Ralph Haver was a Modern architect working in the greater metro area of Phoenix, AZ from 1945 until the early 80s. Haver is best known today for his Mid-century modern Haver Homes, affordable tract housing executed in a contemporary modern style. These Haver Homes are prized by designers and do-it-yourselfers alike as modest and modern spaces to renovate.
Ralph Haver’s success has often mistakenly been compared to that of California’s Joseph Eichler, simply by similarity in design style — however instead of being a real estate developer, Haver was an architect who knew how to communicate with developers to populate his designs on a large scale. Thus, his role in bringing modern design sensibility to the masses is more comparable to that of A. Quincy Jones (who designed for developer Eichler).
Haver Home characteristics include low-sloped rooflines, clerestory windows, massive mantle-less chimney volumes, floor-to ceiling walls of glass, brick or block construction, clinker bricks in the wainscoting, angled porch posts and brick patios.
Born in California and trained at USC Pasadena as an architect, Ralph arrived in Phoenix immediately after his service in WWII and began shaping the city with the assistance of his brother Robert (a builder) and father Harry (a mason). He settled in what would soon become Uptown Phoenix — 2 miles outside city boundaries at the time. His first set of experimental modern contemporary ranch homes was created in the Hixson Homes subdivision near 12th Street and Highland — now called Canal North.
He soon mentored under Ed Varney and remained lifelong friends and collaborators with him even after breaking off and creating his own firm. Haver also worked with prominent developers such as Del Webb and Fred Woodward and Del Trailor.
Ralph Haver is responsible for so much of the design of postwar Phoenix that he is considered to be among one of the largest firms of the time. He designed churches, schools, municipal buildings, malls, multifamily housing, tract housing and custom homes.
Haver-designed buildings, while rather ubiquitous but valued in the Phoenix Metro area, are not immune from destruction. His elegant and acclaimed Cine Capri theater was razed in the 90s, and the 1960 Coronado High School was largely demolished by 2007. The Polynesian-styled Kon Tiki motel has been destroyed as well.
Of concern to the preservation community is the urge toward erecting second-story additions on Haver Homes, rendering the original low-lying profile of the home historically incongruous and altering the overall fabric of the neighborhood. Others claim these small, sometimes cramped home plans are largely outdated for present-day living and as ranch homes were designed to be modified from the start. Yet others cite that the housing is cheap, common and unattractive by today’s standards and has little value at all for preservation or rehabilitation.
Haver’s architectural design firm contemporaries included Ed Varney, Al Beadle, Weaver & Drover, Bennie Gonzales, and Lescher & Mahoney. His work may be also be found credited under “Ralph Haver & Associates”, “Haver Nunn & Jensen”, “Haver Nunn & Collamer” or “Haver Nunn & Nelson”. Blueprints as verification for authenticity of Haver designs are rare, as many buildings were created outside of Phoenix city boundaries at the time. Many of Haver’s drawings, renderings and records were destroyed when the firm finally went out of business — they ended up in a dumpster when the Missouri office building was abated in 1993.
Haver designed (or collaborated in the design) of the following buildings and neighborhoods, among many others not mentioned, confirmed or re-discovered. Most of the inventory has been re-created from oral history as well as publications such as Arizona Architect, Arizona Days & Ways, Arizona Homes and A Guide to the Architecture of Metro Phoenix (Central Arizona AIA).