|History of Pheenix, AZ. - from
The history of Phoenix, Arizona goes back millennia, beginning
with nomadic paleo-Indians who existed in the Americas in general, and
the Salt River Valley in particular, about 9,000 years ago until about
6,000 BC. Hunters, their primary prey were mammoths. As that prey moved
eastward, they followed, vacating the area. Other nomadic tribes (archaic
Indians) moved into the area, mostly from Mexico to the south and California
to the west. Around approximately 1,000 BC, the nomadic began to be accompanied
by two other types of cultures, commonly called the farmers and the villagers,
prompted by the introduction of maize into their culture. Out of these
archaic Indians, the Hohokam civilization arose. The Hohokam first settled
the area around 1 AD, and in about 500 years, they had begun to establish
the canal system which enabled agriculture to flourish in the area. They
suddenly disappeared by 1450, for unknown reasons. By the time the first
Europeans arrived at the beginning of the 16th century, the two main groups
of native Indians who inhabited the area were the O'odham and Sobaipuri
While the first explorers were Spanish, their attempts
at settlement were confined to Tucson and the south before 1800. Central
Arizona was first settled during the early 19th century by American settlers.
The city of Phoenix's story begins as people from those settlements expanded
south, in conjunction with the establishment of a military outpost to the
east of current day Phoenix.
The town of Phoenix was settled in 1867, and incorporated
in 1881 as the City of Phoenix. Phoenix served as an agricultural area
that depended on large-scale irrigation projects. Until World War II, the
economy was based on the "Five C's": cotton, citrus and cattle, climate
and copper. The city provided retail, wholesale, banking, and governmental
services for central Arizona, and was gaining a national reputation among
winter tourists. The post World War Two years saw the city beginning to
grow more rapidly, as many men who had trained in the military installations
in the valley, returned, bringing their families. The population growth
was further stimulated in the 1950s, in part because of the availability
of air conditioning, which made the very hot dry summer heat tolerable,
as well as an influx of industry, led by high tech companies. The population
growth rate of the Phoenix metro area has been nearly 4% per year for the
past 40 years. That growth rate slowed during the Great Recession but the
U.S. Census Bureau predicted it would resume as the nation's economy recovered,
and it already has begun to do so. While currently ranked 5th largest city
in the United States by population, it is predicted that Phoenix will rank
4th by 2020.
Native American period
Paleo and archaic Indian period
The first inhabitants of the desert southwest, including
what would become Phoenix, called Paleo-Indians, were hunters and gatherers.
The term "paleo", is derived from the Greek word “palaios,” meaning ancient.
They hunted Pleistocene animals, such as mammoths, mastodons, giant bison,
ancient horses, camels, and giant sloths, remains of which have been discovered
in the Salt River Valley. Inhabiting the southwestern United States
and northern Mexico for tens of thousands of years, when the prey they
depended on left the area, they followed in approximately 9,000 BC.
After the departure of the paleo-Indians, archaic Indians
moved into the American Southwest. This period lasted from roughly about
7,000 BC until the onset of the common era. Consisting of small bands of
hunters and gatherers, these nomads traveled throughout the area for millennia,
until about 3,000 years ago when their culture began to become an agricultural
lifestyle. At about this time, the introduction of the cultivation of maize
further contributed to the agrarian culture. As time went on and farming
became more established, groups began developing differences in their material
culture. Through these differences, cultures of the Southwest became more
visibly distinct from one another, which would be broken down into the
farmers, the villagers, and the nomads. From the farmers culture would
emerge a tribe known as the Hohokam.
At some point in the centuries before the Common Era,
a group of archaic Indians migrated north from Mexico, bringing with them
an agrarian society, different from the hunter-gatherer cultures of most
of the archaic Indian tribes. Evidence of this culture has been uncovered
in the Tucson area, consisting of slab-lined storage pits, and "sleeping
circles". This archaic Indian culture would give rise to the Hohokam peoples,
who, right around the beginning of the Common Era, moved further north
and settled in the Salt River basin.
valley, and by 1300 AD, the Hohokam were the largest population
in the prehistoric Southwest, and the largest native population north of
Mexico City. This was the largest single body of land irrigated in prehistoric
times in North or South America, perhaps in the world. The Hohokam also
carried out extensive trade with the nearby Anasazi, Mogollon and Sinagua,
as well as with the more distant Mesoamerican civilizations like the Aztecs.
