11 Most Iconic Landmarks in Metro Phoenix

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6) Gammage Auditorium

The influence and legacy of the late Frank Lloyd Wright can be seen across metro Phoenix. The esteemed architect designed, or had a hand in designing, numerous buildings and a couple of public-art pieces during the two decades he spent here. There’s his former studio and winter home, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, of course, as well as the David and Gladys Wright house in Arcadia, the First Christian Church on Seventh Avenue, the Arizona Biltmore, the Scottsdale Spire, and Tempe's Gammage Auditorium.

Gammage, on Arizona State University main campus, was Wright’s final creation. Opening five years after his death in 1964,. the symphony of curves, arches, and columns is one of the Wright's finest works. 

5) Phoenix Financial Center

Fans of mid-century modern culture adore the Phoenix Financial Center, which was built in 1968 and consists of a 10-story skyscraper and two adjacent rotunda buildings, as a dramatic example of both the International style of architecture and Googie design. It’s also famed for the pattern of the high-rise’s southeastern façade, which (depending on whom you ask) resembles an old-school computer punch card or an enormous cheese grater. Either way, the Financial Center isy one of Phoenix’s unique landmarks.

4) Hayden Mill, Tempe

A downside of rampant development along Tempe Town and in downtown Tempe is that the view of Hayden Mill has become obscured. Built in 1918, the former grain mill has served as a gateway to Tempe. And it  hopefully will be around for years to come, since plans are in the works to restore and transform the place into a hotel.  

3) Westward Ho

The prominent example of Renaissance Revival architecture has been a part of downtown Phoenix's landscape since its debut in 1928, back when it was the tallest building in Arizona. Functioning as a hotel for almost a half-century and adorned with its signature broadcast antenna, the Westward Ho played host many movie stars in its heyday, even starring in a few films itself (including 1972’s Pocket Money and both the original and remake of the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho). Since 1977, it has served as public housing for the elderly. As New Times reported a few years ago, the Ho retains many vintage fixtures.

2) Tovrea Castle

Almost everyone traveling along he 202 in east Phoenix has seen this beautiful, wedding cake-shaped structure. As the story goes, Italian immigrant Alessio Carraro was inspired by the castles of his native Europe when he designed and built the structure in the early 1930s. Local meat-packing magnate Edward Ambrose Tovrea purchased the property a few years later with his wife, Della, and it became their private estate until his passing a year later. If you’re dying to take a peek at its interior (which is as stunning as its exterior) castle tours are offered every weekend.

1) Camelback Mountain

Easily Phoenix's most magnificent landmark, people have marveled at Camelback Mountain's majestic, dromedary-shaped array of red sandstone and Precambrian granite for centuries. For climbers, ascending the mountain's Praying Monk formation is a right of passage. For hikers, navigating its two major trails is essential to the Arizona experience. And trust us, the view of the surrounding Valley from the top is worth even the more rigorous trail hike (don't get caught without enough water and watch out for the killer bees). Ghost stories and legends abound about the urban eminence, and there's even a kitschy castle on its southwestern ridge.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.