A LITTLE LESCHER AND MAHONEY HISTORY
The history of Lescher and Mahoney is closely tied with Arizona history. Most communities in Arizona have at least one Lescher and Mahoney building. The firm completed 2,541 commissions. At least 29 of those are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Over 19,000 drawings dating from the early 1900s to 1976 are now housed in the Arizona Historical Society Lescher-Mahoney collection. This collection includes residences, churches, resorts, schools, offices, and government buildings. Also the well known Orpheum theater in Phoenix, Arizona. Construction began in 1927 and was completed in 1929 for a total cost of $750,000. It was designed by architects Lescher & Mahoney, with Hugh Gilbert associated, and built for owner-operators J.E. Rickards and Harry Nace.
Royal Lescher was born in Illinois and graduated from the California Institute of Technology. After working for Phoenix’s leading architect, Thornton Fitzhugh, Lescher started his own office in 1910 at the age of 28. His first job was with the Pendergast School District. He would bicycle 12 miles to the site and ride the train back to the office. Lescher’s first large job was the Women’s Club of Phoenix, now the location of the Hotel Westward Ho, with a construction cost of $16,300. He also wrangled some impressive commissions: the Arizona State Hospital, listed as “Terribual Asylum for the Insane,” an elementary school in Flagstaff, a bank in Nogales and a high school in Globe.
In 1913, John Rinker Kibbey joined Lescher. Among their projects were the Mohave County Courthouse in Kingman and the Dodge residence in Jerome. In 1917, Kibbey left for Officers Training School to serve in World War I and Lescher stayed behind.
Leslie J. Mahoney was born in Missouri, son of an Irish stone mason and grandson of a London draftsman. He was educated at Santa Clara College but not formally trained in architecture. While working as an architect’s assistant in Los Angeles, Mahoney ran into a friend who was working in Phoenix. He told the friend to have Lescher call him if he needed help due to Kibbey’s leaving for the Army. Lescher called Mahoney and sent him money and railroad fare to Phoenix, then an overgrown cow town with a population of 20,000 and a dirt road leading to Tempe. (1917-18)
After the war ended, Kibbey returned to Phoenix but soon moved on to Hollywood to design movie sets.
Lescher and Mahoney’s projects included the Phoenix Shriners Temple, the San Marcos Hotel in Chandler, cotton warehouses in Goodyear, the First Presbyterian Church in Flagstaff, the Spanish Colonial style St. Mary’s Catholic School and Orpheum Theater, and the Spanish Renaissance style Post Office. The design of the Arizona State Office Building, mixing 14th and 15th century styles, caused Mahoney to lock horns with Frank Lloyd Wright. Their arguments reached the newspapers.
Lescher and Mahoney completed nearly every conceivable building type and seemed to know everyone. Many clients worked with them over many years. Arizona’s mining communities are a good example of the type and quantity of work performed for a single client. Phelps Dodge Corporation in Ajo and Morenci, and United Verde Copper Company of Jerome and Clarkdale, are good examples of longtime clients. Lescher and Mahoney’s experience extended to all of the necessary facilities to accommodate miners and their families, including residences, stores, schools, churches, assembly halls, hospitals, and movie houses.
Both architects were involved in politics and community and wielded a substantial amount of influence. Lescher was the originator of the first board of technical registration, belonged to the Kiwanis, Arizona Club, Riding and Polo Club, Phoenix Club, Elks Lodge and the Free Masons. Mahoney was the originator of the Phoenix City Planning Commission, served on the Chamber of Commerce, Sheriff’s Posse, Botanical Gardens Board and the Board of Directors of Memorial Hospital and was an accomplished photographer and artist. A retired architectural designer who worked for the firm for over ten years remembered that the two men were complete opposites. Lescher was a Republican, a Protestant and a businessman. Mahoney was a Democrat, a Catholic and an artist.
Their office was located in the downtown art deco Lescher and Mahoney Title & Trust building for over 30 years. At times there were as many as 65 on staff which reflects the substantial amount of work the firm was doing throughout Arizona. Even during the World War and Depression, Lescher and Mahoney managed to remain in business when most architectural firms ceased to exist.
Royal Lescher died in 1957 at the age of 74. Leslie Mahoney died in 1985 at the age of 93.