It is believed that a Hohokam witness of the supernova that occurred in
1006 CE created a representation of the event in the form of a petroglyph
that can be found in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park west of Phoenix.
If confirmed, this is the only known Native American representation of
Map of Hohokam KLands, 1350
|For more than 2,000 years, the
Hohokam peoples occupied the land that would become Phoenix. Hohokam is
a present-day name given to the occupants of central and southern Arizona
who lived here between about the year 1 and 1450 CE (current era). It is
derived from the Pima Indian (Akimel O'odham) word for "those who have
gone" or "all used up".
The Hohokam inhabitation of the valley is broken up by
paleontologists into five periods. The earliest period is known as the
Pioneer Period, which lasted roughly from 1–700 AD, and was categorized
by groups of shallow pit houses, and by its end the first canals were being
used for irrigation, and the first decorated ceramics were appearing. This
was followed by the Colonial Period (c. 700 – 900 AD), during which time
the irrigation system was expanded and the community sizes grew, as did
the size of the dwellings. Rock art and ballcourts began to appear, and
cremations became the usual form of burial. 900 to 1150 AD, referred to
as the Sedentary Period, again saw the expansion of the settlements and
the canal system. Platform mounds began to be built, and plazas and the
ballcourts which began to appear in the last period, became more prevalent
in the larger settlements. The final period, the Classic Period, lasted
approximately from 1150 AD until 1450 AD. The number of villages declined
during this period, but the size of the remaining settlements increased.
During their inhabitation of the valley, the Hohokam created
roughly 135 miles (217 km) of irrigation canals, making the desert land
arable. Paths of these canals would later become used for the modern Arizona
Canal, Central Arizona Project Canal, and the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct. The
irrigation provided by these canals enabled the Hohokam culture to spread
At some point in the mid-15th century, the Hohokam culture
simply disappeared from the area, speculation as to why as focused on periods
of drought and severe floods during this period.
Modern Indian period
After the departure of the Hohokam, groups of Akimel O'odham
(commonly known as Pima), Tohono O’odham and Maricopa tribes began to use
the area, as well as segments of the Yavapai and Apache.
The O'odham were offshoots of the Sobaipuri tribe, who
in turn were thought to be the descendants of the formerly urbanized Hohokam.
The two O'odham peoples were split between the Akimel (river people) and
Tohono (desert people). The Akimel O’odham were the major Indian group
in the area, and lived in small villages, with well-defined irrigation
systems, which spread over the entire Gila River Valley, from Florence
in the east to the Estrellas in the west. Their crops included corn, beans
and squash for food, while cotton and tobacco were also cultivated. Mostly
a peaceful group, they did band together with the Maricopa for their mutual
protection against incursions by both the Yuma and Apache tribes.
The Tohono O'odham lived in the region as well, but their
main concentration was further to south of the Pima, and stretched all
the way to the Mexican border. Originally known to the European settlers
as the Papago (which literally means "tepary-bean eater"), in recent times
the tribe has dropped usage of that name. Living in small settlements,
the O'odham were seasonal farmers who took advantage of the rains, rather
than the large-scale irrigation of the Akimel. They grew crops such as
sweet Indian corn, tapery beans, squash, lentils sugar cane and melons,
as well as taking advantage of native plants, such as saguaro fruits, cholla
buds, mesquite tree beans, and mesquite candy (sap from the mesquite tree).
They also hunted local game such as deer, rabbit and javalina for meat.
The Maricopa are part of the larger Yuma people, however
they migrated east from the lower Colorado and Gila Rivers in the early
1800s, when they began to be enemies with their Yuma brethren, settling
amongst the existing communities of the Akimel O'odham.
Spanish explorers most likely traveled through the area
in the 16th century. They left accounts of their travels, and also left
behind European diseases that ravaged Indian tribes with no immunity, especially
smallpox, measles and influenza. The Spanish opened a mission in the Tucson
area, but made no settlements anywhere near Phoenix.
When the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, most of Mexico's
northern zone passed to United States control, and a portion of it was
made the New Mexico Territory (including what is now Phoenix) shortly afterward.
