A favorite winter vacation destination Phoenix, Arizona is both the largest state capital and the hottest city in the United States. And with a population hovering around 1,400,000 Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States. The city offers many attractions such as museums and parks. Some unique sights are the Mystery Castle, Tavroa Castle and the Wrigley Mansion.
Modern day Phoenix rose out of the ashes of the ancient Hohokam civilization and this is why it was given the name Phoenix by early settlers. The Hohokam created a series of canals turning this very dry region into the most advanced farming region in Pre-Colombian America. The Hohokam disappeared for unknown reasons but the land was rediscovered for its farming capabilities in 1867 by Jack Swilling. Swilling used the old canals and set up an irrigation company in the area and turned the city into an important agricultural post in the region. In 1880 a train track arrived in Phoenix allowing it to become an important trading post in the west. The next major turn happened in the 1940’s when Phoenix became an important industrial city in manufacturing military supplies for the war effort.
Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the region now occupied by Phoenix, Arizona was the home of the Hohokam First Nations tribe for more than 1,000 years. Much of their agricultural development laid the framework for modern Arizona’s progress, including the Arizona Canals.
The Spanish began exploring the region of Arizona in 1528, establishing several missions and attempting to convert First Nations residents to their religious traditions.
Life in the Phoenix region was improved during the Columbian Exchange, through which livestock and crops were transported between the Americas and Europe. The exchange brought renewed, and much needed financial security to the region, which enjoyed the introduction of several new specifies, and new residents. The resulting population boom is still seen as one of the most culturally prosperous periods in Phoenix history.
The international exchange also had a downside, however, and several new microbial diseases arrived, largely through the importation of animals.
In the early 17th century, an Italian missionary in the service of Spain arrived in the region, building friendly relations with the Hohokum, who had begun resettling along the Gila River to avoid the drought ravaged land. At the time, Arizona was considered part of the land claim known as New Spain.
Mounting religious and racial tensions led to several uprisings, and in 1680, the Pueblo First Nations tribe began what would come to be known as the Pueblo Revolt, engaging in the merciless slaughter of hundreds of Spaniards, including innocent women and children. The attacks led to a fast exodus of Spanish residents, and the Pueblo swarmed the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico (then the major settlement in the territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, which would become the states of New Mexico and Arizona).
The conflict would last until 1692, when Don Diego de Vargas, governor of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, surrounded the city and demanded the Pueblo surrender. With the end of the major conflicts devastating the Phoenix region, the population once again began to grow. In spire of the relative peace of the 1700s, however, the region did not grow very quickly.
The arrival of American “mountain men”, trappers and traders that lived off the land, brought increased commercial potential to the area. Growth continued to be slow until well after the end of the Mexican American War. In 1848, when the war ended, Phoenix became part of the newly formed New Mexico Territory.
While Phoenix was not part of the Gasden Purchase of 1853, it did stand to benefit financially from the development of a southern arm of the transcontinental railroad, the primary purpose for the deal.
During the American Civil War, the land boundaries of the Purchase came into dispute, but the region was able to settle matters with relative ease due to the more pressing war.
In 1865, the US Army founded Fort McDowell in an effort to prevent First Nations rebellion. A settlement was founded on the opposite bank of the Salt River as a residence for migrant workers, which would eventually grow into the community of Tempe, now a part of the city of Phoenix.
In 1867, Confederate soldier and war veteran Jack Swilling arrived in the region, and began developing the area to increase agricultural production. The Hohokum canal system was updated, around which a farming community known as Pumpkinville was founded. The settlement would soon be renamed several times, eventually becoming Phoenix (the original community was in the area now occupied by East Phoenix).
Jack Swilling became the first postmaster in 1868.
The new community, and its rich agricultural lands, began attracting residents, and Phoenix was forced to modernize just to keep pace. A church was built for the faithful, a public school was constructed and the city government reorganized. Several saloons opened, as did two banks. When the telegraph came to town in 1774, a new telegraph office was built, further increasing the economy and fork force.
By the time the city was incorporated in 1881, 2,500 Americans called Phoenix home. In may of that year, the first election was held, establishing a new City Hall and the first city mayor, Judge John Alsap.
Temple Normal School opened in 1885, becoming the Arizona State University in 1933. Notable alums include comedian Steve Allen, film maker John Hughes, and Olympic gold medalist Amanda Borden.
By the end of the 19th century, Phoenix had grown into a major commercial center. The arrival of the national railroad connected the city to the rest of the country in exciting new ways, and Phoenix began extensive trade with the furthest reaches of America. The resulting economic boom changed the city forever.
