Dr. Tom Paradis
Associate Professor 
Dept. of Geography and Public Planning
Northern Arizona University
NAU Box 15016
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5016
Email: thomas.paradis@nau.edu

All photos copyright by Thomas W. Paradis (unless otherwise noted).
All rights reserved.

A Geography of Landscape and Community in Flagstaff, Arizona



(These places can be seen along the walking tour of the
North Downtown district, in no particular order here.)

About the Book:

Educational Materials

Photo Gallery

  • Color photos of Book Figures. Photos in the book are black and white. Here are enlarged, color versions!
  • Architectural Styles of America Produced by the author, this comprehensive web site will teach you much more about American architecture, beyond the scope of Theme Town.
  • North Downtown! Additional color photos of Flagstaff's America Tour! Here are some images of the walking tour that were not included in the book.
  • South Side! Additional color photos of Flagstaff's America Tour! Here are some images of the walking tour that were not included in the book.
  • Class field trip photos, from various courses taught or co-taught by the author.

Other Related Links

My Courses that use Theme Town

NOTE: All royalties from Theme Town sold to students in the above courses (or any other NAU course that might use the book) are used to assist geography and planning majors with expenses for various field-based experiences.

























































































































































































































































(Click on photos for larger, expanded images!)

Old Two Spot steam locomotive and flat car, on display along Route 66 at the center of town. This was one of numerous steam locomotives that served the logging industry in and around Flagstaff prior to the 1960s. The full story of Old Two Spot and how it came to be located here is found in the book, at Stop 2.

The Orpheum Theater, on Aspen Avenue next to the Weatherford Hotel. Unable to compete with newer theaters on the edge of town, the Orpheum closed a couple years ago. Thanks to a local investor, however, the theater re-opened its doors at the end of 2002. It is one of the few buildings in the downtown that still reveals its early modern-era facade, placed over the top of the original theater building.

The Grand Canyon Cafe, along Route 66 in the heart of downtown. Though this business has been around for decades, other downtown businesses have used regional themes or images in their names as a reflection of Flagstaff's unique physical geography and environment. This is one way in which the downtown is increasingly being themed as an entertainment and leisure district.

Looking south into the downtown along San Francisco Street, just north of Cherry Avenue. The new County Administration Building (Stop 8) is on the left in this photo, behind the trees. This hill represents the edge of the San Francisco Volancic Field, including one of the lava flows that underly this part of the north downtown. At the bottom of this hill (center of photo) is the Rio de Flag flood plain (see Stop 13), which has provided some interesting challenges for redevelopment and flood control in the downtown area.

Looking behind the new County Administration Building (Stop 8) from San Francisco Street. This photo reveals some of Flagstaff's interesting geology that has played a significant role in the historic development of the north downtown and South Side areas. The dark gray rocks on the top layer seen here are basalt, representing the southern edge of the San Francisco Volcanic Field, of which the famous San Francisco Peaks are a part. This layer of dark volcanic rock covered up the remnants of the much redder and softer Moenkopi formation below it (seen here, center of photo), consisting of Moenkopi sandstone. Both types of rock were used prior to World War II in the construction of numerous buildings in the downtown, South Side and pre-NAU campus landscapes.

One of numerous alleys in downtown fortunate enough to receive the marks of recent redevelopment efforts, including new sidewalks and "old-time" street lamps. What once were dark and mysterious alleys have increasingly become the subject of pedestrianization efforts to make downtown areas like this one more hospitable to locals and visitors alike.

This is the base of Flagstaff's own "flag staff" at Heritage Square. Numerous images and symbols of the town's local heritage and its fascinating physical surroundings can be found at Heritage Square (Stop 4), now a focal point of the newly redeveloped downtown historic district. This particular image represents the geologic cross section of the Colorado Plateau on which Flagstaff sits. A slightly more impressive view of this cross section can be found about 80 miles to the north at the Grand Canyon National Park.

A streetside image of the downtown business district, directly across from the train depot along Route 66. Flagstaff can be interpreted as a railroad town because the downtown street grid and business blocks were originally organized and platted by the railroad company. Railroad towns are identified pretty easily by their street pattern, typically perpendicular and parallel to the railroad tracks. There are literally hundreds of them throughout the United States, a reminder of the geographical influence of our nation's expanding railroad network prior to the 1920s.

Locally decorated giant pinecone, hanging off the new balcony of the Weatherford Hotel (Stop 5). This is for the local New Years Eve festival held in downtown Flagstaff for the past few years. This photo was taken in December, 2001, soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Thus, the pinecone and nearby buildings were decorated with the pride of the red, white, and blue. This pinecone is lowered at midnight on New Years Eve to celebrate the new year in a similar spirit to the Times Square celebration in New York City.