Then In the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 the U.S. promised to honor all land
rights of the area, including those of the O'odham. The O'odham gained
full constitutional rights.
During the American Civil War, the Salt River and Gila
River Valleys, which comprise much of the territory which makes up Phoenix
today, were claimed by both sides in the conflict. Confederate Arizona
was officially claimed by The South, and formally created by a proclamation
by Jefferson Davis on February 14, 1862. Its capital was at Mesilla, in
New Mexico. The North claimed the Salt River Valley as part of the Arizona
Territory, formed by Congress in 1863 with its capital at Fort Whipple,
before it was moved the following year to Prescott. While laying claim
to the area, the Confederates made no move to enforce that claim, while
one of the reasons for the establishment of Fort McDowell was to support
the North's possession of the territory. However, since the Phoenix area
had no military value, it was not contested ground during the war.
The founding of Phoenix
where to locate it. The decision was hotly contested between
two sites: the original settlement around Swilling's farm, and a site about
a mile to the west, which was supported by the newly founded "Salt River
Valley Town Association" (SRVTA). Due to economic considerations benefitting
the members of SRVTA, the more westerly townsite was selected, and a 320
acres (1.3 km2) plot of land was purchased in what is now the downtown
|In 1863 the mining community of Wickenburg was the first
to be established in what is now Maricopa County, to the north-west of
modern Phoenix. At the time Maricopa County had not yet been incorporated:
the land was within Yavapai County, which included the major town of Prescott
to the north of Wickenburg.
The history of the city begins with Jack Swilling, a Confederate
veteran who in November, 1867 on a visit to the Fort's camp was the first
to appreciate the agricultural potential of the Salt River Valley. He promoted
the 1st irrigation system, which was in part inspired by the ruins of Hohokam
canals. Returning to Wickenburg, he raised funds from local gold miners
and formed the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company, whose intent was
to build irrigation canals and develop the Salt River Valley for farming.
The next month, December, Swilling led a group of 17 miners back to the
valley, where they began the process of building the canals which would
revitalize the area. There is no concrete evidence on who came up with
the name for the new community, but anecdotal stories give credit to Darrell
Dupa, who suggested they name it Phoenix. Swilling had suggested "Stonewall",
after Stonewall Jackson, and another proposed name was Salina, which had
been an early name for the Salt River. However, in light of the rebirth
of a town after the collapse of the Hohokam civilization, the name Phoenix
predominated. A letter to a newspaper in Prescott, shows that this name
was already in use by January 1868
The Board of Supervisors in Yavapai County, which at the
time encompassed Phoenix, officially recognized the new town on May 4,
1868, and formed an election precinct. The first post office was established
on June 15, 1868, located in Swilling's homestead, with Swilling serving
as the postmaster. With the number of residents growing (the 1870 U.S.
census reported a total Salt River Valley population of 240), a town site
needed to be selected. On October 20, 1870, the residents held a meeting
Jack Swilling (1830-1878) founded
Phoenix in 1867 as a venture
in irrigated farmland.
He never overcame his
addiction to drugs and liquor,
and died in jail while awaiting trial
for highway robbery.
On February 14, 1871, following a vote by the territorial
legislature, Governor A.K. Safford issued a proclamation creating Maricopa
County by dividing Yavapai County. In that same proclamation, he named
Phoenix the county seat, but that nomination was subject to the approval
of the voters. An election was held in May, 1871, at which Phoenix' selection
as the county seat was ratified. Quite a few members of SRVTA were also
elected to county positions: among them were John Alsop (Probate Judge),
William Hancock (Surveyor) and Tom Barnum was elected the first sheriff.
Barnum ran unopposed as the other two candidates had a shootout that left
one dead and the other withdrawing from the race. The town's first government
consisted of three commissioners.
Several lots of land were sold in 1870 at an average price
of $48. The first church opened in 1871, as did the first store. The first
public school class was held on September 5, 1872, in the courtroom of
the county building. By October 1873, a small school was completed on Center
Street (now Central Avenue). The total value of the Phoenix Townsite was
$550, with downtown lots selling for between $7 and $11 each.
