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Inside the Storied Past (and Sophisticated Present) of Scottsdale North’s Coveted Townhomes

In tux and gown, Scottsdale North founders Eldon Stenjem and Weme Castor pose in front of a unit, as do other early homeowners.

During the Age of Aquarius, a love connection between a local realtor and a Wisconsin developer inspired an unforgettable upscale development.

By Douglas C. Towne and Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Steve Craft

Early promotional photography and advertising touted the community’s elegant lifestyle.

For all its luxurious features, the $5 million Scottsdale North CityHomes development employed a rather homespun approach during its conception in the late 1960s. Historian Roger Brevoort says that, although Ronald Craik is credited with designing Scottsdale North CityHomes, he believes the architect merely created the drawings. “The vision came from the developer, Eldon Stenjem, and his partner, luxury realtor Weme Castor, who were married after the development was completed,” he says. 

“It was designed on the back of a restaurant table place mat in  Álamos, Mexico, by my dad, and Weme Castor during one of their trips,” Sherry Stenjem, Eldon’s daughter, says. “They both loved Mexico, and it showed in the development. They would go on buying trips to the southern Sonoran town for its fountains, fixtures and hardware. “Buyers responded enthusiastically to the development and snapped up the 39 townhomes that are set amidst a 10-acre, parklike neighborhood on North Scottsdale Road, just south of McDonald  Drive near Old Town Scottsdale. “Weme was the key to the development,” Stenjem says. “She was very assertive, successful and determined. My brother, Tommy Stenjem, also proved invaluable on the project as a laborer.” 

The new development attracted well-traveled and educated clientele from all over the globe, according to Stenjem. “There were cocktail parties where women wore gowns and men were in tuxedos; we had a lot of fun with all the people.”

Initially, there were skeptics about the remarkable development, who thought Scottsdale North CityHomes were overpriced. Stenjem recalls that as a child, she was once left alone in one of the development’s model homes with instructions to hand out brochures to potential buyers. Someone who stopped by told her, “How could anyone spend $60,000 for this house? You guys are crazy.”

With Scottsdale North CityHomes, the couple emulated the Spanish Colonial elegance of Álamos, where they vacationed. The design included a consistent style, detailing and use of wrought iron. Every unit had doors and entry gates from  Álamos, either salvaged or replicated by a Mexican artist and brought to Scottsdale to build them on-site. “Coincidentally,  Álamos became a sister city to Scottsdale not long after they completed the project,” historian Donna Reiner says.

Brevoort suggests Googling “Álamos” to see how they re-created the town’s appearance in the development. “I know of no other property in Scottsdale, or Arizona like Scottsdale North,” he says.

“The residents love the European feel; there’s nothing quite like it,” long-time resident Brad Anderson says. “It’s fun when you come off Scottsdale Road, which is like a freeway, and you’re in this intimate, quiet area.”

The townhomes were planned for affluent customers and still attract that clientele with features that were remarkable for the time, including 10-foot-high ceilings. The garages were deep to accommodate Cadillacs and Lincolns, and some owners have expanded their living quarters with the extra garage space. “The community is a patchwork quilt, as each unit is different,” Anderson says. “One features antiques; another is ultra-modern; some have been updated many times; and even a few originals are left.” One radiant feature Scottsdale North CityHomes could not retain was its gas-lit streetlamps, which were converted to electricity about 15 years ago.

The development preserved some trees from the orange grove where the community was built. Besides adding to a rustic feel, residents still enjoy fruit from this historic orchard. “The lush green landscape is my favorite part of the neighborhood, as it reminds me of home,” Anderson, a Wisconsin native, says. The challenge, he adds, will be retaining the verdant landscape using less water during the ongoing drought conservation efforts.

The development’s amenities create a neighborhood where townhomes rarely come on the market, and those that do usually sell before they hit the MLS. New owners sometimes need clarification about what city they moved to. “We’re technically in Scottsdale, but our addresses are Paradise Valley, which also provides some of our services such as water,” Anderson says. “We feel we get the best of both worlds as we benefit from associations with both cities.”

