A Short History of Phoenix, Arizona

If you ask us, Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the most wonderful places to live or travel! There’s so much to see and do, not to mention the beautiful scenery and culture it consists of. There also happens to be a lot to know about this wonderful place, so we’re breaking down the history of Phoenix, Arizona for you today.

If you’re visiting Phoenix or surrounding towns, book a ride with All Valley Transportation so we can help you explore and make the most of your time here.

It’s hard to believe Phoenix was anything different than the beautiful city it is today, but it wasn’t always this way. It also has an early Native American history that’s incredibly interesting, so let’s start there.

Hohokam Petroglyphs in Phoenix Arizona

Hohokam Petroglyphs

In the beginning

The first settlers in the Phoenix, Arizona territory are known as The Hohokam tribe. They made the Phoenix area their home for over 2000 years and were able to make the Salt River Valley inhabitable. They did this by creating an irrigation system that reached over 135 miles. Some of the canals they created are still in use today!

The Hohokam tribe ended up vanishing in 1450 A.D. for unknown reasons. However, it can be assumed it was because of an extended drought when they needed to move on.

After the Hohokam tribe left the area, the Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, and Maricopa tribes began to take over the area. They lived in smaller villages and grew their food to survive.

Central Arizona Project Canal - CAP

Central Arizona Project Canal

Founding years

After the early settlement, The United States took over the Phoenix area in 1848. Phoenix itself was later founded in 1867 by John W. Swilling. Swilling saw the dry soil in the area and realized the land could be farmed. It was relatively free of rocks and was far from snowy and heavy frost areas. All that was needed was water to make it happen.

He ended up establishing what is known as the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company. Swilling then moved to the Salt River Valley to begin digging a canal. It wasn’t long after, in March 1868, that water started to flow through the canal. This allowed them to create crops that summer and start a whole new life in the magical place of Phoenix.

Mythical Symbol of Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

Mythical Symbol for Phoenix

The name

You might be wondering why Phoenix was named Phoenix in the first place!

Darell Duppa is one of the settlers who was a part of Swilling’s mission and is responsible for the name. He devised it based on the idea of a mythical phoenix rising from the ashes. He predicted the city of Phoenix would emerge from its previous civilization’s ruins and grow into something magnificent.

You can also learn about the city government and Phoenix city council here.


Salt River at Roosevelt Dam Arizona

Roosevelt Dam, Arizona

February 14, 1912, was an exciting day for Phoenix. Arizona officially became a state today, and Phoenix was also named its capital. As the city continued to grow, so did the technological advances that helped to move the city forward.

Curious about the biggest stadiums in Phoenix? Learn more here »

In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt began work on the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which occupied the Salt River. This dam was essential for providing the water and electricity that helped power the city. At the time, it was the biggest dam in the world.

As technology grew, so did the population in Phoenix. By 1920 its population consisted of 30,000 people. 1920 also marked the year the Heard Building went up, seven stories tall, and a major addition to the city.

(Curious what Phoenix looked like in the 1930’s? Local channel 12 news shares some neat photos here.)

Much of the economy’s success at the time was due to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, which helped produce things like citrus, cattle, and cotton.

If you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon, this article covers your transportation options.

Air Conditioning Unit on Home Built in the 1950s

Older AC Unit on Phoenix Home

Post-World War II

Phoenix took on even more changes at the end of World War II as the population only continued to grow. Many of the veterans at Phoenix military bases returned there with their families. They realized its potential and what a great place it was to be.

Technological advances continued to influence the economy as Phoenix became an industrial city. This was also the time things like air conditioners began to take effect. Citizens quickly found an affordable way to cool residential homes and make for an even better living experience. It was also necessary, as temperatures in Phoenix skyrocket in the summertime.

1973 was also a noteworthy year as the Central Arizona Project began construction. This project brought a stable water supply to Phoenix, making the city a better place to live.

Here are some fun things to do in downtown Phoenix.

Car Traffic in Phoenix Arizona

Busy freeway in Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix today

If you ask us, Phoenix is now a city that’s nothing short of fantastic and it deserves its stellar reputation.

Today, the population of Phoenix is over 4.7 million people and is the United States’ fifth largest city spanning over 520 square miles. Yet, as we look to the future, we see Phoenix only continues to grow as many people see it as a fantastic place to call home.

Phoenix is a sought-after place to visit, with more than 19 million visitors annually.

If you’re going to be one of those visitors and you’re looking for other activities to participate in during your stay, here are 10 things to do in Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe.

Phoenix Limousine Service

Visiting Phoenix

We hope you enjoyed learning all about the short history of Phoenix. If you plan on visiting this amazing city soon, plan your trip from the airport accordingly! All Valley Transportation is ready to help make your trip a breeze with our trusted Phoenix Limo Services.

We have chauffeurs dedicated to providing the best service possible and comfortable travel no matter when you need it.

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