This profile was last updated in 2003
The first Baha’i teacher in Arizona was Ms. Nellie French (d. 1954), who came to the area after she was told by Abdu’l-Baha’ in a vision, “You must hurry and go to Arizona.” Although Ms. French and another early teacher (Ms. Millie Collins) had left Arizona by 1918, a small number of Baha’i families remained behind. Individual Baha’i teachers were active in copper mining cities such as Bisbee and Tombstone in southeastern Arizona in the first part of the century; later, as Tucson and Phoenix grew in importance, small numbers of Baha’is relocated to what became Arizona’s two major population centers. Although Baha’is have been present in the Phoenix area since the late 1930s and early 1940s, it wasn’t until 2002 that the Baha’i Spiritual Assemblies in communities throughout the Valley were able to generate enough funds and community support to establish a permanent center. When the new Baha’i Information Center opened in Tempe, it replaced previous Baha’i reliance on rented venues and individual homes for prayer. The distinctive new building — designed by a Baha’i architect living in Arizona — incorporates symbols and materials with distinct connections to the state.
The Baha’i Information center was built on a vacant lot immediately east of Arizona State Univerity in Tempe. Designed by Jason Islamieh, the structure promotes environmental awareness while at the same time expresses a rich symbolic Baha’i vocabulary. The building is carefully landscaped to match to highlight native plants and minimize water use. Inside, the building includes the Seat of the Local Spiritual Assembly (used for local administrative purposes) and the much larger Great Hall, a prayer and assembly room oriented in the direction of the shrine of Baha’u’llah at Bahji outside of Akka (in modern Israel).