Level and Plumb: The Masonry of Marion J. Evertsen
Marion John Evertsen was a prominent masonry contractor in Phoenix for more than 30 years, starting in the 1950s. Largely self-taught and a stickler for detail, he was a master of his craft. His company, Marion Evertsen Masonry Contracting (MEMC), built the brick and block elements of a wide range of buildings across the Valley and smaller towns in Arizona.
A few buildings, such as Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium and Grand Canyon Caverns, are cultural landmarks. Others, like Jay Newton’s Beef Eaters Restaurant (now Southern Rail at the Newton), are the bones of modern updates. Many more, such as Woody’s Fiesta de Macayo and the Safari Hotel, are only memories.
A son of Mormon immigrants from Holland, Marion was born in Ogden, Utah, in 1917. He served as a Latter-Day Saint (LDS) missionary in Holland until Nazi Germany invaded its European neighbors. As the nation prepared for war, Marion enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He completed flight and weather observation training and was stationed at Davis-Monthan Army Airfield in Tucson.
There, he met Erdeen Tieman. They married at the Mesa LDS Temple, raised eight children, and were dedicated members of the LDS Church throughout their lives. Marion built one of the first LDS meetinghouses in Phoenix at 650 West Southern Avenue and 16 more meetinghouses throughout Phoenix and the West Valley. He felt deeply honored to work on the restoration of Mesa LDS Temple in 1975.
As a young man, Marion had aspired to learn the art of sculpture. He befriended and received guidance from the great American sculptor Avard Fairbanks. However, what plans Marion had to pursue sculpture were overtaken by his need to provide for his new family. Thus, masonry, rather than sculpture, is where he would leave his mark.
After his military discharge, Marion worked construction in Phoenix. He started as a carpenter’s apprentice and got his United Carpenters Union card in 1946. Ten years later, he was a licensed masonry contractor with a list of completed projects that earned him a solid reputation among general contractors.
There was no better place and time to start a masonry business than Phoenix in the 1950s. During the decade, the city’s population quadrupled to 439,000, triggering a long and deep demand for affordable homes. With the new neighborhoods came shopping centers, offices, hotels, schools, and churches.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Sep/Oct 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 5.