Among the many admirers of Scottsdale North CityHomes are Paradise Valley homeowners looking to downsize and, surprisingly, local fire departments. “Our community is where they take the newbie drivers to learn how to turn firetrucks because of the narrow streets and tight corners,” Anderson says. “Something like this wouldn’t be built today; that’s also why we don’t allow overnight street parking or estate sales.”

The uniqueness of Stenjem and Castor’s creation continues to be heralded, as the community was named to the National Register of Historic Places in January 2023. Anderson delights in the development’s ambiance, story and particularly its name. “Imagine this being North Scottsdale, which has a totally different meaning today,” he says with a laugh.

The Flip That Grew Roots

Sandy Chambers and Tim Brower’s townhouse was quite “original” when they bought it. Not that they don’t appreciate vintage style, but the hexagonal Saltillo tile, the mirrored fireplace and the Tiffany-style stained glass over the living room’s skylights were a tad too original for the couple. 

With Sandy—a real estate agent and serial home remodeler—in charge, they embarked on an ambitious redo and addition. “We took this down to the stud walls and even ripped out part of the slab to get to the plumbing,” explains Sandy. “At one point, all the windows and doors were out, so the space was wide open. At that time, a bobcat was spotted in our community, so I told the contractor to make loud noises when he came in each morning.”

Bobcat or not, the project included removing walls, reconfiguring the kitchen and the master bathroom, and tucking in a third bedroom between the pool patio and the back of the garage. The resulting interior is a clean, modern homage to midcentury looks that’s comfortable for the couple’s easy living and entertaining style.

A new custom front door features a panel that opens to catch breezes.

In the kitchen, where Tim—a longtime Valley hair colorist—frequently helms the gas range, a cabinet shows off Sandy’s extensive crystal collection. In the dining room, the redone fireplace is now clad in barn wood, a rustic contrast to the sleek, pale-hued porcelain tile flooring. The furnishings, from the simple kitchen barstools to the living room’s sofa and chairs, are meant for comfort and lingering. Accessories and art come largely from the couple’s travels.

Sandy admits she had initially thought about renovating the residence and putting it back on the market but changed her mind not long after she got to know the community. “This is such an unusual oasis in the middle of Scottsdale,” Sandy says. “The neighbors are so welcoming, and everyone works hard on keeping this historic environment intact. We love it here—this is home.”

1. Sandy Chambers and Tim Brower’s backyard is one of the few large enough to accommodate a pool, where an artistic metal panel hides the pool equipment. 2. Large-format porcelain tile was used throughout the house, including the living room, where midcentury modern furnishings are illuminated by skylights. 3. The reconfigured kitchen includes a large island for entertaining. 4. An original fireplace was re-clad in rustic barn wood and provides a cozy backdrop for the dining room.

Refreshing The Original

Brad Anderson loves a place with character, surfaces with texture and furnishings with a backstory. As a member of Scottsdale North’s homeowners association, it’s no wonder that he pushed for the community’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. That also explains why he used a light touch to renovate when he bought his townhouse in 2012.

“This place was in pretty original condition,” says Brad, a Wisconsin native who is a hospitality consultant. “I wanted to honor what the original developer—who is from my home state—envisioned. I didn’t want to renovate completely and have it look like something else. I went with ‘refresh.’”

Growing up in a real-estate family that was always working on residential rehab projects, Anderson directed most of the work himself, focusing on the kitchen—where he ripped out a wall to open it up to the living and dining rooms, adding an island and new cabinetry—and updating both bathrooms. “I loved the original Saltillo tile floors, so I had them refinished,” he explains, “and this unit still had the old doors the developer brought up from Álamos, Mexico, which I had stripped and refinished as well.” Brad kept the original window grilles and front gate and also opted to keep the fence and gate—added by the previous owner—that separates his home from the community’s central green space.