By 1875, the town had a telegraph office, sixteen saloons,
and four dance halls, but the townsite-commissioner form of government
was no longer working well. At a mass meeting on Oct. 20, 1875, an election
was held to select three village trustees and other officials. Those first
three trustees were John Smith (Chairman), Charles W. Stearns (treasurer),
and Capt. Hancock (secretary). 1878 saw the opening of the first bank,
a branch of the Bank of Arizona, and by 1880, Phoenix's population stood
at 2,453. Later in 1880 the first legal hanging in Maricopa County was
held, performed in town.
By 1881, Phoenix' continued growth made the existing village
structure with a board of trustees obsolete. The 11th Territorial Legislature
passed "The Phoenix Charter Bill", incorporating Phoenix and providing
for a mayor-council government. The bill was signed by Governor John C.
Fremont on February 25, 1881, officially incorporating Phoenix with a population
of approximately 2,500. On May 3, 1881, Phoenix held its first city election.
Judge John T. Alsap defeated James D. Monihon, 127 to 107, to become the
city's first mayor.
As the city developed, so did its infrastructure and services,
usually in response to a recent crisis or event. The public health department
was created in the early 1880s after several smallpox outbreaks. This was
followed by the establishment of a volunteer fire department after two
serious fires in the city, which in turn led to the development of a public
water system, begun in 1887. Other services which would see their beginnings
in this decade were a private gas lighting company (1886), telephone company
(1886), a mule-drawn streetcar system (1887), and electric power (1888).
The coming of the railroad in the 1880s was the first
of several important events that revolutionized the economy of Phoenix.
A spur of the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Phoenix and Maricopa, was
extended from Maricopa into Tempe in 1887. Merchandise now flowed into
the city by rail instead of wagon. Phoenix became a trade center, with
its products reaching eastern and western markets. In response, the Phoenix
Chamber of Commerce was organized on November 4, 1888. Earlier in 1888
the city offices were moved into the new City Hall, at Washington and Central
(later the site of the city bus terminal, until Central Station was built
in the 1990s). When the territorial capital was moved from Prescott to
Phoenix in 1889 the temporary territorial offices were also located in
The Arizona Republic became a daily paper in 1890, with
Ed Gill as its editor. 1891 was marked by the greatest flood in the Valley's
history, and 1892 saw the creation of the Phoenix Sewer and Drainage Department.
The Phoenix Street Railway electrified its mule-drawn streetcar lines in
1893, with streetcar service continuing until a 1947 fire. Another important
event which occurred in 1893 was the passage of a territorial law which
allowed Phoenix to annex land surrounding the city, as long as it obtained
the permission of the inhabitants of that area. This would begin a process
which lasts till today, as the city annexed some surrounding terrain, growing
from its original 0.5 square miles of territory to slightly over 2 square
miles of territory by the turn of the century. On March 12, 1895, the Santa
Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad ran its first train to Phoenix, connecting
it to the northern part of Arizona. The additional railroad sped the capital
city's economic rise. The year 1895 also saw the establishment of Phoenix
Union High School, with an enrollment of 90.
From 1900 to 1940
By the turn of the century, the population of Phoenix
had reached 5,554, and the following year, on February 25, 1901, Governor
Murphy dedicated the permanent state Capitol building. It was built on
a 10-acre site on the west end of Washington Street, at a cost of $130,000.
The Phoenix City Council levied a $5,000,000 tax for a public library after
the state legislature, in 1901, passed a bill allowing such a tax to support
free libraries. This action satisfied the conditions set by Andrew Carnegie
in his proposal to donate a library building to the city. The Carnegie
Free Library opened in 1908, dedicated by Benjamin Fowler.
The Phoenix weather was a major attraction for tuberculosis
patients at a time when the only cure for the widespread, fatal lung disease
was rest in a dry, warm climate. The Roman Catholic order of the Sisters
of Mercy opened St. Joseph's Hospital in 1895, with 24 private rooms for
tuberculosis patients. Although the Catholic population was small and poor,
the city's Protestants were generous and funding a new hospital. In 1910
the sisters opened Arizona's first school of nursing. Today St. Joseph's
Hospital is part of a corporation called Catholic Healthcare West, and
isstill operated by the Sisters of Mercy. Until 1901, the sisters also
ran Sacred Heart Academy, an elite school for young ladies. The Sisters
of the Precious Blood opened St. Mary's Catholic High School in 1917. Brophy
College Preparatory for boys was opened in 1935 by the Jesuits.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the National
Reclamation Act, allowing for dams to be built on western streams for reclamation
purposes. Residents were quick to enhance this by organizing the Salt River
Valley Water Users' Association (on February 7, 1903), to manage the water
and power supply. The agency still exists as part of the Salt River Project.
