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Hance Park Changes Force Relocation Of Phoenix Trolley Museum

streetcar trolley
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Streetcar 116 is the crown jewel of the Phoenix Trolley Museum.

The master plan for Phoenix's Hance Park will be unveiled Thursday. To make that vision a reality, the Hance Park Conservancy will have to change what’s there now.

Streetcar number 116 was built in 1928 and ran until 1948. It is the crown jewel of the Phoenix Trolley Museum. It’s an almost fully restored red and white streetcar. The museum rescued it in the late '70s, after it spent a few decades as a tiny apartment. It was about that time that Ernie Workman came along for the ride as a volunteer.

"Now the other street car apparently bounced around. We don’t know who all may have purchased it, but it ended up as a concession stand at Legend City," Workman said.

That other trolley is just a shell of its former self. Most of the wood rotted away during its time as a concession stand and a brief stint as a monkey cage in a petting zoo. Both sit in a metal car barn on Central Avenue and Culver Street, right next to the west side of Hance Park. Workman said the museum leases the property from the city. They’ve renewed their lease every five years for the past few decades.

"I sent in the regular request for a five-year extension last fall. And instead of the normal email response … I got an email that said this request has been forwarded to the Phoenix Historic Preservation Department," Workman said.

This time, the lease was not renewed. The city said in a statement it’s planning to turn the site into a skateboard park. Workman said the lease is up in September, unless the city approves a temporary extension of up to 2.5 more years. Either way, the Phoenix Trolley Museum will have to find a new location.

"It doesn’t make any difference where we go; it’s going to be expensive. It’s very difficult to assess, but we know it’s going to be talking something million dollars plus. Probably four to five million dollars," Workman said.

He said the museum was already struggling to get enough visitors, which he admits could be partly because of their own outdated marketing. He hopes a silver lining of the move will be to raise more awareness that the museum even exists.

"It’s always been a challenge, but this is the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to deal with. And it’s unfortunate that in our modern society, the preservation of memories of history don’t seem to have a strong recognition among the population," he said.

From this location, you can hear the light rail pass by on Central Avenue, a testament to how far transit has moved forward.

The volunteers at the Phoenix Trolley Museum hope to continue to remind us where it came from.

See related content: Phoenix Hance Park Master Plan To Be Unveiled Thursday

Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.