Tempe was still a pretty sleepy town when I moved there in 1985. It hadn't changed much in the ten years since I first started visiting its head shops and record stores in my mid-teens. A block east of my house, downtown Mill Avenue was still "home to little more than biker bars, tattoo parlors, and other unsavory businesses." But I was a young punker, and I took to my ratty neighborhood like a fly to shit. I used to love to to walk along the cracked sidewalks upended by roots from the overgrown yards that hid both crummy stone hovels and ancient Victorian style farm houses. It was a quiet neighborhood -- the streets were usually deserted as everyone hid from the scorching heat, often with nothing to aid us but giant swamp coolers propped up against the walls with rickety wooden frames.
But about the time the dump I lived in started getting really depressing, I got an eviction notice. Soon, the whole area was scraped clean to make way for a new shopping development and its necessary parking structures. That was two decades ago this month. I didn't own a camera back then, and have no visual record from those days. I found some great images at the online collection of the Tempe Historical Society, as well as its Doors To The Past site. But they only go so far to jog my fading memory.
Cranes are everywhere in downtown Tempe nowadays. If you find an old building that hasn't been condemned, chances are it's in the process of being repurposed in service to the grand vision of a sparkling Mill Avenue destination mecca. But down at the northern end of the street, the soon-to-be-completed transit line threatens to cut off the riverfront area from all foot traffic. The powers that be have already fixed their gaze on some of Tempe's oldest structures, La Casa Vieja (home of Monti's steakhouse) and the Hayden Flour Mill. In their current state, these landmarks apparently contribute nothing but a "hayseed" ambiance that doesn't have enough impact on the city's bottom line. It's only a matter of time before the mill that gave the street its name gets thrown from the train.
I've been around long enough to know that no matter how loudly you complain or how hard you demonstrate, if our masters want something bad enough, they'll find a way to get it. But this time I'm ready. My photos may not win any contests, but at least they'll help me to remember once it's too late to undo the damage.
Update: [**Tempe flour mill to reopen as events venue**](http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2011/06/09/20110609tempe-flour-mill-events-venue.htm)