Circle West Architects

The Barrister Building

Sep 09, 2014

Why the Barrister Building is important in Downtown Phoenix


Jefferson Hotel Phoenix


Historic preservation can and should be an important aspect of any effort to promote identity, authenticity, and sustainable development.  The conservation and improvement of our existing buildings, including re-use of historic and older buildings, “greening” the existing stock, and reinvestment in historic environments is critically important to establishing our local culture and heritage.

The Barrister building occupies the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Jefferson Street.  Commonly referred to as the “Psycho” Building since Alfred Hitchcock chose it for his famous opening scene in the movie “Pyscho”.  Originally, called the Jefferson Hotel when it was built.  The story of its development gives us an understanding of the people, time, and context of Phoenix in the early 20th Century.


Built in 1915, The Jefferson Hotel was the vision of Salim Ackel, a unique and successful immigrant to the United States.  “His life story also speaks for the business ability and keen mind of Mr. Ackel,”(Arizona Republican; July 15, 1915).  Salum Ackel arrived in Arizona some twenty three years prior to the construction of the hotel.  Mr. Ackel started selling merchandise from a wagon camp to camp.  From that initial position, he was able to get involved in a small grocery store and grow it into a larger emporium.  Mr. Akel also designed jewelry and owned real estate throughout the valley.  “Mr. Ackel’s attributes his business success to two principal factors:  hardwork and strict honesty, and the establishment of first class credit rating. “(Arizona Republican; July 15, 1915)


 Jefferson Hotel Phoenix, AZ


The Jefferson Hotel was at the time the tallest structure in the regional western United States.  “Destined to be the finest furnished and best equipped modern hotel.  The building has six stories with a complete and entire basement, also a well-equipped and beautifully arranged roof garden, and super roof.”  (Arizona Republican; February 23, 1915)  The distinct features of the Barrister Building include the strong horizontal cornice lines at the second floor and at the top of the building.  The building has an understated simplicity with the “tripartite” of a clear base, mid-section, and top expression.  The building fronts Central Avenue.  The perspective of the cornice lines reinforce the main entry and perspective down Central.


 Jefferson Hotel - 1916

The site for The Barrister Building is located just south of the recently completed City Scape development and just west of the basketball arena and the convention center.  Within walking distance of many of the civic and cultural institutions as well as fabulous restaurants and outdoor dining.  The scale of The Barrister Building is critically important.  At six stories it provides an appropriate and much needed pedestrian scaled building with an identifiable entry.