Theodore Roosevelt Dam was started in 1906. It was the first multiple-purpose
dam, supplying both water and electric power, to be constructed under the
National Reclamation Act. On May 18, 1911, the former President himself
dedicated the dam, which was the largest masonry dam in the world, forming
several new lakes in the surrounding mountain ranges.
On February 14, 1912, under President William Howard Taft,
Phoenix became the capital of the newly formed state of Arizona. This occurred
just six months after Taft had vetoed, on August 11, 1911, a joint resolution
giving Arizona statehood. Taft disapproved of the recall of judges in the
state constitution. Compared to Tucson or Prescott, Phoenix was considered
preferable as the capital because of its central location. It was smaller
than Tucson, but outgrew that city within the next few decades, to become
the state's largest city.
In 1913 Phoenix adopted a new form of government, changing
from a mayor-council system to council-manager, making it one of the first
cities in the United States with this form of city government. After statehood,
Phoenix's growth started to accelerate, and by the end of its first eight
years under statehood, Phoenix' population had grown to 29,053. Two thousand
were attending Phoenix Union High School. In 1920 Phoenix built its first
skyscraper, the Heard Building. In 1928 Scenic Airways, Inc. saw profitability
in flights in the Southwest. Scenic General Manager, J. Parker Van Zandt
purchased land for Scenic in Phoenix, and named the new airport Sky Harbor,
which was formally dedicated on Labor Day in 1929.
On March 4, 1930 Former President Calvin Coolidge dedicated
a dam on the Gila River named in his honor. Because of a long drought the
"lake" behind it held no water. Humorist Will Rogers, also a guest speaker,
quipped, "If that was my lake I’d mow it." Phoenix's population had more
than doubled during the 1920s, and now stood at 48,118.
After the stock market crash of 1929, Sky Harbor was sold
to another investor, and in 1930 American Airlines brought passenger and
air mail service to Phoenix. In 1935 the city of Phoenix purchased the
single runway airport, nicknamed "The Farm" due to its isolation, and it
has been owned and operated by the city to this day. During the 1930s couples
used to fly into Sky Harbor solely to get married at the chapel, for Arizona
was one of the few states that did not have a waiting period for marriage.
It was also during the 1930s that Phoenix and its surrounding area began
to be called "The Valley of the Sun", which was an advertising slogan invented
to boost tourism.
In 1940 as the Depression ended, Phoenix had a population
of 65,000 (with 121,000 more in the remainder of Maricopa County). Its
economy was still based on cotton, citrus and cattle, while it also provided
retail, wholesale, banking, and governmental services for central Arizona,
and was gaining a national reputation among winter tourists.
World War II
See also: Arizona during World War II
During World War II, Phoenix's economy shifted to that
of a distribution center, rapidly turning into an embryonic industrial
city with mass production of military supplies. There were 3 Air Force
fields in the area: Luke Field, Williams Field, and Falcon Field, as well
as two large pilot training camps, Thunderbird Field No. 1 in Glendale
and Thunderbird Field No. 2 in Scottsdale. These facilities, coupled with
the giant Desert Training Center created by General George S. Patton west
of Phoenix, brought thousands of new people into Phoenix.
Mexican-American local organizations enthusiastically
supported the war effort, providing encouragement for the large number
of men who enlisted, and assistance for their families. Many civilians
were employed in the war effort, bringing the community more money than
ever before. Some projects were organized in cooperation with the dominant
Anglo community, but most were operated separately. Numerous postwar politicians
got their start during the war on the home front, or from their experiences
and contacts in the military. The postwar G.I. Bill of Rights provided
mortgage funding for home ownership, allowing thousands to move out of
On Thanksgiving night 1942, a brawl at a bar led to MP's
arresting a black soldier, followed by a riot of black troops from segregated
units. Three men died and eleven were wounded in the riot. Most of the
180 men arrested and jailed were released, but some were court-martialed
and sent to military prison.
