Scottsdale Arizona History

Scottsdale Arizona's History

A city filled with contrasts and surprises, Scottsdale, Arizona is part cosmopolitan, part suburban, part rural desert, part cowboy and part a chic fashionista.

One of those surprises is that Scottsdale’s history began with agricultural roots. The area’s climate was very different when the Hohokam, a Native American tribe that lived in the region from approximately 300 BC until the mid-to-late-15th century, farmed the land by developing the largest known network of irrigation canals in pre-Columbian North America.

Under still-mysterious circumstances, the Hohokam disappeared around 1450 or 1500—with theories ranging from climate change to plague to political strife. Pima Indians eventually came into the area, and centuries later, European settlers ventured west to look for gold.

In 1888, U. S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott purchased a 640-acre section of land extending east from what is now Scottsdale Road and Indian School Road to Hayden Road, north to Chaparral Road, west to Scottsdale Road, then south back to Indian School Road for the tidy sum of $3.50 per acre. The ancient Hohokam canals were repaired and were used to irrigate the fields and orchards and more families settled nearby and raised citrus, peaches, sweet potatoes, wheat and peanuts.

The name “Scottsdale” was first officially used for the town in 1894. In 1896, the first schoolhouse opened, and in 1897 came the first general store/post office. In 1895 Scott planted olive trees around a citrus grove between what is now Scottsdale Road and Civic Center Boulevard and Second Street and Osborn Road. In fact, a few of the trees still stand along Civic Center Boulevard. Little known factoid: Winfield Scott died in a Phoenix hospital in 1910 from complications from his old Civil War wounds.

Meanwhile, Scottsdale’s farming industry continued to grow. In 1917, cotton farming became important to the community to help support the nation’s efforts in World War I, and in the 1940s, a pilot training facility was built in the location that is currently Scottsdale Airport. Scottsdale was eventually incorporated in 1951.

People continue to come to Scottsdale for its exceptional climate and opportunities, and a few citrus groves and cotton fields still remain. But instead of crops and citrus, it’s the city itself that’s now doing most of the ‘growing’. Sensitive to the need to keep Scottsdale’s growth sustainable, many residents, as well as the city’s leaders, have actively been involved in passing legislation that conserves water and land to preserve the beauty of Scottsdale’s natural Sonoran Desert surroundings for generations to come.