An interesting mural painted onto the UFO-shaped parking ramp for the former J.C. Penney building on the northwest corner of Heritage Square. J.C. Penney held a large presence in downtown Flagstaff, as it once did in downtowns across America. This part of the building now forms the northern "wall" for Heritage Square.

Benches constructed with railroad wheels at Heritage Square (see Stop 4). This is some of the themed imagery associated with the railroad that can be found in the downtown area. Revealing the new, postmodern character (see Stop 8) of downtown are the multiple themes and images found here that are associated with different, often unrelated, historical periods. That is the case here, where these benches celebrate the 19th century railroad industry and various aspects of ancient Native-American cultural influences simultaneously.

New county building, located just north of the original county courthouse (Stop 6). This part of San Francisco Street between Birch and Cherry Avenue should probably be called "County Row," with its historic and more recent complexes lined up next to one another. The new County Administration Building is in the background, now hidded behind this even newer building (center of photo) just to the south, completed in 2002. Notice the emphasized round-arched windows, a symbolic reference to the Romanesque architecture of the original courthouse next door.

A nice example of art moderne architecture in downtown Flagstaff, corner of Route 66 and San Francisco Street. Once considered a sleek, modern facade used to hide the original brick facade beneath it during or before World War II, facades like this one are now somewhat ironically considered to be "historic" themselves.

An interior view of the building pictured above, inside the Sweet Life store. A new business, Crystal Magic, replaced Sweet Life here after 2001. The interior of this store shows a typical visitor-oriented shop, complete with an ice cream counter and plenty of shirts and memorabilia sporting "Route 66" and "Grand Canyon" images, among many others. Flagstaff's north downtown has been slowly transformed into a tourism business district oriented more to visitors and less to local shoppers, representing the new trend for downtown redevelopment efforts nationwide.

A typical themed banner in the downtown, this one making use of imagery associated with the San Francisco Peaks. The "mountain town" image is being promoted rather heavily in the downtown, partly because it provides a rather unique sense of place for the community. In 1994, local historian Platt Cline actually titled his book about Flagstaff's history Mountain Town, adding to the community's association with the San Francisco Peaks.

A photographer for the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper takes what might be one of the last opportunities to photograph McGaugh's Newstand before it goes out of business in 2002. Despite some local concerns that the "famous" storefront sign would disappear with the business, it still exists in a slightly modified form as of April, 2003, now serving its new owner, Mountain Sports. The closing of McGaugh's set off a new local discussion about the future of downtown Flagstaff. In the background here is the Monte Vista Hotel, constructed in 1926 and Flagstaff's only decent example of Spanish Revival architecture. The Monte Vista has also been restored and houses businesses on its ground floor.

A mixture of local and national symbols along San Francisco Street, just south of McGaugh's Newsstand. The building on the right, with its wide-arched entryway and windows, represents an imitated Louis Sullivan design for his modernist buildings during the early 20th century, this time showing up in small-town America.

Murals of Flagstaff's heritage painted on the former J.C. Penney building along Leroux Street, just north of the Weatherford Hotel. The previous owner of this building hired an NAU student to paint these images from existing historic photos of the town. Many small towns and cities are promoting aspects of their heritage on murals like these, often created by local members of the community.

The newly renovated Weatherford Hotel has become a sort of social hub of activity in the downtown area since the mid-1990s. Locals, visitors, NAU students, and business people enjoy the Weatherford and its associated restaurant, bar, and renovated hotel and meeting rooms.

The new streetscape plan for the north downtown during the 1990s included this information sign featuring downtown attractions. This one is located at the old courthouse, corner of San Francisco and Birch (see Stop 6).

The AWD Building, overlooking Heritage Square. This view is from San Francisco Street. The main part of the building (minus the postmodern-styled addition on its front) was once the Babbitt Garage, with capacity to store automobiles on all three floors. A group of innovative lawyers decided to thoroughly renovate the building into offices so they could be located close to the courthouse. This renovation project contributed nicely to the redeveloped downtown core, incorporating both historic and contemporary features. Notice the banner on the right, announcing the arrival of the Arizona Cardinals Football team for off-season practice.

Some of the pedestrian-friendly elements of the downtown's new "streetscape". This photo reveals the sidewalk "swells," heavily fortified trees, benches, and litter bins that can be found throughout the north downtown district. These features are now considered "text book" planning designs for downtowns being redeveloped across the country. The full story of the creation of the streetscape plan in Flagstaff can be found in Stop 9 of the book.

The old county courthouse building undergoing serious renovations in 2002 (see Stop 6).

That's all for now! Thanks for visiting!