German prisoners of war built a secret tunnel at the prisoner-of-war
camp which was located at the present site of Papago Park. In the Great
Papago Escape of 23 December 1944, 25 POW's escaped. Local and federal
officials took a month to recapture them all.
During the war, public transportation was overwhelmed
by the newcomers at a time when gasoline was rationed to 3 gallons a week
and no new autos were built. In 1943, the transit systems operated seventeen
streetcars and fifty-five buses. They carried 20,000,000 passengers a year.
A fire in 1947 destroyed most of the streetcars, and the city switched
A town that had just over sixty-five thousand residents
in 1940 became America’s sixth largest city by 2010, with a population
of nearly 1.5 million, and millions more in nearby suburbs.
The postwar boom was based on the arrival of young veterans
who had seen enough of the city to realize its potential, and new industries.
Large industry, learning of this labor pool, started to move branches here.
In 1948 high-tech industry, which would become a staple of the state's
economy, arrived in Phoenix when Motorola chose Phoenix for the site of
its new research and development center for military electronics. Motorola
was attracted by the city's business-friendly attitude, its location within
reasonable distance of supply houses in New Mexico and southern California,
the potential for engineering programs at Arizona State College (now Arizona
State University), and the climate. In time, other high-tech companies
such as Intel and McDonnell Douglas would follow Motorola's lead and set
up manufacturing operations in the Valley.
Barry Goldwater (1909–1998) was one of the city's most
prominent local, statewide and national leaders. He is known for owning
the city's largest department store, working to reform city government,
building and leading the state Republican Party (GOP), gaining a national
visibility as a powerful senator, becoming known as "Mr. Conservative"
for his articulation of the once unpopular ideology, and running a dramatic
presidential campaign in 1964 that lost in a landslide but shifted the
GOP permanently to the right. He was born in Phoenix before Arizona became
a state, the son of Baron M. Goldwater and his wife, Hattie Josephine ("JoJo")
Williams. His father came from a Jewish family that had emigrated from
England and founded Goldwater's, the largest department store in Phoenix.
Goldwater's mother, who was Episcopalian came from an old Yankee family
that included the famous theologian, Roger Williams. Goldwater's parents
were married in the Episcopal church and Baron broke permanently from the
Jewish community. For his entire life, Goldwater was an Episcopalian, but
the national media identified him as the first Jewish candidate for president,
He took over the family business in 1930. In a heavily Democratic state
Goldwater became a conservative Republican and a friend of Herbert Hoover.
He was outspoken against New Deal liberalism, especially its close ties
to labor unions that he considered corrupt. Phoenix schools were segregated
and the atmosphere was Southern; Goldwater quietly supported civil rights
for blacks, but would not let his name be used. A pilot, outdoorsman and
photographer, he developed a deep interest in both the natural history
and the human history of Arizona. He entered Phoenix politics in 1949 when
he was elected to the City Council as part of a nonpartisan team of candidates
who promised to clean up widespread prostitution and gambling. The group
won every mayoral and council election for two decades. Goldwater rebuilt
the weak Republican party and won election to the U.S. Senate in 1952,
defeating the Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland by enough of a lead
in the Phoenix area to narrowly overcome Democratic strength in rural Arizona.
Reform of city government
In 1947 a new organization, the Phoenix Charter Revision
Committee, began to analyze the administrative instability, factionalism,
mediocrity and low morale that had long paralyzed city government. The
proposed a series of reforms and reorganized itself as the nonpartisan
Charter Government Committee. Goldwater was a leader, and the committee,
starting in 1949, swept nearly all the elections in the next two decades.
The Committee had a broad base that included many civic and business leaders,
and made sure that all the city's religions were represented. It had one
woman but no blacks or Hispanics. Eugene C. Pulliam, owner of the city's
major newspaper the Arizona Republic, provided extensive publicity. Much
of the Committee’s funding secretly came from Gus Greenbaum, an associate
of organized crime figures, despite the Committee’s vehement public denunciation
of crime and corruption. The newly invigorated city council introduced
a more efficient, less corrupt system based on a professional city manager.
