Phoenix Union High School
Phoenix Union High School Historic District
|Location||512 E Van Buren, Phoenix, Arizona|
|Area||18 acres (7.3 ha)|
|Architect||Norman F. Marsh, et al.|
|Architectural style||Beaux Arts, Renaissance, Mission/Spanish Revival|
|NRHP reference #||82002085|
|Added to NRHP||July 15, 1982|
Phoenix Union High School was the main high school for Phoenix, Arizona, at 7th Street and Van Buren Street. It closed in 1982 amidst declining enrollment, along with East High School and West High School. It is the namesake of the extant Phoenix Union High School District.
The mascot was the Coyotes. The school's athletic programs combined won over 100 Arizona state championships.
The high school and its district were created in 1895. Classes started on the second floor of the Central School Building, on the present site of the San Carlos Hotel; they moved to the Churchill Residence, a Victorian house at 5th Street and Van Buren. By 1910, Phoenix Union had 300 students; the city of Phoenix at the time had more than 11,000 residents. That year, a bond issue was approved to begin building three new high school buildings, and in 1912, construction began. In 1912, the first Thanksgiving football game against the Phoenix Indian School Braves was played; the tradition continued for 46 years. In 1917, Phoenix Union became a pioneer in military training when the first high school Junior ROTC program in the United States was created. Further overcrowding by 1920 (the fire escapes were even crowded, with approaches used as class space) led to the approval of the construction of three more buildings.
A new stadium was built in the mid-1920s and dedicated in 1927, and the auditorium was remodeled in the late 1920s after a 1927 fire. By 1928, PUHS had 2,500 students, with major growth predicted. 1930 brought the installation of lights to the football stadium — just in time for an undefeated football season (see below). In the 1930s, despite the Great Depression, the forecasts of larger enrollment proved true, as the student population bulged over 5,000 students at one time. By 1938, there were 4,219 students at Phoenix Union High School.
In 1935, the Arizona Vocational School opened at 6th Street and Monroe to provide technical education skills.
The second high school in the district was opened in 1939, when North High School opened its doors. 1,517 students originally attended North, and the Thanksgiving game (beginning in 1941) was now played against that high school. The tradition would continue until 1960. (Because of earlier school starts, regular-season football in Arizona is usually played from late August to late October, with playoff matches in November.)
At the same time, a new gymnasium was opened at Phoenix Union, which was first used in 1941 as the student body listened to President Roosevelt's declaration of war. This new gymnasium used a lamella roof, which was an unusual choice of material for Arizona. Only one other gymnasium in the state was built with a lamella roof, the Kingman High School gymnasium.
After World War II, the population of Phoenix began to approach 100,000. In 1946, a bond issue was passed to build a new high school (West High School) and to update the Phoenix Technical School (as the Vocational School was now called). The Churchill Building came down in 1949 to make way for a new cafeteria.
The 1950s were the pinnacle of the Coyotes' athletic achievements. The varsity basketball team won 55 straight games over three seasons; the school won championships in all major sports; and the City of Phoenix grew and grew, exploding in population from 106,818 to 439,170. In 1954, Camelback High School and South Mountain High School were opened; in 1955, the technical school was folded back into Phoenix Union. More schools would open in Phoenix Union in the next years: Carl Hayden Community High School and Central High School opened in 1957, followed by Alhambra High School in 1962 and Maryvale High School in 1963.
1953 was another year of change, as the Superior Court in Phoenix struck down Arizona's latest segregation law for delegating the powers of the legislature (it made segregation a local option). When classes at Phoenix Union started in September 1953, they did so with 74 Black students (54 freshmen and 20 from the old Carver High School; Carver would be closed after 1954).
As the city of Phoenix grew, many more of its high school age students went to Phoenix Union. But by the early 1960s, with the Baby Boom age at its height, this was creating severe overcrowding. The largest ever student enrollment at one high school in Arizona was recorded at Phoenix Union in the 1963-64 school year, with 6,320 students. (School sizes have only shrunk since then; the largest high school in Arizona is Mesa's Red Mountain High School, with 3,442 students including the 9th graders in feeder high schools.)
The Phoenix Union student body finally began to shrink; at the same time, it began to be composed of more minorities. In one decade's time, Phoenix Union had shrunk from its all-time high student enrollment to just 1,860 students. At its closure, enrollment had shrunk to a mere 1,200 students. A new building for the vocational center and some replacement structures were built in the late 1960s.
In the spring of 1982, the Governing Board of the Phoenix Union High School District marked East and Phoenix Union for closure.
In the week of July 11, 1982, the older parts of the campus (as it existed in 1928) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They comprise the Phoenix Union High School Historic District. The campus was sold in 1985 to a developer, and some portions were occupied by offices while others were demolished due to inconsistent design or vandalism.
The Phoenix Union High Coyotes were dominant in many sports, including football.
Coyote football represented the state's most dominant high school sports program. It won 25 titles in its existence — sixth-most among American high schools — and it won nine straight state titles from 1920 to 1928 (though there were no state championship games until 1959), the third-best run in American history.
In 1930, the "Wonder Team" finished with a 13-0 record. After beating Tucson High School in the final game of the season, one wire service named the team national champions. Conrad Flippen, a member of the Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame, four-sport star at the school and member of the "Wonder Team", went on to play at the University of Notre Dame and Phoenix College before playing and coaching in minor league baseball. In the final game of the 1930 season, Flippen set a state record with 303 rushing yards.
Other players set state records as well. George Greathouse transferred from the all-Black Carver High School upon integration. His career touchdown record of 63 (37 of which were scored with the Coyotes) lasted from his 1953 graduation until 1986.
- Steve Allen, comedian
- Oscar Palmer Austin, posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War in 1969
- Fred Carr, Green Bay Packers linebacker 1968-77
- Steve Colter, NBA basketball player 1984-95
- Jack Elam, actor in Western films including Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
- Paul Fannin, U.S. Senator from Arizona from 1965 to 1977 and governor of Arizona from 1959 to 1965
- Bennie Gonzales, designer of several local landmarks and municipal buildings in the Phoenix area
- Jim Hensley, founder of the Hensley & Co. beer distributorship
- Bill Kajikawa, Arizona State University football player and men's basketball coach
- Frank Luke, the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor and namesake of Luke Air Force Base
- Bill Mauldin, editorial cartoonist
- Reg Manning, editorial cartoonist and illustrator
- Charles McKee, former professional wide receiver
- Paul Nelson, opera composer
- Lincoln Ragsdale, locally important African-American civil rights activist
- Jack Richard Williams, mayor of Phoenix 1956-60, governor of Arizona 1967-75, radio announcer
|Phoenix Union High School|
- Carver High School (Phoenix, Arizona), formerly known as Phoenix Union Colored High School, also NRHP-listed
- National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- NRHP nomination form for the Kingman gymnasium. Written in 1984, it describes the Phoenix Union gym as "endangered". Not available through NPS Focus.
- Arizona Interscholastic Association records: 
- About, Phoenix Union High School Alumni Association
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