1. Brad refreshed the original front doors and Saltillo tile flooring. 2. In the master bedroom, a Turkish window grille was repurposed into a headboard. 3. Much of the home’s renovation happened in the kitchen, where a wall was removed to connect the dining and living areas. 4. In the dining area, a trio of butterfly artworks  was designed by Brad’s mother, artist Susan Anderson.

He finished off his home with an eclectic, modern-yet-vintage look, using “backstory” pieces such as a fireplace mantel fashioned from salvaged Wisconsin barn wood, the master bedroom’s headboard made from an antique Turkish window grille and the living room’s antique floor fan, which once cooled the inside of a department store.

“I don’t think I’ll ever sell this place,” Brad says. “It’s like a secret sanctuary in the middle of a big urban area.”
In the kitchen, where Tim—a longtime Valley hair colorist—frequently helms the gas range, a cabinet shows off Sandy’s extensive crystal collection. In the dining room, the redone fireplace is now clad in barn wood, a rustic contrast to the sleek, pale-hued porcelain tile flooring. The furnishings, from the simple kitchen barstools to the living room’s sofa and chairs, are meant for comfort and lingering. Accessories and art come largely from the couple’s travels.

Sandy admits she had initially thought about renovating the residence and putting it back on the market but changed her mind not long after she got to know the community. “This is such an unusual oasis in the middle of Scottsdale,” Sandy says. “The neighbors are so welcoming, and everyone works hard on keeping this historic environment intact. We love it here—this is home.”

1. Brad Anderson in his shaded back courtyard. 2. A newly tiled wall and a fireplace mantel made with a piece of salvaged barn wood anchor the living room, cooled by a vintage floor fan.

Modern Redo

For nearly two decades, this Minnesota couple visited a friend who lived at Scottsdale North, enjoying the peaceful setting, picking oranges in the middle of winter and soaking up the sunshine by the pool. When a single-story corner unit came on the market, they jumped at the chance of owning their own winter retreat and embarked on an ambitious, hands-on, floor-to-ceiling renovation.

“This house had been remodeled several times, but we didn’t think it honored the original design,” says the husband. “We wanted to maintain the architectural integrity and bring the spaces into the 21st century.”

Being in the real-estate and property-management industries, the couple did almost all of the design and construction themselves, opening up the kitchen to the living room with a new island and cabinetry, defining the previously enclosed patio between the living room and master suite with new glass walls and windows, reworking the master suite’s layout and drilling down into details such as specific ceiling light placement and choosing 1960s-style knobs for the new interior doors. Another detail? The husband noticed an orange-blossom motif on the community’s original iron fencing and had it reproduced by craftspeople in Puerto Vallarta for their entry gates, window grilles and flower planters.

Views of the sun room and the living room reveal the renovation’s sophisticated color palette and crisp lines of the furnishings.

With a palette of black, gray and cream with bronze accents, furnishings are simple, with crisp lines, complemented with contemporary art chosen specifically for the setting. They don’t have a dining room per se, but can pull up chairs to the round table in the enclosed patio, which they call the sun room.

“Most of the time, it’s just the two of us here,” says the husband, who notes that their adult children occasionally visit. “We love that it’s sunny, open—and private. It’s the place where we come to relax.”

1-2. Views of the sun room and the living room reveal the renovation’s sophisticated color palette and crisp lines of the furnishings. 3. Partial glass walls define the sun room, which doubles as a dining space. 4. The home’s new window grilles were inspired by the community’s original orange-blossom motif fencing. 5. Deep gray cabinetry and bronze accents define the kitchen and breakfast areas. 6. The new custom front gate repeats the orange-blossom motif.

Garden Glory

While the interior of one couple’s Scottsdale North home is gracious, filled with art and antiques, it’s the garden spaces where they linger longer. “This is where we spend the most time,” says the wife of the shaded patio tucked between the wings of the house. “It’s our casual living and dining room.”