While the Committee could win all its elections, it was defeated on one
major policy issue when a different grassroots group warned against urban
renewal proposals, saying they were socialistic and threatened the rights
of private property owners.
Population and industrial growth
The city grew explosively in the 1950s; the population
expanded by a factor of three, and industry by a factor of fifteen. The
growth brought serious problems of minority housing, traffic congestion,
smog, and a fading of the traditional laid-back Phoenix lifestyle. By 1950,
over 105,000 people lived within the city and thousands more in surrounding
communities. There were 148 miles (238 km) of paved streets and 163 miles
(262 km) of unpaved streets. The 1950s growth was spurred on by advances
in mechanical air conditioning, which allowed both homes and businesses
to offset the extreme heat known to Phoenix during its long summers. Affordable
cooling in the decade contributed to a wild building boom. In 1959 alone,
Phoenix saw more new construction than it had in the more than three decades
from 1914 to 1946.
In May 1953, Phoenix became the location of the very first
franchise of the McDonald's restaurant chain. The restaurant was located
near the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road. In
addition to being the first McDonald's franchise, the Phoenix location
was also the first McDonald's restaurant to feature the "Golden Arches"
which would become the emblematic architectural element of the global restaurant
chain. The McDonald brothers, Richard and Maurice, desiring to expand the
successful restaurant they had created in San Bernardino, California licensed
the first McDonald's franchise to Phoenix businessman, Neil Fox and two
other partners for a licensing fee of $1,000.00.
Arizona moved from a Democratic stronghold in the 1930s
to a Republican bastion by the 1960s, with Phoenix leading the way. The
Democrats lost the 5 to 1 advantage in voter registration they held at
war's end to one of equal balance by 1970. Pearce sees multiple reasons
for the transition, especially the demographic change that brought in Midwesterners
with a Republican heritage. The new industries were based on high technology,
and attracted engineers and technicians who voted Republican and showed
little interest in labor unions, as opposed to the heavily Democratic semiskilled
workers in eastern factories. The retirees were mostly Republican as well.
A second factor was a favorable media climate, especially from the Arizona
Republic and Phoenix Gazette newspapers and their television stations,
owned by Eugene Pulliam. After 1964 however the Pulliam media were politically
better balanced. Finally, Pearce points to the quality of Republican candidates
that Goldwater had systematically recruited from among the affluent, well-educated
new arrivals from the East. They attracted votes across party lines, as
did Goldwater himself, as well as Governor Howard Pyle, Congressman John
Rhodes and numerous others. Pearce, however, also notes a growing right-wing
element, based in Phoenix, that repeatedly challenged the business-oriented
1960s to 1980s
Over the next several decades, the city and metropolitan
area attracted more growth and became a favored tourist destination for
its exotic desert setting and recreational opportunities. Nightlife and
civic events concentrated along now skyscraper-flanked Central Avenue.
In 1960 the Phoenix Corporate Center opened; at the time it was the tallest
building in Arizona, topping off at 341 feet. 1964 saw the completion of
the Rozenweig Center, today called Phoenix City Square. Architect Wenceslaus
Sarmiento's largest project, the landmark Phoenix Financial Center (better
known by locals as the "Punch-card Building" in recognition of its unique
southeastern facade), was also finished in 1964. In addition to a number
of other office towers, many of Phoenix's residential high-rises were built
during this decade.
As in many emerging American cities at the time, Phoenix's
spectacular growth did not occur evenly. It largely took place on the city's
north side, a space that was nearly all white. In 1962, one local activist
testified at a US Commission on Civil Rights hearing that of 31,000 homes
that had recently sprung up in this neighborhood, not a single one had
been sold to an African-American. Phoenix's African-American and Mexican-American
communities remained largely sequestered on the town's south side. The
color lines were so rigid that no one north of Van Buren Street would rent
to the African-American baseball star Willie Mays, in town for spring training
in the 1960s. In 1964, a reporter from the New Republic wrote of segregation
in these terms: "Apartheid is complete. The two cities look at each other
across a golf course."
In 1965, the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened
on the grounds of the Arizona State Fair, west of downtown, and in 1968,
the city was surprisingly awarded the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise, which
played its home games at the Coliseum until 1992. In 1968, the Central
Arizona Project was approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson, assuring future
water supplies for Phoenix, Tucson, and the agricultural corridor in between.
