Virginia Berg

Virginia Berg points to the original barn where the First United Methodist Church of Mesa originally met in 1893. Berg is part of a notable family in Mesa, who both attended the church and had a role in publishing the paper you’re reading right now.

Virginia Berg’s history with Mesa is vast.

Her grandfather, P. R. Mitten, and her father, Charles Mitten, were longtime newspaper publishers who once owned the paper you’re currently reading.

P. R. founded the Buckeye Valley News before moving to what is now the East Valley to publish the Chandler Arizonan.

In 1932, the Mittens created Southside Publishing Company to produce the family’s latest purchase, the Mesa Journal-Tribune. The family also published the Mesa News and Mesa News Shopper during the 1940s.

Charles bought out his father in 1941, renamed the paper Mesa Daily Tribune and began publishing daily after World War II. A year after going seven days a week, Mitten sold the paper to California-based newspaperman David W. Calvert as the 1950s began.

After getting out of the newspaper business, Mitten stayed active in the city, acting as the Mesa Chamber of Commerce president at one point. The city presented Mitten with the Outstanding Citizen Award in 1962, and the Arizona Newspapers Association honored him with its Golden Service Award for 50 years of service in 1980.

He died a year later at age 82.

The “Mitten House” is now on the National Register of Historic Places, although not in its original location.

The Minimal Tradition-style home was built on the current site of the Mesa Arts Center as part of the National Housing Act of 1934. It was the first home issued under a Federal Housing Authority loan, but it was also notable because it was the first with refrigerated cooling, a cooper roof or insulation.

It also came with “modern” features such as a laundry chute, a built-in ironing board and a small delivery door for the milkman. It was also noted for a large sweet pea garden in the front, which sprouted for decades in the fall.

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home cost $5,000 to build, which would be around $90,000 today. It was moved a little more than a decade ago to 238 W. Second St. in the Robson Historic District.

“Things just change gradually,” Berg said.

The home now belongs to the law office of Giles and Dickson. “Giles” just happens to be Mesa Mayor John Giles. The only thing apparently missing is the sweet pea garden.

“It’s funny because (Giles) came up to me after he got the house and asked, ‘What’s with this sweet pea business?’ Berg said. “He said everybody would tell him, ‘the house looks the same, but, John, you don’t have the sweet peas.’”

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