Bruce Fairchild scratches his head when asked about the peculiar roofline atop his business.

Is it supposed to suggest a crown? A coliseum, maybe? Or perhaps a landing pad for alien aircraft?

"To be honest, I have no idea," said Fairchild, owner of Safes Unlimited, a safe and locksmith firm at 2635 E. Broadway, near Tucson Boulevard.

"It's definitely not a Joesler," he quips, referring to Josias Joesler, a famed local architect in the first half of the 20th century.

"We just call it the upside-down arches," Fairchild says.

Built in 1957, the storefront with the spindly top may be the only one of its kind in Tucson.

"I can't think of anything else that has that same design detail," said Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation.

"It definitely has a modern feel, an exuberant quality."

Clinco has a special interest in the structures along that stretch of East Broadway. Commerce blossomed there after World War II, and by the 1950s it was home to an important shopping corridor known as the Sunshine Mile, he said.

The store with the strange roof was first occupied by Wheeler's TV and Appliance Store, which, in 1957, sold Whirlpool automatic washing machines "with terms as low as $1.25 a week," Clinco said.

By the late 1960s, Wheeler's had moved out, and two electronics businesses moved in. The safe and locksmith business has been there for the last 15 years or so.

Harvey Kaplan, who has owned the building since 1969, said he's had any number of questions about its roofline over the years.

"People ask 'What do you have those pillars up there for?' " he said. "I think it was just a way to attract attention."

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.