The Valley of the Sun, which is what the people call Phoenix these days, was not always the large, modern metropolitan area we see today. Today cars line the streets and people dash about for business and recreation as Sky Harbor sees a steady stream of passengers coming to, or going through, Phoenix from all over the world! Yes, the Phoenix of today is an emerging city, growing into the promise of a bright future for those who live, work and play here.
The natural landscape provides the nature-lover with rare chances to enjoy countryside like no other they will ever find anywhere else in the world! Camelback Mountain and Squaw Peak are both not only landmarks, they are famous hiking spots as well And if you ever have the chance to hike these popular mountains’ ways you will likely meet other friendly hikers, like yourself, who could not resist the natural wonder of the area.
Less hiked, but no less beautiful are Estrella Mountain and South Mountain, which is a 12-mile wide chain of mountains divides the valley from the Sonora desert to the south. Mc Dowell Mountain is a mountain preserve at the north of the valley and the Superstition Mountains in the east. All of these mountains provide a spectacular scenic beauty for the valley.
Located in Maricopa County and the capital of Arizona, Phoenix is the center of almost everything in Arizona- population, government, industry, finance, business, agriculture, fine arts, sports and much, much more.
Now, this sparkling image of modern city life is not how things always were and there is a long and exciting history steeped in the lore of the legends of the legendary Old West. What you think of when you think of the western way of life with its rough-and-tumble way of life and hardy individualism is how western life was when Phoenix was young.
Phoenix, during the early days, as a small farming town. In fact, the images that come to mind from those oh-so-long-ago days are probably images of places, real or not, patterned after real-live cities and towns in the vast Arizona desert.
Phoenix is the state capital of Arizona and was incorporated as a city in, 1881. Phoenix is located in central Arizona in the southwestern United States, 118 miles northwest of Tucson. It is Arizona’s largest city and largest metropolitan area by population. It is also the county seat of Maricopa County and the principal city of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Phoenix is appropriately called Hoozdo, or “the place is hot”, in the Navajo language.
The City of Phoenix’s population is over 1.3 million and this makes Phoenix the largest capital city by population in the United States. Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States and it is also the third largest capital city by area in the U.S.
The 2000 U.S. Census reported the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as the fourteenth largest in the U.S., with a population of 3,251,876. The city’s MSA grew in population to an estimated 3,790,000 in 2004. From 1990 and 2000, the city area grew by 34 percent. This makes it the eighth fastest growing metropolitan area in the U.S.
Just as the mountains surround the valley, so there are a number of cities that surround Central Phoenix. In every direction, there are a variety of cities and towns, and each has its own unique history and character. The City of Scottsdale is to the east, the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree to the north, City of Glendale to the west. Then there is “Arizona’s Golden Corridor”. This is an area that is made up of several cities and towns that wind gradually southward down toward the direction of Tucson.
The closeness to so much other interesting of interest give Phoenix residents a special advantage Central Phoenix dwellers are literally within minutes of most cities and towns located in the Valley of Sun.
So how did this glittering city by the lake get started? And what could life have been like in those early days?
Forward toward the future
The arrival of the railroad in 1887 was the first of several important events that revolutionized the economy of Phoenix. The coming of the railroad in the 1880s caused more growth as travel to, and through, Phoenix was made easier. Merchandise now flowed into the city by rail instead of a wagon.
Phoenix became a trade center with its products reaching eastern and western markets Commercial traffic from east to west also saw the growth of the hospitality industry and of other businesses that catered to the needs caused by increased traffic. In recognition of the increased tempo of economic life, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was organized.
Two years later Phoenix became the territorial capital. When the construction of the Roosevelt Dam was completed the town’s growth increased. This is because the dam guaranteed a reliable supply of fresh water to support the additional demand caused by the increase in population and farm irrigation.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the National Reclamation Act making it possible to build dams on western streams for reclamation purposes. Valley of the Sun residents was quick to supplement this federal action by organizing the Salt River Valley Waters Users’ Association to assure proper management of the precious water supply and to this day it serves as the major agency for controlling the use of irrigation water in the Valley.
In 1911, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam was built to create the Roosevelt Lake. At the time this dam was the largest masonry dam project in the world and it created expanded irrigation of land in the Valley for farming and increased the water supply for the steadily growing population.
Statehood and beyond
President William Howard Taft approved Arizona’s statehood in 1912. This made Phoenix the official state capital.
Shortly after statehood, Phoenix changed its form of government from mayor-council variety to a council-manager system. This form of administration was revolutionary at the time and has been duplicated by many cities in the United States since then.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge sold 13,000 acres of South Mountain to the city of Phoenix for $17,000 so that the city reached its present size of 16,500 acres. In fact, South Mountain Park, which hosts over 3 million visitors each year, is the largest metropolitan park in the world today.
However, gradually the city and state became known for more than just climate. The “Five C’s” (climate, citrus, copper, cotton, and cattle) soon became the mainstays of the city and state. But it wasn’t until the outbreak of World War II that Phoenix really began to grow. Arizona ‘s ideal weather was perfect for air flight. Soon military airfields and the defense industry headed to Phoenix to set up shop.
The war caused Phoenix from a farming focus to manufacturing and distribution center. Phoenix had the workforce and the land needed to set up plants for creating a military buildup and that is what happened. The 1940’s saw Phoenix rapidly turn into an industrial city with a mass production of military supplies.
Luke Field, Williams Field, and Falcon Field, coupled with the giant ground-training center at Hyder, west of Phoenix, brought thousands of new recruits into Phoenix.
In 1950, 105,000 people lived within the city limits and thousands more lived in adjacent communities and depended upon Phoenix for their livelihoods. The city had 148 miles of paved streets and 163 miles of unpaved streets for a total of 311 miles of streets within the city limits.
After the war, families headed west to start a new beginning. Then air-conditioning became standard, which made the desert summers bearable. Today tourism has become a leading industry.
Phoenix has been selected four times since 1950 as an All-America City. This is a privileged distinction among big cities. To be an All-America City judging criteria includes the extent to which a city’s private citizens are involved in city government.
Thousands of Phoenix citizens have served on various city committees, boards, and commissions to assure that major decisions are in the best interest of the people.
In 1993, Phoenix was selected as the “Best Run City in the World”, also known as the Carl Bertelsmann Prize, by the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany. Phoenix is in a very select class of city recipients of this noble honor.
During the 1950’s Phoenix reached its city size of 17 square miles. Current development is pushing rapidly beyond the geographic boundaries to the north and west, south through Pinal County towards Tucson, and beginning to surround the large Salt River and Gila River reservations.
Considered by many at one time as a small western town mostly thought of as a stop along the way to either of the coasts the city developed from a place with the unique reputation as a healthy haven for those suffering from the symptoms of chronic asthma to a world-class city.