Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monti's La Casa Vieja, Tempe's Original Pioneer Home

"Monti's La Casa Vieja" is Tempe's original pioneer home and the oldest continuously occupied structure in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The original adobe hacienda was built as a home by Charles Trumbull Hayden in 1871. Hayden settled in the area to establish a flourmill and a ferry service for crossing the Salt River, which flowed year-round at that time.
In 1876, Hayden married Sallie Davis, and the couple turned their residence into a hotel, blacksmith shop, post office and general store. The community became known as Hayden's Ferry.
In the late 1880s, a traveling English nobleman named Darrell Duppa suggested that the small settlement resembled an area in Greece called the Vale of Tempe. A few years later, the town's name was officially changed to Tempe.

When the Hayden family moved to a new home in the 1890s, they began referring to the original structure by the nickname La Casa Vieja -- Spanish for "The Old House." Sanborn's Insurance Company documents from this period show that a restaurant of some sort was operated at La Casa Vieja as early as the 1890s, most likely as a convenience to those who had traveled a great distance to use the flourmill or ferry service. The Hayden daughters ran the restaurant until financial difficulties forced the sale of the property in the 1930s.

During the ensuing years, several operators ran the restaurant. From the Great Depression through 1954, details about La Casa Vieja are sketchy. Mrs. Lucille Payne ran the bar and restaurant with her husband from 1943 to 1947, and has been kind enough to present us with some interesting photographs and stories. During World War II, many British military personnel that were in the Valley for training frequented the bar at La Casa Vieja. The British soldiers gave Mr. Payne a large Union Jack to mount on the wall (as seen in the photo at the right). After the Paynes departed, a couple from Alaska leased the restaurant, but there are few details about them.

In 1954, the building was purchased by Leonard F. Monti, Sr. Monti had been operating a 13-stool diner in Chandler since 1946, having come to Arizona following World War II. After waiting for the tenant's lease to expire, Monti opened his new restaurant for business in April 1956. He was keenly aware of the property's illustrious heritage, and rather than entirely renaming the establishment he merely added his last name, dubbing it "Monti's La Casa Vieja."

Monti diligently cultivated the historical aspects of La Casa Vieja, putting hundreds of pieces of memorabilia, photographs and unique objects on display throughout the restaurant. Senator Carl Hayden, late in his life, paid a number of visits to his childhood home, affording Monti an opportunity to question him about the building's intriguing history. Monti was also fortunate to meet Hayden C. Hayden, grandson of Charles Trumbull Hayden, who shared many historical anecdotes with him over decades of friendship. Today, Hayden C. Hayden remains a friend of the Monti family and a frequent customer.

In 1984, the Hayden House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The certificate for this prestigious honor can be found on the wall near the restaurant's main customer entrance. Additionally, Monti's La Casa Vieja is listed on historical registers for the State of Arizona and the City of Tempe.

Although many alterations and additions have been made to the structure over the decades, these changes have always been made to further the original function of the Hayden House as a place of comfort and hospitality. Monti's is as authentically historic as any institution to be found in the Valley of the Sun.

1 comment:

Hyde DP said...

welcome to the world of DP. I think there has been a TempeDP before but it is no longer active.