Did You Know: The Word 'Ahwatukee' Has No Meaning

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 2:32pm
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2015 - 8:08pm
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(Photo courtesy of Andrea Tucker)
On the southern side of South Mountain is the village of Ahwatukee. It’s part of the city Phoenix.

On the southern side of South Mountain is the village of Ahwatukee. It’s part of the city Phoenix.

Did you know the name Ahwatukee was said to be a Crow Nation language translation for the Spanish phrase "Casa de Sueños" or "House of Dreams?"

“There is no word 'Ahwatukee' in the Crow language. And to say 'Casa de Sueños' in Crow would require a word that sounds nothing like Ahwatukee,” said Marty Gibson, who wrote a book on the history of Ahwatukee.

While in his Ahwatukee office, he shows me old photos of Casa de Sueños — the first property built in the area.

“So, when we talk about Ahwatukee pre-development, from 1920 to 1973, Ahwatukee was this house,” Gibson said.

The house no longer exists. But it sat near what today is the corner of Seqouia Trail and Appaloosa Drive,  in an urban community west of the Warner Elliot Loop.

Casa de Sueños was built in 1920.

“So, the house would have been pretty much right in the middle of the street here,” Gibson said on a recent trip to the site.

It was a 12,000-square-foot adobe home on an estimated 7,000-acre property.

William Ames was a wealthy Chicago dentist who build the winter home at the foothills of South Mountain — at the time, there was nothing around.

He named it Casa de Sueños because it was his and his wife’s dream house. It was built with 17 rooms, 7 bathrooms and had a large courtyard in the center of the home. Ames died three months after moving in.  

“His widow, Virginia Ames, donated — it’s not clear exactly how much but she donated — a few sections of land to the city of Phoenix and that is now part of South Mountain Park,” said Gibson.

Virginia Ames lived in the house in the winter months until her death in 1933. The Ames never had children ,so the estate was willed to St. Luke’s Hospital. They sold Casa de Sueños and the land now reduced to about 1,200 acres to another wealthy Midwesterner, Helen Brinton.     

“She bought it in 1935. She had a thing for the Crow Indian language and she attempted to translate Casa de Sueños into the Crow language, came out 'Ahwatukee.' Research decades later confirms that there is no word 'Ahwatukee' in the Crow Indian language,” Gibson said.

Gibson said the name caught on. When people were directed to the area east of Chandler, it was known as the way to Ahwatukee. Brinton lived in the house until her death in 1960. The property was later sold to investors. By 1975, the home was demolished.

By the way, when development began in the southern end of South Mountain in the 1970s, there were name suggestions for the area. Gibson says, after a while developers decided to just keep it Ahwatukee, since that is how it was already known.

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