The first electric streetcar came into operation in 1893.
The National Reclamation Act of 1902, and the completion of the nearby Roosevelt Dam led directly to the founding of the Salt River Valley Water Users' Association, intended to help manage the consumption of water and power. The association still manages consumption. Unfortunately, dam works led to the drying out of several natural bodies of water, and the exodus of several species of indigenous animals.
In 1914, Phoenix was officially granted the title of capital of Arizona, the newest state to the Union. The city grew over the next two decades, quickly surpassing Tucson as the largest in the state.
During the Second World War, local efforts began a massive shift to military and industrial production and distribution. The resulting economic windfall led to several construction projects, including Luke Field, Williams Field and Falcon Field. A POW camp was established in Papago Park.
Several members of the American Military rioted in 1942, leading to a mini war within the city. The troops, seeking to avoid arrest and carve a path out of the city, stole military vehicles and opened fire in residential neighbourhoods with 50 calibre machine guns, claiming several lives. The result was a long standing ban on military personnel within the city.
Industrial production would continue to gain momentum in the post war years, fortunately for city transit. A fire in 1947 destroyed most of the streetcars, and the city decided to implement bus routes rather than rebuild the aging streetcar system. Within a few yeas, paved roads outnumbered unpaved, and the future of the new transportation methods was secured.
As the population soared past the 100,000 mark, Phoenix began to suffer rising crime rates. Don Bolles, a reporter investigating organized crime, was murdered by a car bomb. Drugs became common and several street gangs began to form. Phoenix has since made considerable efforts to reduce the spread of crime, but still experiences higher than average statistics.
In the 1950s, future rock music legend Alice Cooper moved to the city, and soon began attending Cortez High School (immortalized on the album School’s Out), where he would meet his future band mates. After several years living in Los Angeles and Detroit, Cooper moved back to Phoenix in 1983, seeking to recover from nearly two decades of rock stardom. It was I Phoenix tht he wrote some of his most successful songs, revitalized his stage show and secured his legend as the founder of Shock Rock. Cooper would inspire several major international acts, from Kiss to Marilyn Manson.
In 1997, an interesting series of unexplained lights appeared in the sky over Phoenix. While the military claimed responsibility for several of the sightings, oddly shaped patterns lead many to believe the events was a mass UFO sighting. The sightings have been the inspiration for several books and three movies, including one starring popular American actress A.J. Cook (star of The Virgin Suicides and the ABC serial killer drama Criminal Minds).
Tragedy brought the city to national attention when several sexual assaults, armed robberies and murders occurred along Baseline Road in southern Phoenix. The perpetrator became known as the Baseline Killer 9aka Baseline Rapist). A suspect was arrested in 2006, and is awaiting trial at the time of this writing.
A second string of seemingly random shootings began in 2005, possibly linked to as many as 38 shootings. In August of 2006, two suspects were arrested in relation to the spree.
In July of 2007, two news helicopters covering a police pursuit collided in mid air, claiming four lives.
Modern Phoenix is making great strides to revitalize after several turbulent years. Sports and the performing arts are strong and vibrant, the economy has diversified, and tourism is growing. Many are attracted by the quality of life in Phoenix, from the city’s pleasant climate to its picturesque golf courses. The city is now the largest capital in the country, based on population.
Several major corporations call Phoenix home, including Avnet (business to business technology), the Apollo Group (a Fortune 500 worthy adult education organization), and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, one of the world’s largest producers of gold and copper.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Power: 120 V, 60 Hz
Climate: Phoenix is the hottest urban area outside of the Middle East. Temperatures get into the 100’s (40’s C) during the summer months, but during the winter it often hovers in the very pleasant 60’s- 80’s region (18-25 C).
The arid nature of the Phoenix area lends itself to dry summers, with temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity rises as the fall season sets in, drawing moisture off the Gulf of California. While rainfall is moderate, the city occasionally experiences flooding, hail and tornadoes.
Winters are generally warm, seeing temperatures averaging in the 60s Fahrenheit. Snow does fall in Arizona, but it is very rare in Phoenix, and never more than a few inches.
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: MST (UTC-7) - Summer DST (UTC-7)
Arizona State Capitol Museum
Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum?
Phoenix Museum of History?
Arizona Science Center?
Phoenix Art Museum?
There is plenty more to explore in Phoenix, Arizona.
Activities? | Sights? | Shopping? | Events? | Business Index?