A History of the Westward Ho

The Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix, Arizona

The Westward Ho is one of downtown Phoenix’s most iconic buildings. Since I began my degree here at Arizona State University, I’ve passed by it nearly everyday and have marveled at its architectural style. While I know a little bit about the building’s more recent history, I don’t know much about its past. Therefore, I thought this would be the prefect opportunity to explore a little deeper into the Westward Ho.

The 16-story building is located at Central Avenue and Fillmore Street, and was completed in 1928. The Westward Ho was originally opened as a luxury hotel and remained as such until its official closure in April 1980. The building also held the title of the tallest building in Arizona for over 30 years after its completion. During its earlier decades, the Westward Ho was one of the foremost hotels in the Valley. The hotel was a particular favorite among prominent politicians and celebrities at the time, hosting people such as President John F. Kennedy and Wayne Newton.

The hotel ran into financial difficulties beginning in the 1970s and by May 1975 the hotel’s management announced that the facility would no longer be able to operate as a hotel and would instead be turned into a retirement residence. For several years following that announcement, the building traded hands several times and was the subject of various court battles due to fighting and financial problems amongst the various owners throughout this period.

Finally, after nearly a decade of financial strife and confusion, renovations to the Westward Ho began in mid-1980. The remodeling converted the former hotel into a federal-subsides housing complex for the elderly- with the first residents set to begin moving in the following year.

The building was again thoroughly remodeled between 2003 and 2004 to improve the living conditions of the residents and restore the buildings historical facade. At an estimated cost of $9 million, window-mounted air-conditioners were removed and a new centralized air-conditioning unit was installed. Additionally, approximately 450 exterior windows were replaced with replicas of the originals, the exterior was power washed, stucco was repaired, and the building was repainted to match its original beige color.

To this day, the Westward Ho still serves as housing for the physically or mentally disabled. The building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.