Driving from the airport to Phoenix, we knew we were experiencing a city that was very much unlike many of the major metropolises in the USA or Canada. Our first clue was that everything seemed new to us, even the expressways with their unique architecture paying tribute to the city’s Native American heritage.
What was most impressive was its unique towering desert mountain skyline that was not hidden by huge skyscrapers. Yes, there were a few tall buildings around, but nothing to compare to those of New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto or Montreal. And these were not obstructing the magnificent views of Squaw Peak, Camelback Mountain, the bulky South Mountains, or the McDowells.
Nicknamed the “Valley of the Sun,” and blessed with over 300 days of sunshine, Phoenix is set within a flat valley at an elevation of roughly 1,100 feet. With its unusual cacti, desert colors of reds, tans and brown, pink bougainvillea vines and greens, brown grove date palms, spiky Yuccas, and glorious sunsets on its mountains, it can probably boast of being one of the finest natural settings of any in the USA.
History of Phoenix
For hundreds of years, prior to its incorporation as a city in 1881, a very well civilized and resourceful community known as the Hohokam, lived in the area between 700 A.D. and 1400 A.D. Their name means “the people who have gone.” Apparently, they had disappeared without a trace. I say resourceful when referring to these Native Americans, as they tamed the Salt River and built an irrigation system that consisted of some 135 miles of canals, thus creating a fertile land where they would grow beans, corn, squash and cotton. They were in all likelihood the first to introduce cotton and weaving to the Southwest, and probably the most sophisticated ancient culture north of Mexico.
In the mid-1800s one of the first white settlers to arrive on the scene was John Y. T. Smith. One day Smith invited his friend, Jack Swilling of Wickenburg, to visit him at his hay camp. I guess Swilling was impressed with what he had discovered – an area that was predominately devoid of rocks and where heavy frost or snow would not interfere with the vegetation. He probably also noticed the miles of abandoned irrigation ditches stretching across the valley. He thought to himself, why not bring water once again to the area? With a capitalization of $10,000 he formed the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company in 1868. No doubt, he reaped the benefits of the ancient Hohokam canals diverting once again some of the water of the Salt River onto the land of the valley.
It was not too long thereafter that an Englishman, Darrell Dupa, gave Phoenix its name. Just as the mythological Egyptian bird rose to life again from the ashes of its own funeral pyre, so did the new city rise from the ashes of the Hohokam culture, and Phoenix was off and running.
The legacy golf course – a romantic tribute to the past
Rising from these ashes was an energetic and bold farming community catering to miners and military outposts.
One of the ranchers, who were part of this community, was Dwight B. Heard. You may want to check out the Heard Museum that was founded by Dwight Heard and his wife Maie to house their personal collection of cultural and fine art.
In 1901 Heard together with Adolphus Clay Bartlett purchased 7,500 acres of land at the base of Phoenix’s South Mountain. Heard’s property was originally set up as a model ranch, raising prized cattle, alfalfa, citrus trees and cotton, as well as introducing new plants and tropical horticulture to the Southwest from around the world. Little did he know that 100 years later the site would become a world-class golf resort dedicated to preserving his legacy – The Legacy Golf Resort.
Upon entering the Legacy’s grounds we immediately became aware of its Spanish mission-style architecture. It is this design theme that is a tribute to Heard’s model ranch that included similar architecture incorporated into the bungalow-style farmhouses for the ranch’s workers and foremen, as well as Heard’s family.
To recapture the romantic Spanish ambience of the past, The Legacy Golf Resort is built around courtyards with prominent archways and wrought iron accents comprising 12 casita (little houses) buildings that houses 328 spacious one and two bedroom condos. The interiors of the condos are decorated in a Southwest motif, comprising Mexican tile floors and bright desert colors.
Another feature embracing the legacy of Heard’s farm is the lush native vegetation and horticulture he had introduced to the area, and this has been blended into the design of the resort’s first class golf course.
Also “cool” are some of the structures of the original farm that have been preserved as the original grain silos along the 18th fairway of the golf course, and the Sierra Vista House along the first fairway.
The resort recreation facilities include tennis courts, swimming pools, golf, and nearby jogging trails, bicycling, and a health club.
It is the preservation of this historical charm and the reviving of the legacy of the land into the design and culture of the resort that has contributed in making this resort a great choice for an everlasting romantic getaway.
Romantic Dining With A Historic Twist
Within a short drive from The Legacy is one of Arizona’s first resorts, the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, and crowned the “Jewel of the Desert.” The consulting architect for the resort was the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, who had collaborated with his student Albert Chase McArthur in designing this magnificent resort. What better way to enjoy a romantic evening than to take a fascinating historic tour of the resort and top this off with dinner at their famous signature dining venue, Wright’s.
As you meander through the halls and grounds of the resort you will notice its dramatic style that favors indigenous materials and influences. Take a look at the ceilings – yes they are gold leaf! Also to be noted is the superlative works of art reflecting the land and its people.
Every US president since the resort’s opening in 1929 has enjoyed a stay here. Irving Berlin wrote his famous song White Christmas while staying here in 1939. It has also touched the lives of many Hollywood celebrities – Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Nancy Reagan, Harpo Marx, Joan Crawford, and Marilyn Monroe.
After the tour that lasts about an hour, you are ready to enjoy dining fit for royalty. Wright’s is where you will indulge in a memorable culinary experience tasting creative New American cuisine with a delightful choice of wines from their magnificent wine list. It is here where guests understand why Wright’s has received many accolades, including the “Best of Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator magazine and the “DiRona Award” from Distinguished Restaurants of North America.
As a starter you may want to try the delicious pan-fried scallops followed by mixed baby greens, and then onto the main course – roasted veal porterhouse. Don’t forget to leave room for the mouth watering strawberry soufflé topped with strawberry sauce.
Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa
2400 East Missouri
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.