City names first Historic Preservation District
By Ken Sain
Elaine Woods sat under a photo of Coy Payne, the first black person to serve as mayor of Chandler.
She was asked what it meant to her that Southside Village was the first neighborhood in Chandler to earn special historic district designation.
It was something she and others had been working on for almost two years.
“I’m honored,” Woods said, beaming. “I consider it a privilege to be a part of it and to have helped lead the way. Far more important to me, more than anything, is that the City of Chandler feels it is necessary.
City Council has approved the development of the Southside Village neighborhood into a Historic Conservation District.
The neighborhood is between Frye and Pecos and Arizona Avenue to the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
In addition to being Payne’s home, it was also the home of Raul Navarrette, the city’s first Hispanic mayor. The community has its roots in the early days of Chandler, when AJ Chandler founded it.
It was the home of boxer Zora Folley, who once fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title, losing in a 7th round knockout. It was Ali’s last fight before he was forced to take a three-year hiatus because he refused to fight in Vietnam.
Folley later served on the Chandler City Council.
“To start here is great,” Woods said. “But it is absolutely necessary. I look at young people today…and if we don’t show them something, teach them where they come from, the fabric they were made of, they won’t know what’s in them at all.
The council passed a Historic Preservation Program in 2020, creating four different neighborhood types for which neighborhoods could apply.
The Historic Preservation designation is intended to honor any area with two or more buildings of historical significance or that housed people who made substantial contributions to the city’s history.
It does not limit any possible development.
Other types of designations the city has approved are “heritage site,” which relates to a historic building that no longer exists; a “preservation district,” which would have stricter zoning rules; and “landmark”, which is an American housing and urban development designation.
“The neighborhood itself, the conservation, is a Chandler innovation, and it’s honorary,” said Derek Horn, director of city development services.
“But it encourages the preservation of existing historic resources,” Horn explained. “So we would like developers to come and talk to us about any other alternatives that might be considered before demolishing a historic building.”
Horn said the city will work with Southside residents to recognize important places with signs, pylons and plaques.
Southside was home to blacks and Latinos in the city’s early days. Some of the historic buildings in the neighborhood include Winn School (currently home to the Salvation Army), Light and Life Church, and Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church.
Woods said it took nearly two years and a lot of paperwork to get the Historic Conservation District designation.
There are others, including the houses where Coy Payne and Zora Folley lived, and a two-story building behind Mount Olive Church which was a youth ice rink.
Woods said the Southside area was for workers who helped build the city. But there is one group that she thinks should get special recognition.
She said she had mixed emotions about the honorary nature of the district. While she wants to preserve history, she also wants to encourage growth.
“What stands out the most are the housewives, as the people of this community have helped nurture the home, for lack of a better word, the powers of being in the community. We took care of our ancestors and our mothers, and they took care of their homes as they went to create what we see today is the town of Chandler.