- Author: Dawson Fearnow
- Category: History
- Issue: Nov 2011
Home to the Valley’s first high-rise residences and the late, great Phoenix Playboy Club, midtown was the most swinging neighborhood in Phoenix back in the sleek ’60s. Today, new generations are discovering the joys of our most urban enclave.
Martinis, Muscle Cars & Murder
Stretching from the base of South Mountain until it fades into the foothills of the North Mountain Preserve, Central Avenue has always been Phoenix’s signature streetscape. And in the swinging 1960s, no section of this mighty thoroughfare sizzled like midtown. Back then, teenagers cruised Central Avenue and parked their souped-up cars at the world’s first McDonald’s franchise, which opened on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road in 1953, and sipped milkshakes beneath the restaurant empire’s first iconic, golden neon arches.
Their parents, meanwhile, were dining and drinking inside the dozens of smoke-fogged watering holes and sumptuous supper clubs studding both sides of midtown’s Central Corridor. Dressed to the nines and driving cars the size of aircraft carriers, the Valley’s movers and shakers descended upon hotspots such as Durant’s, the iconic steakhouse that’s resided on the northeast corner of Central and Virginia avenues since 1950.
“Everyone was at Durant’s,” says Josephine Alcazar, a midtown native and co-owner of the Russo and Steele car auction.