The owners, who split their time between Scottsdale and the Pacific Northwest, bought their unit in the early 2000s and concentrated their interior renovation efforts on the kitchen and bathrooms, updating cabinetry and fixtures but staying within the original footprint. “We decided to keep the original galley-style kitchen, with the wall separating it from the dining area,” explains the wife. “We wanted a more formal look for the house.” With guidance from a now-closed Seattle interior design firm, they filled the home with signature antique pieces, comfortable seating, art and vintage area rugs—a look they carried out to the patio, where a waterproof shade structure protects
the furnishings.

The home’s landscape, however, is where the most dramatic renovation can be found. Because the residence is a corner unit, it afforded the owners a sizable garden space in addition to the covered patio. “We started with a dog run, a bit of grass and some paved walkways,” recalls the wife. “That was about all there was.”

1. A fountain sets a cooling note for the backyard, inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s garden in Marrakesh. 2. The home’s shaded courtyard is furnished like an informal living room. 3. Palms, agaves, yuccas and citrus add interest to the home’s side yard.

Over the years—and with the help of the interior design firm—several planting spaces were carved out of the L-shaped garden, including a sizable specimen cactus display, shaded by a date palm, and a veritable citrus orchard, with orange, lime, kumquat and lemon trees.

While the couple’s design aesthetic leans toward European and formal, they also have a deep appreciation for the variety of styles that their neighbors have embraced. “What’s special about Scottsdale North is that you can successfully do contemporary or traditional interiors here,” says the wife. “With our 10-foot ceilings and the indoor-outdoor floor plans, there’s space for versatility.”

1. An illuminated pot is an anchor piece on the path from the front door to the yard. 2. A print of a palm tree inspired the decor for the dining and living rooms. 3. The owners kept the footprint of the original galley kitchen but updated the cabinetry and appliances.

The Past, Now Perfect

For Tom Georgouses, Scottsdale North was love at first sight. After selling a construction company in California and launching a new one, he opted to relocate to Arizona and began looking for a new home. “In 2014, I stumbled upon Scottsdale North,” he recalls, “and loved the community and the architecture. Because there were no units on the market at the time, my real estate agent sent a letter to all the homeowners asking if anyone wanted to sell. There was one response.”

The unit proved to be an ideal fit for Tom—two bedrooms, including a master suite with a sitting room and office—and the original floor plan that wrapped around a central courtyard, plus additional backyard space. Although he’s in construction, Tom found the house to his liking and did little updating, except painting and some landscaping in the back. As a bonus, the home is intuitively universal design and accessible without modifications, perfect for Tom, who uses a wheelchair.

Painting bedroom walls shades of vivid blue and playing off the polished concrete floors, Tom used an eclectic approach to the interior decor, mixing in pieces from previous homes in California with a few new purchases and vintage store finds. He’s fond of adding a few conversation-starters to his home, including a fiberglass cow fabricated as a movie prop that now resides in the backyard, and a massive brass clock, which once told time on the side of a building in Belgium.

1. A mirror from India greets guests in the entry. 2. A vivid blue wall and a brass clock mark the master suite. 3. A zebra-patterned rug adds a wild note to the sitting room.

Since moving in, Tom has become part of the tapestry that is Scottsdale North. “I love to entertain my neighbors,” he says. “We have cocktails, we cook, we play cards. I feel very at peace here.”

1. Antique columns define the courtyard. 2. Contemporary and traditional pieces keep the focus on the living room’s garden views. 3. This fiberglass cow was once a movie prop.

Minimalist Backdrop for a Collector

After she moved into her townhouse, Bonnie Lewis tried to be a minimalist. “Eventually, I couldn’t help it and started bringing out all my Southwestern art and artifacts,” laughs the artist and former owner of an art and architecture tour company. “What you see here is me.”

