Mid-Century Home Construction Innovator: Jack P. Stewart
The first modern commercial structure built in Arizona after World War II was the Stewart Motor Company along Central Avenue in 1947. The building with elegant curved lines would serve as a Studebaker dealership until becoming Circles Records in 1972. It was partially demolished to create “The Stewart” high-rise apartments, which opened in 2019.
The end of World War II, there was an acute housing shortage in the Valley and in other Arizona communities. GI’s who had visited Arizona during the war were migrating to the state attracted by the weather and new communities. However, there were few available houses, especially ones servicemen could afford.
During the war from 1941-1945, regulations directed many resources for military use. But at the war’s end, President Harry Truman prioritized creating homes for sale under $10,000 for servicemen.
Jack P. Stewart answered this challenge by forming Stewart Construction Company and soon making a bold claim. “The housing snarl for veterans advanced a step nearer unraveling ….when a Phoenix businessman [Stewart] said he would place on the New Year’s sales block 300 brand new two and three bedroom homes,” according to an Arizona Republic article in 1945. The company planned to finish two homes a day.
Stewart would uphold his construction pace and build more than 3,000 homes in Phoenix, Mesa, and Yuma between 1945 and 1950. Stewart Construction accomplished this impressive goal by buying construction materials in bulk, obtaining land cost-effectively, and using speedy new construction techniques.
People in Phoenix previously knew Stewart from the automotive field. He had worked for Phoenix Motor Company selling Chevrolets before opening a used car lot and an auto repair shop at Second and Van Buren streets in 1941. But Stewart’s father, W. R. Stewart, was a realtor in Mesa and had designed and built homes there before the war. Stewart had construction…..
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This article originally appeared in the Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Jan/Feb 2019 issue, Vol. 8, No.1. The Arizona Contractor & Community magazine is a Bi-monthly publication.