Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Phoenix History - Growing Into a Metropolis

Growing Into a Metropolis

With the advent of statehood, Phoenix, as well as Arizona, had come of age. The casual, easy growth that characterized a farming community slowly came to a stop. Phoenix began to grow into a young metropolis. At the end of its first eight years under statehood, Phoenix was no longer a town - it was an important city of 29,053.

Two thousand youngsters were attending Phoenix Union High School in 1920. They would throw each other into Jack Swilling's first canal, which ran through the campus and had become the "Town Ditch." A total of 1,080 buildings went up that year. Among them was Arizona's first skyscraper, the Heard Building.

In those eight years, Phoenix also developed the makings of its first political scandal - the $1,300,000 bond issue of 1919 to build a redwood pipeline from the Verde River to Phoenix. The pipeline was finished in 1920, but never worked too well. Today, the portion of that redwood that isn't still underground serves to form walls for the houses of the Indians living near Fort McDowell.

By 1930, the size of Phoenix nearly doubled again with a 48,118 census count. There were 120 miles of sidewalks and 161 miles of streets - 77 with pavement. The public library had 51,000 books, and the police force had 70 men. The budget for the city came to $2,033,886. Another pipeline was built - this time constructed with 48 inches of concrete, which still carries Verde River water to us.

The year 1940 marked another turning point in Phoenix life. The city had gone as far as a farming center and then as a distribution center. When the war hit the United States, Phoenix rapidly turned into an embryonic industrial city. Luke Field, Williams Field and Falcon Field, coupled with the giant ground training center at Hyder, west of Phoenix, brought thousands of men into Phoenix. Their needs, both military and personal, were met in part by small industries in Phoenix.

When the war ended, many of these men returned to Phoenix, and families came with them. Suddenly thousands of people were wondering what to do for a living. Large industry, learning of this labor pool, started to move branches here. Smaller plants were started by private capital and initiative. Water again began to run out as it had done several times before, but citizens were more fortunate than the Ho Ho Kam who built the first canals and saw them go dry. Phoenix had the greatness of American technology to fall back on. The era commencing with 1940 marked the end of agriculture's role as our chief provider. It was the beginning of a greater prosperity than Phoenix had ever known.

In 1950, 105,000 people lived within the city limits of Phoenix and thousands more lived immediately adjacent to and depended upon Phoenix for their livelihoods. The city had 148 miles of paved streets and 163 miles of unpaved streets, a total of 311 miles of streets within the city limits.

Sky Harbor Airport was just getting started in 1934.

To search for historic Phoenix homes in any or all of the 36 Phoenix historic districts, go to:



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