“When the Phoenix Bakery was established in 1881, Phoenix had only one school but boasted of six feed corrals and 15 saloons.” Thus began an article in the Phoenix Gazette on the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Phoenix Bakery. Actually, the town was on the verge of becoming incorporated and also claimed four churches, a bank, a post office, two public halls, and three hotels.
The shell of this historic building has been sitting at Pioneer Living History Museum (PLHM) since 1975 when funds for its renovation ran dry. With the purchase of the land by the City of Phoenix, making PLHM a city park, and support from the Eisele family, the famous old bakery is destined to resume its former role in creating wholesome baked-goods for visitors to PLHM.
Edward Eisele, a German apprentice, hadn’t really intended to come to the United States. He was sent to England by his family to work with a cloth manufacturer. On his way, he was beaten and robbed. Unable to assume his apprenticeship, Edward managed to find employment aboard a freighter- painting, cleaning, charting and, as fate would have it, baking. Two years later, he disembarked ship in Philadelphia, got a job in a coal mine, and later, worked his way to Colorado by wagon-train, as a cook.
His arrival in Arizona was as a cook for a team of people surveying the Arizona Canal. Once here, he found employment at the Phoenix Bakery in 1881. Three years later, he bought the bakery for $300.That year the bakery put up 200 loaves of bread a day, many delivered by a boy on foot. Later, a bicycle was purchased and delivery speed was increased substantially. In 1887, Alfred Becker left his career as a pharmacist to join his good friend in the bakery business. He would handle sales, while Edward did the baking.
As customers increased, the need for even more timely delivery of product was met when the bakery introduced the first horse-drawn delivery wagon in Arizona. This pioneering effort was duplicated in 1910, when Phoenix Bakery became the first in the territory to try out a horseless carriage to distribute their wares. There were many other innovations in the years following, including: bread wrapped in waxed paper, pre-sliced loaves, radio and, later, television advertising.
To add further historical perspective, there were few businesses that did not participate in ancillary activities, and the Phoenix Bakery was no exception. Over the years, it also served as the Glendale and Phoenix Transfer Office and, also, the Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa Stage Office.
In 1929, Edward and Alfred’s sons, Lloyd and Charles, were running the business and decided to become exclusively wholesale. To accomplish this, they purchased the rights to a well-known national bread brand from the W.E. Long Company in Chicago. They renamed their bakery and its products Holsum.
In 1975, the shell of this famous bakery was relocated to PLHM. Under the inspired leadership of JoAnn Graham, PLHM orchestrated moving the 300,000-pound building from its historic location at 7 West Washington Street in downtown Phoenix. The move of close to 30 miles took five days to complete. Holsum Bakery paid for the moving as part of their contribution to Bicentennial ’76.
While the interior of the bakery will duplicate the bakery as it appeared in the 1880’s, the ovens, originally located in the basement, will be replicated in a building to be constructed next to the renovated bakery. Also on-site will be a reconstruction of the stables/garage/machine-shop used to stable the horses, wagons, and later, the delivery trucks.
After a wait of 35 years, everyone at Pioneer is excited to watch as the Phoenix Bakery once again rises from the ashes to become the latest edition to this jewel in the Arizona desert- Pioneer Living History Museum.