Vision Gallery will be displaying captivating photos revealing mid-century works by a longtime Chandler architect and others who left a distinctive mark on the community.
“Mid-Century Chandler: The Unexpected Gems” will show life in the city decades ago as it features attractive buildings and signs that are part of the legacy of local mid-century architect Glenn McCollum.
The exhibit runs from Feb. 22 to March 29 at Vision Gallery, 10 E. Chicago St. Chandler.
Photographer and gallery curator Holly Metz compiled the colorful contemporary and historic photos of churches, unusual neighborhoods and other buildings with a certain flair. Metz is thrilled to honor the work of McCollum, as mid-century architecture is her passion.
A reception will be held to honor McCollum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 23 at Vision Gallery.
During Modern Phoenix Week, Metz will give a presentation with stories on how she got interested in mid-century Chandler and McCollum’s work from 5 to 8 p.m. March 22 at Vision Gallery. Metz will speak at 7:15 that night. The gatherings are free and open to the public.
“I own a 1957 mid-century modern home in the Carla Vista neighborhood,” Metz said. “Phoenix is very well-documented… there just wasn’t a lot of information about Chandler so I just began to really research it.
“I started to research Glenn McCollum’s work and it turns out he did so much of Chandler’s architecture. His project list is very extensive for Chandler. I contacted the city to see if there was a possibility that they might honor him.”
Metz, who works as a curator at the Huhugam Heritage Center of the Gila River Indian Community, said she contacted Nate Meyers, curator of collections for the Chandler Museum, to get information about mid-century architecture in Chandler.
She said that was when she got “the key to the kingdom” and began her research of McCollum. City directories in 1960 revealed who lived on what streets.
The exhibit at Vision Gallery will feature Metz’s photos of mid-century architecture, including much of McCollum’s work.
McCollum, 92, designed schools, churches (including the Church of the Nazarene), homes, shopping centers (including the now gone Tri-City Mall in Mesa), a former Chandler City Hall that is no longer in existence and Chandler’s first community hospital.
He still lives in Chandler and has five children, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He and his late wife, Ila, had celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary by wearing their original wedding clothes in 2012. McCollum also designed his own home, only three houses up from where Metz now lives, but later he and his family moved.
Three of McCollum’s former offices are still up, two of which were designed by him. One that he designed is at 77 W. Chicago St. and is referred to as the Chandler Professional Building and the Seventy-Seven Building or Seventy-Seven. The structure opened in 1960.
“I liked drawing in high school, but I didn’t like machine drawing, like nuts and bolts and parts,” McCollum said. “I was more interested in the architecture… I probably did 500 jobs over 35 years.”
Metz said the exhibit will feature contemporary photos she took of “existing mid-century modern structures in Chandler,” as well as historic photos showing how the mid-century buildings looked when they were first built or with their original design.
Photos of newspaper advertisements and historic information will also be part of the display. One section of the gallery will be dedicated to McCollum.
“He has this really beautiful aesthetic of clean lines and beautifully chosen materials, play of light” Metz said of McCollum, adding:
“They’re uniquely designed. It’s just different than what happened in the late ‘70s and onward. There’s a great appreciation for this architecture now, in California in particular, and in greater Phoenix. I am very passionate about letting people know about it here and hoping more people will come to appreciate it and preserve it.”
Metz lives near downtown Chandler and said her house attracted her because of its mid-century design and mixture of glass, wood and stone.
“The north wall of my home is wall-to-wall glass up to the roof line with a beam projecting through it,” she said. “It’s a lot of beautiful, exposed textures. I have an exposed slump block wall. It’s beauty and function.”
McCollum enjoyed his work as an architect and also giving back to the community. He served on the Chandler City Council for two years and then on Chandler’s Planning and Zoning Commission for 27 years.
“We had a good group and we rewrote all the ordinances and the codes,” McCollum said. “I hope we made a contribution to the city. We had a good time together.”
He said he liked being on the Planning and Zoning Commission but not on the City Council as “I’m not a politician.”
McCollum also helped aspiring architects when he established a scholarship for students who wanted to study architecture at Arizona State University.
He was born and raised in Chanute, Kansas, and stumbled upon Chandler when he was on his way home from serving in the military and stopped in Mesa to visit his brother in 1946.
He got married in 1947 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Arizona State College (now called Arizona State University) in 1949, when he said Chandler only had about 3,200 people. McCollum took all the architectural classes the college offered, but it did not provide an architectural degree at that time.
He worked for architectural firms for six years and took an exam to get his license as an architect in 1954. Then McCollum opened his own architectural firm on North Arizona Avenue, across from City Hall. He retired in 1991.
One of his works he remembers fondly is the Church of the Nazarene, which he said is “a departure from gothic, but I think it fits the area.” McCollum said designing the Tri-City Mall in Mesa “was quite a project.”
“It took quite a lot of drawing… but it lasted 35 years,” he said.
McCollum’s daughter, Peggy “P.J.” Haase of Chandler, remembers running prints of her father’s designs for him on a huge printer in his office when she and her sister were in elementary school.
“He’s my dad,” Haase said. “I love everything that he’s designed. He did many, many jobs here in Chandler. He knew Dr. (A.J.) Chandler. He’s pretty sharp. He loves numbers. He’s very, very intelligent… very creative. He’s pretty amazing.”
She said her father was always busy when she was growing up, working 12-hour days, serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission and working as choir director at the Nazarene church he designed. Haase is happy her father will be honored in the exhibit.
“We just were so elated,” she said. “We were so excited about it. Those kind of things get forgotten when it’s been as long as it has been. All of us are just thrilled that Dad’s going to get acknowledged for all this work.”
A retired medical assistant, Haase said her siblings all live in the Valley. Though none of them got into architecture, she has found her creative niche quilting.
“Chandler is a wonderful, wonderful city to live in,” Metz said. “I think folks knowing about this mid-century component design will make it more special. His (McCollum’s) work is so beautiful and he’s with us. It will just be amazing to thank him and many people. He’s a treasure trove of information.”
By COLLEEN SPARKS, Managing Editor
Article originally published in the SanTan Sun News