Tag Archives: Tempe

Christmas at Niels Petersen House

Christmas at Niels Petersen House

I first visited the historic Niels Petersen House in Tempe, Arizona, in the early 1990s. When I stepped into the kitchen, I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. I realized it reminded me of the farmhouse my Uncle Hughie grew up in. (Click the smaller images to enlarge and to view captions.)


I recently visited again. In December, the house is decorated for Christmas.



Niels Petersen, the original owner of the house, was born on October 21, 1845, in Denmark. He served in the English Merchant Marines from 1863-1870, allowing him to travel the world until he decided to immigrate to the United States.


In 1871, Petersen arrived in the Salt River Valley of central Arizona, where he staked a homestead claim and begin farming. Four years later, in 1878, Petersen became a United States citizen and subsequently filed a homestead entry, the next step in permanently establishing himself in the valley. The final action in this process was the filing of a homestead proof, providing evidence that improvements to the land had been made by the claimant, which Petersen filed on May 12, 1883. By the time of his final homestead filing, Petersen had built two small adobe houses on the property and maintained 140 acres in cultivation.


Petersen acquired more property surrounding his homestead claim. His ranch grew to more than 1,000 acres and Petersen emerged as one of the area’s leading producers of cattle and grain.

By the 1890s, Petersen emerged as one of the Salt River Valley’s wealthiest and most revered citizens. In 1892, he made the decision to construct a new two-story brick home, in the Queen Anne Victorian style, hired Architect James Creighton to design it. Petersen’s house was widely considered one of the most elegant homes in the region.


Petersen married twice. His first wife died in childbirth and their son died in infancy. His second wife did not bear any children.


After Petersen’s death, the property passed to a distant relative, Rev. Edward Decker. He modified the house somewhat, including adding its one and only bathroom.


Only one more family ever lived in the house. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The city of Tempe acquired it in 1979 and restored it.


The Niels Petersen House will be open to the public this weekend, December 15 and 16, 2018, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For more information, click here.


Photographs by ARHuelsenbeck.

Tempe Library Complex


My husband and I have lived in Tempe, Arizona for 29 years. It’s a great place to live. When we moved here with our then four children (fifth child born nine months later), we were delighted to discover the plethora of community services for young families.

This building was the library when we first arrived in Tempe:


But soon, ground was broken for a new library. I remember, when the staff was preparing to make the transition from the old building to the new, the community was invited to take out as many books as possible, and return them to the new library when it opened. My kids and I were happy to oblige.

Eventually, the old library was reopened as the Tempe History Museum. When my daughter Erin attended Smith College, she served as a summer intern at the museum.

Here’s what the current library looks like:


Yes, it’s huge. Its vast collection is housed on the first floor, with the children’s section located in the basement. There are meeting rooms, study rooms, public computers, and a few years ago they added a coffee shop. Since I have stacks of books at home that I haven’t read yet, I haven’t borrowed any books in years, but my son Matt visits frequently to browse through the movies. The day I took these pictures, I dropped in to check out the Friends of the Library used bookstore. I bought two books for a total of 75 cents. Sigh. I told you I’m a bookaholic.

The second story contains city recreation offices.

In a little plaza formed by a circular drive to the library entrance stands a public art sculpture. The inclined plane is supposed to be a map of Tempe. I can see the dry (as it was when the sculpture was created, before the construction of Tempe Town Lake) Salt River bed stretching across the top, and I surmise the stacked structure is the butte that encloses Arizona State University’s stadium. That must be the rest of the campus surrounding it. But after that, it all gets kind of abstract. I feel like I should be able to find my neighborhood on that gridwork of major roads, but I can’t find any other landmarks where I think they should be.

The sculpture took the place of a prickly pear cactus garden that used to be there. I liked that better.


Here’s a stone wall along a walkway, with an interesting edge (click on the smaller images to enlarge):

And the Edna Vihel Center, where I took my children to many events and classes over the years:


I hadn’t been here in a while, and I’d never seen this lovely bench, covered with hand-made tiles depicting feet and scenes and symbols relating to Tempe and city services:

Tempe is very energy conscious. The city government advocates in favor of bike lanes. The library complex has some covered parking, shaded by solar panels:


There’s one more building in the library complex that I didn’t photograph, because it was hot and I was too lazy to walk across the parking lot: the Pyle Adult Recreation Center. Among other events and classes available there, it also hosts activities for senior citizens. I haven’t taken advantage of them yet, but I probably will someday soon.

My little photo essay ends with shots of some of the landscaping at the library complex.

Crossing A Mountain Off My List

Crossing A Mountain Off My List


Butte—an isolated hill with steep sides and a flat top (similar to but narrower than a mesa).

When we were house hunting in Arizona in the summer of 1988, one of the sights we saw was a mountain with a big A on it, just a stone’s throw from Arizona State University. The A is supposed to be yellow (ASU’s colors are maroon and gold), but we’ve seen it every color of the rainbow (including plaid), even though unauthorized personnel are forbidden from painting it.

Hayden Butte

Found on Yelp.com posted by Ron G.

We moved to “the Valley of the Sun” (the greater Phoenix metropolitan area) in August of that year, and one of the things I looked forward to doing was hiking A Mountain, also known by Tempe Butte or its official name, Hayden Butte.

Of course, as soon as we moved into our new house, I became pregnant with our fifth child. And other aspects of life intruded. And I never got around to it. But I kept it in mind as something I wanted to do someday.

When I started this blog last year, I thought it would be fun to post photographs taken from the top of A Mountain. I could cross one item off my bucket list and get a good workout in addition to gathering content for the blog. And yet, every time I planned to do it, I got derailed. It was too hot. Hubby needed my car. It was raining. My hip hurt.

Add to that my husband’s suspicions that I wasn’t up to the job. I am a 63-year-old lady with osteoarthritis, after all. And I am not a hiker.

But when Wednesday, December 30, 2015 dawned, there wasn’t a single good reason not to try it.

Parking in downtown Tempe is a challenge, so to be on the safe side, I used a Park & Ride lot and took the light rail to the foot of Hayden Butte. (I actually saw some unused metered parking spaces in the Sun Devil Stadium lot next door, but that’s okay.)

Knowing my physical limitations, I gave myself permission not to force myself to climb to the very top. Yet I got pretty close. Several times I thought I was almost there, just to crest a rise and discover I had another hundred feet to go. Part of the path was made of steps created with railroad ties; another part was paved in asphalt; another part was concrete stairs; another part was rock, at jagged angles (the one spot where I almost fell). When I came to a second rock section close to the top, I pronounced myself high enough.

Here are some of the photographs I took (click on individual images to enlarge and see captions):