Listed on the National Register of Historic Places: June 30, 2003
The Robson Historic District is found within the original Mesa town site limits. The district is roughly bound on the north by University Drive; the south by Second Street; the west by Country Club Drive; and the east by Robson Street. This district is composed of commercial properties on the western and northern boundaries and residential buildings throughout the rest of the district. North of the district, across University Drive is the Evergreen Historic District. To the east of the district lies the West Second Street Historic District, and directly south of the district stands the City of Mesa Police Department complex. Although the original neighborhood has suffered from modern infill along its edges, in particular, along Country Club Drive, and University Drive, it retains a high degree of integrity at its interior.
Although this neighborhood dates to the original town site, the earliest homes still standing today date from 1915-1920. The first formal subdivision, Pomeroy Place, dates from 1911. The earliest home in the district is the W.W. Read House built between 1915 and 1920. This Colonial Revival home marked the beginning of the first twentieth century building boom (1905-1919).
After World War I an economic downturn discouraged housing construction in Mesa until 1927 when prosperity returned, if only for a short time. During this era of growth, the Bungalow style of home was constructed in the Robson Historic District. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, nearly half the homes in the neighborhood were constructed. These homes were of the Bungalow style of architecture. The scale and ornamentation of these homes was modest, unlike the homes found in the West Second Street neighborhood to the east.
The Robson Historic District in Mesa is significant for two reasons. First, it is considered significant under National Register Criterion A in the areas of Community Planning and development for its relationship to broad patterns of community development in Mesa. Second, the Robson Historic District illustrates important examples of architectural styles common in Arizona during the first half of the twentieth century. The Robson Historic District is considered significant under National Register Criterion C for the architectural styles and periods that it represent. The period of significance for the district starts in 1911 with the subdivision of the Pomeroy Place subdivision and continues until 1952, the end of the 50-year period of significance for the National Register.
The Robson Historic District consists of portions of the original townsite of Mesa that were later divided into smaller parcels and small subdivisions. This process of subdivision within the original townsite was an important factor in the change of Mesa from a Mormon community consisting of large garden lots to a modern residential community of small lots. This was a significant change in the community development of Mesa and the Robson Historic District is importantly associated with this process.
The Robson Historic District is significant for its association with the development of a cohesive neighborhood of middle class and upper class families in Mesa prior to 1950. development continued at a smaller scale after 1950, but by this time most of the new residential development in Mesa was in areas outside the original town site.
With three exceptions, the portions of the original blocks which encompass the Robson Historic District escaped a formal process of subdivision common in other areas of Mesa. The large garden lots of the early Mormon community were gradually split into smaller and smaller lots over the years to allow for more intensive residential development. The result of this slow, informal process is an eclectic mix of building styles and construction dates.
The three exceptions to this pattern of development are the Pomeroy Place, W.S. McMannon, and W.R. Stewart subdivisions. These three very small subdivisions represent early attempts at converting the garden blocks into residential lots.
Pomeroy Place, the largest of the three subdivisions, was platted by Frank T. and S. Dora Pomeroy, early Mesa pioneers. They assembled the subdivision which was owned by several other prominent Mesa residents. These included John M. and Georgia E. Vance, D. Franklin and Annie Johnson, Don M. and Julia A. LeBaron, and J. Erastus LeBaron, a single man. Don M. LeBaron was another prominent Mesa pioneer. He came to Mesa in 1879 and founded a bakery and general store in 1986. Shortly after joining the Pomeroy Place development, LeBaron moved with many other Mormons to Mexico. He returned to Mesa in 1926 to continue a career in real estate development. His son, Edwin M. LeBaron, had started his own real estate firm in 1905 as the Edwin M. LeBaron Real Estate and Insurance Co. Edwin also operated the Arizona Land Company in the twenties. The LeBaron name is now memorialized in the Robson Historic District with LeBaron Street, originally platted as Roland Street as part of the Pomeroy Place subdivision.
The small W.S. McMannon subdivision in the Robson Historic District is further evidence of the residential aspirations of early Mesa pioneers. McMannon, a veteran of the Spanish-American war in 1898, platted several small subdivisions in Mesa. He operated a real estate and insurance firm for many years. In addition to developing his own subdivisions, McMannon also teamed up with the "dean" of Arizona realtors, W.R. Stewart, to create the McMannon and Stewart subdivision in 1919.
W.R. Stewart had a similar career, but one even more prominent than McMannon's. He got his start as a real estate developer in 1914 and continued to subdivide and market Mesa real estate for the next forty years. He was credited with building more than one hundred homes in Mesa. Although W.R. Stewart platted many small subdivisions in the early years of Mesa, he is usually remembered for several large subdivisions he platted after World War II. He was called the "dean of the state's realtors" at his death. In addition to his career in real estate, Stewart is responsible for the design of the Arizona state flag and financing of the Stewart Chapel at Mesa Methodist Church.
LeBaron, McMannon, and Stewart were three developers who had a tremendous impact of the growth and development of the town. While the Robson Historic District contains only three of the many subdivisions developed by these three individuals, it is typical and representative of their vision for the conversion of the community from large Mormon garden lots into a number of small residential lots.
Mitten and Pomeroy Houses
The Mitten House and Pomeroy House are significant historic homes which have been relocated to the Robson Historic District in order to avoid demolition due to the construction of the Mesa Arts Center.
The Mitten House, previously located at 22 E. 1st Ave., is now located at 238 W. 2nd Street. The new site was chosen based upon its similarity to its historic setting. The Mitten House was the first FHA financed home constructed in Mesa. Built in 1936 as a residence for Charles Mitten, publisher of the Mesa Journal Tribune, the house was built with funds from the FGA program and the Mesa Journal Tribune as a demonstration to help encourage construction for residential buildings in Mesa. The Mitten House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 29, 1988, because of its historical association with a famous person and significant event in Mesa's history.
The Pomeroy House, which was previously located at 27 S. Center Street, has now moved to its new location at 213 N. Morris Street. The Pomeroy House is significant for its architectural style being one of the last Tudor Revival style homes in Mesa. Although the house is not officially designated as a historic landmark, the City will encourage the new owner to work with the City's Historic Preservation Office to pursue local landmark designation.
The Pomeroy House is named for Clara C. Pomeroy, the daughter of one of the first families that arrived in Mesa in the late 1800s. Clara is most noted for being the mother of Rollie Pomeroy who owned and operated the Waldorf Club for 30 years, was player-manager of the former City of Mesa baseball team for 20 years, and served many years on the Mesa Planning and Zoning Board.