In 1969 Catholic church created the Diocese of Phoenix on December 2, by
splitting the Archdiocese of Tucson. The first bishop was the Most Reverend
Edward A. McCarthy, who had become a Bishop in 1965.
In 1971, Phoenix adopted the Central Phoenix Plan, allowing
unlimited building heights along Central Avenue, but the plan did not sustain
long-term development of the "Central Corridor." While a few office towers
were constructed along North Central during the 1970s, none approached
the scope of construction during the previous decade. Instead, the downtown
area experienced a resurgence, with a level of construction activity not
seen again until the urban real estate boom of the 2000s, when several
high rise buildings were erected, including the buildings currently named
Wells Fargo Plaza, the Chase Tower (at 483 feet, the tallest building in
both Phoenix and Arizona) and the U.S.Bank Center. By the end of the decade,
Phoenix adopted the Phoenix Concept 2000 plan which split the city into
urban villages, each with its own village core where greater height and
density was permitted, further shaping the free-market development culture
(see Cityscape, below). This officially turned Phoenix into a city of many
nodes, which would later be connected by freeways. 1972 would see the opening
of the Phoenix Symphony Hall,
After the Salt River flooded in 1980 and damaged many
bridges, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Amtrak worked together
and temporarily operated a train service, referred to by the Valley Metro
Rail as the "Hattie B." line, between central Phoenix and the southeast
suburbs. It was discontinued because of high operating costs and a lack
of interest from local authorities in maintaining funding. Nominated by
President Reagan, on September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O'Connor broke the
gender barrier on the U.S. Supreme Court, when she was sworn in as the
first female justice. 1985 saw the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station,
the nation's largest nuclear power plant, begin electrical production.
Conceived in 1980, the Arizona Science Center, located in Heritage and
Science Park, opened in 1984. 1987 saw visits by Pope John Paul II and
The new 20 story City Hall opened in 1992, The development
of the Sunnyslope area with low-cost housing is noticed by local refugee
resettlement centers, which promote the area among refugee communities.
During the 1990s, refugees from Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Sudan, Somalia,
Congo, Sierra Leone, Laos, Vietnam, and Central and South America would
settle there. 43 different languages would be spoken in local schools by
the year 2000. Valley National, with $11 billion in assets, was the
biggest bank in Arizona, and one of the oldest, when it was bought out
by Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio in 1992. The sale for $1.2 billion
was part of the trend toward outside ownership of the state's banking assets.
1993 saw the creation of "Tent City," by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, using inmate
labor, to alleviate overcrowding in the Maricopa County Jail system, the
fourth-largest in the world. The famous "Phoenix Lights" UFO sightings
took place in March 1997. 1997 also saw the closing, after 116 years of
publication, of The Phoenix Gazette.
In the mid-2000s, the Baseline Killer and Serial Shooter
crime sprees occurred in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa. Steele Indian School
Park was the site of a mid-air collision between two news helicopters in
Phoenix has maintained an expansion streak in recent years,
growing by 24.2% before 2007. This made it the second-fastest-expanding
metropolitan area in the United States preceded by Las Vegas, whose population
had expanded by 29.2% during that time. 2008 was an eventful year in the
Valley of the Sun. First, the Phoenix Light Rail would begin operation,
with service between Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa. Second, Squaw Peak, the second
tallest mountain in the city, was officially renamed Piestewa Peak after
Army Specialist Lori Ann Piestewa, an Arizona native who was the first
Native American woman to die in combat with the U.S. military, and the
first American female casualty in the 2003 Iraq War. And later that same
year Phoenix was one of cities hardest hit by the Subprime mortgage crisis.
In early 2009, the median home price was $150,000, down from its $262,000
peak in recent years. Crime rates in Phoenix have declined in recent years
and once troubled, decaying neighborhoods such as South Mountain, Alhambra,
and Maryvale, have recovered and stabilized. Recently, Downtown Phoenix
and the central core have experienced renewed interest and expansion, resulting
in numerous restaurants, stores and businesses opening or relocating to
In June 2017, a heat wave grounded more than 40 airline
[flights of small aircraft, with American Airlines reducing sales on certain
flights to prevent the vehicles from being over the maximum weight permitted
for safe takeoff.