection of mid-century buildings along the street were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The inventory includes everything from a shoe store to a synagogue.
By Douglas Towne The name “San Xavier” is synonymous with the iconic “White Dove of the Desert,” the oldest European structure in Arizona. The Mission San Xavier del Bac, located about 10 miles south of Downtown Tucson along the Santa Cruz River, was completed by 1797. The internationally-known white-stucco Moorish structure is renowned for its Easter torch-light parade by Tohono O’odham and Yaqui tribal members. In the Arizona construction industry, San Xavier is also the na