48 Hours in Scottsdale
Exploring Scottsdale’s cache of unheralded mid-century masterpieces.
Palm Springs has done a grand job of marketing their mid-century architectural chops but if you’re design-inclined you can point the ol’ Studebaker east four hours and hit the Valley of the Sun, where Scottsdale has its own cache of unheralded mid-century masterpieces.
The first step in any architectural tour is the easiest—you’re staying there. The Hotel Valley Ho opened its doors in December 1956 and was the stylish set’s de facto clubhouse (Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood had their honeymoon here) before its star faded when the ’70s arrived and its architectural shine was reno’ed away. But a decade ago, a new owner spruced up the old gal, and its restored greatness helped kick-start downtown Scottsdale’s renaissance. Today, it’s the hotel Palm Springs wished it had: a less crazy version of Palm Spring’s beloved Ace, with a true period architectural pedigree. It’s also walking distance to FnB, and while we know walking wasn’t big in the ’50s, it’s the best way to approach the restaurant’s tucked-away courtyard. The duo in charge—Arizona wine expert (yes they have quite a wine scene there) Pavle Milic in front, chef Charleen Badman in back—have made this spot the continuing go-to for the modern version of Wagner and Wood: hip couples and families who love its relaxed approach to farm-to-table dining. Order another AZ wine by the glass and linger and linger.
It’s a big day, so fortify yourself with breakfast at Elements at Sanctuary, where Beau MacMillan, famous for his Iron Chef win over Bobby Flay, serves standard-bearing fresh Southwest cuisine—think blistered shishito peppers with soy caramel and sea salt—in another architectural treasure. The restaurant is located in the sprawling Sanctuary on Camelback resort, originally opened in 1957 as the Paradise Valley Racquet Club, and while the vibe is now more modern than mid-century (thanks to a serious overhaul by Allen and Philp Architects—who also did the Valley Ho restoration) the views still channel the golden age of design.
If you were so inclined, you could conceivably hike over Camelback Mountain to your next destination, but a short bike ride seems a more civilized way to approach one of the most astounding design finds in the U.S. The David and Gladys Wright House was one of the last homes America’s greatest architect ever designed, in this case for his son. The house was literally hours away from destruction—it was actually the demolition contractor who contacted city hall to see if his permit was valid—and sat in serious limbo for a period before local boy Zach Rawling and his family stepped in and bought the property. Since that time they have has battled neighbours who—inexplicably—would rather see the home replaced with condos than turned into a museum, but while their fight for historical protection continues, you can set up a visit to this amazing structure—a Guggenheim pre-cursor set on 5.6 acres with breathtaking vistas of Camelback Mountain.
Your mind will be too full on design inspiration to make any other decisions, so Posh is the perfect place to dine. Start the meal by filling out a form with your likes and dislikes and chef/savant Joshua Hebert will craft a bespoke menu that you would have made yourself if only you had chef training. It’s as if MacGyver went to Le Cordon Blue—you check pheasant, foie gras and uni and, voila, he’ll create a series of dishes that will truly be your fault if you don’t like them.
Drive the 10 or so blocks to the mid-century oasis that is the Town and Country neighbourhood. The 62 homes eschew the usual Scottsdale bungalow design for a sleek and modernist bent that’s a hallmark of the mid- century era. The neighbourhood has recently been listed on the National Register, and many homes have retained their original features—but, unlike Palm Springs, the prices are still affordable for those looking for a dreamy second home. While mulling over that purchase, stop on your way back to the hotel at Virtu Honest Craft, one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants in America and one of the toughest reservations to come by—even at brunch. Sitting in the open-air courtyard that it shares with the Bespoke Inn, digging into a cast-iron pan filled with peperonata and potato hash, it’s easy to see why—it feels more like Umbria than a city of six million.