The Raven

The Raven

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Downtown Phoenix Sights

Downtown, also dubbed "Copper Square," has become an increasingly exciting place with museums, restaurants, entertainment venues, stadiums, and shopping centers. The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau (125 N. 2nd St., Suite 120, Phoenix, AZ 85004, 602/254-6500 or 877/225-5749, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri.) provides much helpful information at its central location.

Arizona Center, at Third and Van Buren Sts., offers an oasis of palms, waterfalls, and pools with a variety of restaurants and specialty shops, a 24-screen movie theater, and some night spots. Two blocks south you'll find the oldest and the newest in Phoenix—Heritage Square and Science Park, home of the 1895 Rosson House, Phoenix Museum of History, and Arizona Science Center. Continue two blocks farther south and you'll be at the huge Bank One Ballpark with its retractable roof. Turn west two blocks and you'll reach America West Arena, another major sports center. Other attractions in the heart of downtown include Symphony Hall, Herberger Theater, and the Orpheum Theater—a 1929 Spanish Baroque Revival building restored to its original elegance. Look west down Washington Street and you'll see the copper dome of the old state capitol, where much of Arizona's past has played out.

Arizona State Capitol

With its winged figure of victory atop a shiny copper dome, the old state capitol (1700 W. Washington St., 602/542-4675,, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., except on state holidays, free) dates from 1900, a dozen years before statehood. The Arizona Legislature outgrew this structure in 1960 and moved into adjacent new quarters. The old capitol then became a museum, carefully restored to look as it did when Arizona became a state in 1912. The Senate and House chambers and other rooms contain period furnishings, historical photos, and tales of frontier days. A lifelike statue of former governor George W.P. Hunt sits behind his desk in the old governor's office. Permanent and changing exhibits occupy four levels; at the top one you can look through the dome's skylight at the winged figure of victory, which turns with the wind. On the lowest floor, a memorial room of the battleship USS Arizona displays the ship's silver service, photos of the crews, a scale model of the ship, a piece of the superstructure, and other memorabilia of the ship sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941. A gift shop, also on the lowest floor, sells Arizona books and souvenirs.

You can also join free guided tours at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; groups of 12 or more must schedule tours in advance. To dig deeper into the state's past, drop into the research library, Room 300, where you'll see the 1930s' murals Pageant of Arizona Progress by Jay Datus. You can view many historic photos from the archives on the capitol's website,, or you can see what the legislature is up to at

Free parking is available in front of the capitol at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza; turn in from Adams Street. The Plaza features many commemorative monuments and an anchor and signal mast from the USS Arizona.

Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum

In this large collection (1502 W. Washington St., 602/255-3791, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., closed Sun. and state holidays, $2 ages 18 and up,, you'll see examples of the minerals that drew many prospectors to Arizona. Specimens of copper minerals—azurite, malachite, chrysocolla, cuprite, and chalcanthite—sparkle in brilliant hues. Fluorescent lights make otherwise undistinguished-looking minerals glow in bright colors. Lapidary exhibits display the art of gem cutting and polishing, while old mining tools, lamps, assay kits, photos, and models reveal how miners worked. A cave exhibit illustrates how wondrous features formed deep in the earth. Fossils trace the evolution of life beginning with cyanobacteria more than a billion years old. Step outside to see the diminutive Arizona Copper Co. locomotive, a headframe, and a stamp mill; the mural on the museum's outside back wall makes a great background for photos. The Rose Mofford Collection, an eclectic assemblage of mementos from Arizona's first woman governor, is in a separate gallery.

The museum staff can tell you of upcoming lapidary and jewelry classes, family programs, and rock and mineral shows (most are held during the winter), as well as put you in touch with local rock shops and clubs. A gift shop sells specimens, gold pans, handcrafted jewelry, and an excellent selection of rockhounding books. Look for the museum's unusual Moorish architecture on the corner of W. Washington Street and 15th Avenue; parking is available behind the museum.

Wells Fargo History Museum

An 1868 Concord coach forms the centerpiece of this Old West collection (Adams St., between 1st and 2nd Aves., 602/378-1852, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri., free). You can experience a recreated Wells Fargo office, admire gold nuggets from Wickenburg, see antique guns, and take in the Western art gallery. It's in the high-rise Wells Fargo building.

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