Bonnie and her late husband, Robert, were drawn to the home for its modernist, minimalist style, large windows and views of shared garden spaces. They were looking to downsize after years of living in a historic adobe, set on an acre, redone by Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest and home designer Bill Tull. After living on that extraordinary property, the thought of moving into a generic condo was not appealing, says Bonnie. “Scottsdale North was perfect for us,” she says. “It’s unique, with lots of light and a garden setting. I could use the upstairs bedroom as my art studio.”  The home was once owned by Estée Lauder creative director Ira Levy and radio executive Stan Gurrell, who worked with Phoenix architect John Chonka in the early 1990s to open up and renovate the interior, serving as a backdrop for their collection of art and furniture.

1. A painting from artist Earl Linderman’s “Doktor Thrill” series. 2. Bonnie at her easel. 3. African baskets grace a console in the entry.

Some three decades after the renovation, the home is still timeless, Bonnie points out, even the lemon-yellow tiles on the steps to the second floor and the glimpse of red on the dining room wall. She has tread lightly on updates, such as asking landscape architect Kris Floor to redo the entry and patio plantings and matching the rift-cut white oak cabinetry throughout the home for new cabinets in the sitting room off the master bedroom.

Bonnie enjoys her home, hanging up her own paintings and those of favorite artists, and displaying her collection of Native American and aboriginal crafts, collected from a lifetime of travel. “I’m so happy that the art and almost all the furniture from our old house works here,” she says.

1. The entry to Bonnie Lewis’ home reveals her passion for folk art. 2. Landscape architect Kris Floor updated the front with massings of agaves in metal-framed beds. 3. Colorful chairs surround the rustic dining room table. 4. As a contemporary counterpoint, a painting by Masoud Yasami hangs above the fireplace.

Addition architectural designer: Elisa Bayha, Run Run Design, Phoenix, Builder: Ray Zapulla, Scottsdale, (602) 423-3064. ENTRY—Flooring throughout: Arizona Tile, Scottsdale, Console and stools: Chandelier: LIVING ROOM—Sofa: Credenza: Furniture Affair, Phoenix, Chairs: DINING ROOM—Chairs: Chandelier: Fireplace cladding: Porter Barn Wood, Phoenix, KITCHEN—Cabinetry: Affinity Kitchens, Scottsdale, Appliances: Barstools: Counters and backsplash: Arizona Tile, Scottsdale, 

Sofa and draperies: Armchairs and table lamps: Ladlow’s, Phoenix, KITCHEN—Cabinetry: Affinity Kitchens, Scottsdale, Appliances: Hood: Artistic Alloys & Design, Scottsdale, Backsplash tile: MASTER BEDROOM—Headboard: Urban Southwest, Phoenix, Dresser:

Sofa, coffee table, sofa table and lamps: ENTRY—Credenzas: Sconces: KITCHEN—Appliances: Table and bar stools: SUN ROOM/DINING ROOM—Chairs: Glass walls and doors: and Outdoor furniture: 

PATIO—Iron chairs: Inside/Out Showrooms, Inc., Scottsdale, Area rug: David E. Adler Fine Rugs, Scottsdale, Chaises and rattan chairs: Accessory pillow fabric: LIVING ROOM—Sofa (Brunschwig & Fils): Kravet, Scottsdale, Sofa table: DINING ROOM—Chairs: Charles Pollock Collection, KITCHEN—Cabinetry: Brothers Woodworks, Mesa, Countertops: Arizona Tile, Scottsdale, Chair and stool: 

Chest: SITTING AREA—Table: Relics, Phoenix, Zebra rug: Antique Gatherings, Phoenix, MASTER BEDROOM—Clock: Bench: Scottsdale Marketplace, Scottsdale, PATIO—Columns, pots and chest: Relics, Phoenix, Shade awning: Phoenix Tent and Awning Company, Phoenix, LIVING ROOM—Armchairs: 

Original renovation architect: John Chonka, Chonka Projekt, Phoenix, Landscape architect: Kris Floor, FASLA, Floor Associates, Phoenix, Furniture and art placement: Linda Heinz, Linda Heinz Interiors, Scottsdale, (602) 531-5647. LIVING ROOM—Sofas: Copenhagen, Scottsdale, DINING ROOM—Pendant lights:


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