The Story Behind Cudia Neighborhood in Phoenix

Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published January 20, 2000.)

Q: I recently moved to the area of 40th Street and Camelback Road and my new neighbors tell me it’s the Cudia neighborhood, but I can’t seem to find out the origin of the name. Can you help?

A: Here at the gleaming research laboratories of Valley 101, teams of white-coated technicians pored over your question night and day for weeks before reaching the conclusion that maybe we should just ask somebody else.

PhoenixSo we asked the estimable Gus Walker, a Republic artist and student of Valley history, who soon produced a tattered copy of The Golden Days of Theaters in Phoenix by one Jerry Reynolds in which we found the answer to your question.

The book is a little fuzzy on the dates, but at some time in the late 1930s or early ’40s, Salvatore Cudia, “a longtime showman in Europe and Los Angeles,” built Cudia City, the Valley’s first motion picture studio, near Camelback and 40th Street.

Cudia City turned out such film classics as Phantom Pinto, Buzzie Rides the Range, Let Freedom Ring and Trail City. After World War II, the Red Ryder movies, starring Wild Bill Elliot, were filmed there.

According to Reynolds, “filming at Cudia City reached its zenith with 26Men, a Western series for television. But when cars, planes and utility poles of the city’s growth reached the studios, they prohibited outdoor shooting.”

Cudia City became a tourist attraction, restaurant and theater before it was torn down to make way for residential development.


  1. Richard Oliver says

    Was fortunate to be in the “26 Men” TV series back in 1956 to 1958.
    I had several “Small,non speaking” parts in four episodes and was in the Last episode.Refuge at Broken Arrow”in 1958.
    I remember Cudia City in the early 1950’ well.
    Our local Magic Club,the “Mystic 13″ met there once a month.
    To bad WWII stopped filming at Cudia,as maybe Phoenix could have been into the movie scene for the future,but progress took its toll on Cudia City.
    Lots of fond memories there.
    Rich Oliver…AKA Oliver Twist & Company

    • says

      WOW Richard Oliver and memories of Cudia City and Mystic 13. Have not heard those names used in the same sentence for many, many years. My name is Paul Estes last sponsor of the now long retired Rabbits In Our Hat Junior Magic Club. I used to attend the Mystic 13 meetings at Cudia City back in the late 50’s when I was a teenager (was I ever actually a teenager) and have many memories or Bert Easley, Danny Dew, Don Seth (founder of the Rabbits In Our Hat Junior Magic Club) and Ed Keener, Robert Gurtler, Carl Langdon, Reverend Dana Panky, and so many more. For us, it was a magical time, in a magical place, with magical people. It was the “Golden” era of magic in Phoenix. Ah, such memories.

  2. Dino Castelli says

    My mother Carmen, was Mr. Cudia’s secretary. I was about four years old. On many occasions my mother would take me to work with her and with that, Cudia City was my playground. The town, soundstage, resturant, and that incredible pool (cracked my head open on the edge of that one afternoon). I only had to clear out when they were ready to shoot a scene for 26 Men. The canal behind the waterfall was like a small river then. The whole place was an adventure every day. That area was way out of town, then the city spread out. It was a sad time when the waterfall burned down, and much more sad when Mr. Cudia closed it all and developed Cudia Estates. He also deserves credit for building the bridge across the canal at 40th street. He couldn’t get the city to do it, so he stood up and took care of it. He kept the neighborhood as his residence, and although I missed the old Cudia City, I still got to spend some time with Mr. Cudia. Part of Mr. Cudia’s new place was a pool room. Willie Mosconi was a friend and would come into town to hang out and shoot pool (billiards) with Mr. Cudia . I was all grown up by now, got to meet Mr. Mosconi, and always had an open invitation to go over and shoot a game of pool. Mr. Cudia was an artist and collecter of art and always would show me the collection in the studio. I still have a painting from the collection. A real nice guy, a very interesting man, paisano.

    • Jesse D. says

      Hello Dino, I read the story you have about Cudia. I wanted to tell you about what happened to Salvatore Cudia. He passed away 42 years ago. He was a US Army veteran who served in WWI. Unfortionatly when he passed away his remains were never claimed by his family. His ashes had been sitting on a shelf for the last 42 years. Yesterday on February 27th 2013 we laid his ashes to rest along with 27 other Veterans who had not been claimed.

      The longest one sitting on a shelf unclaimed was 58 years. If you would like to get a copy of the “order of the services” you can contact the Missing in America Project at (480) 606-8331.

      • Cathy P says

        Jesse & Dino, I was able to be in the audience of the MIAP Ceremony on the 27th and it was awesome. What a wonderful service to these special heroes. Marshall Trimble’s tribute to Mr. Cudia was awesome and it is great to read above about the restaurant and movie ‘set,’ too. I will be glad to attend future services until all of our ‘missing in America’ are found and given that long-overdue proper interment.

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