Circles Records

There always exists a tension between how best to preserve the past while moving forward with the future. One building in the middle of such tensions is the historic Stewart Motor Company building, more commonly known to those in Phoenix as Circles Records & Tapes.

Circles Records and Tapes - Two Second Street -
The famous Circles Records storefront.

The building itself, one of the few remaining brick buildings in the downtown area, was constructed in the late 1940s and designed by W.Z. Smith. It saw its first incarnation as an automobile seller, selling the post-war American dream. The main selling point of the building was the turntable display on the front corner of the building: You could fit a car on that rotating display and show all 360 degrees of the motor vehicle for the viewing public. It was a huge hit and a big innovation for the area.

Once the original family sold the shop in 1972, it became a record store. Instead of having cars on display, the turntable would host dancers who would bring in customers passing by on Central Avenue. The shop itself hit hard times in the early 2000s, and shuddered in 2010, leaving behind an empty building and a long past of business in the community.

Circles Records Architecture - Two Second Street -
The famous Circles Records storefront.

Recently, the building was purchased by some developers who want to turn the building into a high-rise apartment building. Preservationists wanted iconic pieces and the spirit of the building to stay intact, but the developers and preservationists disagreed on how best to do this. The developers were going to meet with the city to discuss a tax credit for the preservation of the site, but in an unexpected move, three days before the meeting, they began to demolish the site. They Mayor and many others called the move a sign of bad faith, and the developers hired a crisis management team to cool tensions.

Circles Records Demolition - Two Second Street -
Partial demolition took place the Friday and Saturday before the meeting with the city.

The fight for Circles Records is far from over. It will be interesting to see what sort of compromise will be had between the two parties to preserve the building while still bringing it into the future.


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