Coolidge, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, is the commercial center of Arizona’s cotton industry. In 1925, after the construction of the Coolidge Dam transformed the flat desert into a rich farm and ranch land, R.J. Jones laid out an 80-acre site to found the city. The city’s name honors the U.S. President who dedicated Coolidge Dam in 1930. Incorporated in 1945; the city now covers eight miles and has more than 7,000 residents.
The warm dry winter climate makes it an ideal tourist and retirement center. Hundreds of thousands of visitors stop annually to see the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Coolidge. From Coolidge’s founding until the early 1950s, the economy was mainly dependent on agriculture, and, to a lesser extent, mining. Growth was relatively steady until the late 1940s. As water use reached a maximum and mechanical equipment replaced farm workers, it leveled off.
The Coolidge economy diversified as manufacturers located in and near the city, employment increased in mines in eastern Pinal County, and greater emphasis was placed on winter tourism. Coolidge is in the major growth corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. Today, it is a regional trade and service center for agricultural producers, providing equipment, supplies and personal services for farm families. Community efforts and the completion of the 500-acre Pima-Coolidge Industrial Park just north of the city on the Gila River Indian Reservation have helped manufacturing grow. Government agencies, such as the Arizona Training Program, Central Arizona College, the Arizona State Prison, and the County Courthouse are also major sources of jobs.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument preserves ruins of and interprets the culture of the prehistoric Hohokam people, who farmed the Gila River Valley centuries ago. The ruins include the Casa Grande (Spanish for “Big House”), a unique four-story caliche structure built in the early 1300s, and the surrounding walled neighborhood. Bookstore and picnic areas are also available. Within a short drive from Coolidge are the Gila River Indian Reservation, with picturesque villages, Catholic missions and an Arts and Crafts Center; the Papago Indian Reservation, with basketry and handicraft items; Pinal Pioneer Parkway, one of the state’s most beautiful scenic drives; and numerous lakes, with excellent fishing and water-based activities. Coolidge offers special programs for winter visitors. November through April is filled with activities such as potlucks, tours, and festivals.
The area where Coolidge sits today seems to have always been a farming zone. The Hohokam Indians arrived in around 1300 A.D. and build a canal irrigation system for their crops.
The Indians also built a tall eleven-room structure made of logs and adobe. Some believe that the structure was used as a watchtower to help them prepare for attacks. However, no one knows why the Hohokams vanished in 1450 leaving behind their canals and home. Today visitors can see this structure at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
The town of Coolidge owes its beginnings to farming, coupled with the Coolidge Dam. President Calvin Coolidge authorized the building of Coolidge Dam in 1924. The farming community was created just two years later when R.J. Jones laid out an 80-acre site to found the town. The town was named in honor of President Coolidge.
The name is fitting because the town uses the water from the dam to grow its crops. Coolidge was incorporated in 1945 and today the city stretches eight miles. Coolidge is known as an ideal tourist site being so close to the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Agriculture is not the only focus in town.
Today the town is becoming a regional trade and service center, due to the town’s proximity to Phoenix and Tucson.
As a little girl, growing up I didn’t come from a wealthy family and I didn’t live in a big house with a white picket fence. However, I probably had more fun than the kids who did! I had advantages that other kids didn’t have and certainly more than what my own children have. The memories I have as a child will be held deep in my heart throughout my life.
Born and raised in Coolidge, Arizona may not sound like much for most people and for people from the “big city” it probably sounds downright boring! Growing up in Coolidge had a few downsides. It was always a challenge when going to a birthday party to find a card or gift without giving something that ten other people weren’t giving. If it wasn’t for Sprouse Reitz and Yellow Front, residents of Coolidge would have to drive 30 minutes to Casa Grande to do shopping.
Shopping never was a big deal for me. I had plenty to do to keep me busy. Living in a small neighborhood where three houses in a row all belonged to my family was great. Not too many kids today can say that they live next door to their grandma and grandpa and next door to them is their great grandma. I was fortunate to have acres and pastures to run and play. Horses, cows, chickens, pigs, you name it we had it. Along with all of that, we had irrigation ditches and yards full of water to run and play in.
In the summer when school was out, I was so fortunate that my grandparents owned a cabin in Lakeside where we would go to escape the heat. Nothing beats spending the summer fishing and relaxing in the cool country. I always thought I had the best of both worlds.
Arizona is full of small towns and great getaways. An Arizona native, a small town Coolidge girl born and raised. Now my four children are sharing some of the same treasures that Coolidge offered me. Recently moving 15 minutes outside of Coolidge to Florence, my kids still attend the Coolidge School District and enjoy many of the same things that I enjoyed as a child. In addition, when it gets too hot in the summer I take my kids to the cool country in the White Mountains to enjoy a little piece of my own history.
It’s always nice to go on the short vacations to the beach or Disneyland but there’s no place like home…Coolidge, Arizona.