Week 30: McCullough-Price House

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    If you’ve driven around the Chandler Fashion Center you may have noticed an old one story, adobe style house sitting on the southwest corner of Frye Road and Chandler Village Drive.  You may have wondered what it is, and maybe you’ve even stopped to investigate it.  The building is the historic McCullough-Price House, home of the Chandler Museum.

    What makes this seemingly out of place building historic?  It was built by William D. McCullough, an industrialist from Detroit who founded the Premier Cushion Spring Company which provided automobile parts to Dodge and Ford.  McCullough spent the winter of 1937 at Chandler’s San Marcos, and decided that he wanted to spend his future winters in Arizona.  He hired Phoenix’s most famous architecture team, Royal Lescher and Leslie Mahoney, to design a Pueblo Revival style home on land three miles west of Chandler.  The house featured many characteristics of the distinctly southwestern style, including a faux adobe appearance, rounded corners, parapets, vigas – the wooden roof beams that project from the walls – and a front door that was surrounded by replica Hohokam petroglyphs.  The house boasted a three car garage, a walled courtyard with a built in barbecue, and a rooftop patio.

    McCullough passed away in 1942, and his wife sold the house a year later.  The second owner was Roy Lockhead, a local business man who was a co-owner of the Pecos Valley Alfalfa Mill.  The Mill produced dehydrated alfalfa which was then shipped by rail to large poultry farms across the country.  The Lockheads passed away without ever living in the house.  It was during this time that the trustees of their estate rented the house out to the San Marcos for use by winter guests.  By 1946, the Lockheads’ son Jim and his wife, Anna, moved into the house. 

    In 1950, the Lockheads sold the house to Art and Louise Price.  Louise was the niece of town founder Dr. Alexander J. Chandler.  Art was an attorney who had drafted Chandler’s first charter and was a business partner with Dr. Chandler dating back to 1913.  The Prices added the house and its 350 acres to land they already owned in the area.  Art and Louise spent their retirement years in the house. 

    After Art was killed in a car accident in 1976, and Louise passed a few years later, ownership of the house passed to their daughter, Suzanne Price Propstra.  The house was lived in by a caretaker for a time before it was left, for all intents and purposes, abandoned.  In the meantime, the Price family sold off parcels of the surrounding land to developers – neighborhoods to the west and commercial development, including the mall, to the east.

    When the mall opened in 2001, Suzanne donated the house to the City of Chandler.  Originally planned as a community  center for West Chandler, the back end of the house was to open onto Price Park and provide programs and services for the local neighborhoods.  But soon a wall was erected that divided the house from the park.  This forced a change in plans, and the house went through a nearly $1 million renovation to convert it into a visitor center and gallery which opened in 2007.  That same year the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Unfortunately, in 2009 the slumping economy forced the facility to temporarily close.  It reopened in late 2012 as the headquarters of the Chandler Museum, and today houses the museum’s offices, archive and research center, and changing exhibit galleries.

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