A SHORT HISTORY OF PHOENIX, ARIZONA

By Tim Lambert

Dedicated to Tonia Young-Fadok

Early Phoenix

For thousands of years a people called the Hohokam farmed the site of Phoenix. They dug irrigation canals. However the Hohokam left the area around 1400 AD. The modern city began in the 19th century. Mexico ceded Arizona to the USA in 1848. Then a man named Jack Swilling (1830-1878) realized the old Hohokam canals could be cleared out and used for irrigation. He formed the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company in 1867. The company began digging a canal to irrigate to the area. Soon a little settlement grew up. It was called Phoenix as it was rising from the remains of the Hohokam civilization like the mythical bird rising from the ashes. In October 1870 the settlers held a meeting to decide on a town site. Then in 1871 Phoenix became the capital of the new county of Maricopa. Phoenix grew rapidly and by 1890 it was over 3,000.

Meanwhile Phoenix was incorporated as a city in 1881. In 1889 a railroad was built to Phoenix. In 1889 Phoenix became the capital of Arizona Territory. Then in 1895 the Prescott and Phoenix railroad opened. By 1900 the population of Phoenix had risen to over 5,400.

Modern Phoenix

Phoenix continued to grow rapidly in the early 20th century. By 1910 it had more than 11,000 people. Roosevelt dam was built in 1911. Arizona became a state in 1912 and Phoenix was its capital. By 1920 the population of Phoenix was over 29,000 and it continued to soar. By 1930 Phoenix was a city of more than 48,000 people.Meanwhile The Heard Museum was founded in 1929. Orpheum Theater was built the same year, 1929. Desert Botanical Garden opened in 1939.

By 1950 105,000 people lived in Phoenix. In the 1950s Phoenix developed into an industrial city and it population soared. In 1950 it had a population of 106,000. But in the 1950s there was a population explosion. By 1960 the population had more than trebled to 439,000. By 1980 it was 789,000.

Meanwhile amenities in the city developed rapidly. Phoenix Art Museum opened in 1959 and Phoenix Zoo opened in 1962. The Metro Center opened in 1973 and the University of Phoenix was founded in 1976. Fiesta Mall opened in 1979 and Arizona Mill Mall opened in 1997. Burton Barr Central Library opened in 1995. The Arizona Science Museum opened in 1997 and the Arizona Center was built in 1999. Today Phoenix is a thriving city. Tourism is a vital industry. Finance is also important. Today the population of Phoenix is 1.6 million.

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