Guest Commentary

At El Con Mall, shit really happens

According to an oft-told urban legend, this is how a disgruntled member of the original architectural team expressed what he thought of the mix-and-match design mess that replaced famed architect Annie Graham Rockfellow's elegant El Conquistador Hotel, razed in 1968. (The hotel's water tower, still standing south of Broadway Boulevard, gives you an idea of how beautiful Rockfellow's 1928 masterpiece was.) A second version of the origin of the little love note that ropes around the building blames the owners of Levy's department store for failure to pay a completion bonus.

Jerry Kelly
Right-side-up, the masonry trimming on El Con's Robinson's May building vaguely spells "Levy's" in its Southwest-style design.

Judge for yourself the existence of this message from the past by performing a classic teenage Tucson ritual. If you ever find yourself in the El Con parking lot near Robinson's May, lie on your back on the hood of a car (do not try this in June), and the word "shit" becomes visible. It's written upside down in a band of ornamentation around the building that's supposed to say "Levy's."

Jerry Kelly
Upside down, it vaguely spells "shit."

From the larger-than-life twin toilet-brush holders on either side of the puny entrance to the cancerous big-box stores growing on its eastern flank, El Con Mall truly is a building that needs, and fortunately comes with, a warning label. Whatever the designer's motives were at the time, "shit" accurately sums up El Con--now more than ever.

Jerry Kelly
Here, let us spell it out for you.
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