Building on the Past: 1958: A “Heavy” Order of Superlite Blocks
“Do it big, do it right, and do it with style,” said actor Fred Astaire. Apparently, famed Valley developer John F. Long was listening. In 1958, Long signed a contract with Superlite Builders Supply Co. for delivery of some 16-inch-long blocks, specifically 12 million Superlite blocks. It was the largest single block contract ever signed at that time. The blocks, if laid end-to-end, would stretch from Los Angeles past New York into the Atlantic Ocean.
Long, the third-largest homebuilder in the world at the time, needed the blocks to continue building his Maryvale development. Designed by California architect Victor Gruen, Maryvale was the first master-planned community in Arizona. By 1956, Long was selling 125 homes a week there. He would eventually complete more than 25,000 homes in Maryvale, which the city of Phoenix annexed in 1960.
Superlite Builders Supply Co. was the largest single concrete block producer in the world, when Long placed his big order. The company’s headquarters, including a Superlite block demonstration yard, was located at 5201 North Seventh Street in Phoenix. The building was converted to the Humanities and Sciences Academy Charter School in 2007 but retained its signature breezeblock accents.
The company’s initial manufacturing plant was located near Six Points at Grand Avenue and McDowell Road. To meet the demand created by Long’s purchase, the company added eight block manufacturing machines at the site.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Jul/Aug 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 4.