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Q&AZ: Why is Seventh Avenue curved between McDowell and Camelback roads?

By Monica Navarro
Published: Monday, October 2, 2023 - 8:05am
Updated: Monday, October 2, 2023 - 5:20pm

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Welcome to Melrose sign
Monica Navarro/KJZZ
Sign marking the Melrose neighborhood in Phoenix.

Drivers in Phoenix are familiar with streets following a grid structure. But a few stretches of road break that rule.

Through KJZZ's Q&AZ reporting project, a listener asked: Why is Seventh Avenue curved between McDowell and Camelback roads?

Arizona historian Ed Dobbins had a similar question when he researched the curve on Seventh Avenue in what is known as the Melrose District.

“I would ask people, and I’d say, you know, how did this happen? Everyone says, ‘Oh, I don’t know; somebody made a mistake.' I said, well what else is there? There must be more to it," he said.

The curve is the result of misalignment. Seventh Avenue was constructed in 1871 and headed north from Van Buren Street, giving Phoenix settlers access to Wickenburg. 

As the road was built, it leaned west. By the time it reached the old Wickenburg Road, where the Grand Canal sits today, it surveyed about 380 feet west of its planned section line. Four adjustments have been made to the roadway since.

In 1885, the city avoided building new bridges on the Grand Canal and instead redirected travelers to an older bridge. This was known as the jog on Black Canyon Road. 

“It costs money to build the bridges, so they just got to do short term, less expensive fixes," said Dobbins.

Eight years later, local attorney Jerry Millay offered to donate his land for a wagon bridge on the Seventh Avenue section line. The jog was moved down to Glenrosa Avenue.

By 1920, curves were built into the road to accommodate cars. And 27 years later, the last adjustment added longer curves in response to safety concerns.

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