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The Little-Known History of Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is the capital and most populous city in Arizona, with 1,680,992 people (as of 2019). It is also the fifth-most populous city in the United States, the largest state capital by population, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents. The Phoenix metropolitan area, also known as the Valley of the Sun, is part of the Salt River Valley. With a population of 4.73 million people as of 2017, the metropolitan area is the 11th most populous in the United States.

Phoenix was established as an agricultural community near the confluence of the Salt and Gila Rivers in 1867, and it became a city in 1881. In 1889, it was designated as the capital of Arizona Territory. It is located in the Sonoran Desert’s northeastern reaches and has a hot desert climate.

The “Five C’s” that anchored Phoenix’s economy were cotton, cattle, citrus, environment, and copper. Until after World War II, when high-tech firms started to flood into the valley and air conditioning made Phoenix’s hot summers more bearable, these remained the city’s driving forces.

For over 2,000 years, the Hohokam people lived in Phoenix. They dug about 135 miles (217 kilometers) of irrigation canals to make the desert land arable, and the Arizona Canal, Central Arizona Project Canal, and Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct all followed in the footsteps of these canals. They also traded extensively with the nearby Ancient Puebloans, Mogollon, and Sinagua, as well as with the more distant Mesoamerican civilizations. Drought and heavy floods are thought to have caused the Hohokam civilization to leave the region between 1300 and 1450. Following the Hohokam’s departure, the Akimel O’odham (also known as Pima), Tohono O’odham, and Maricopa tribes, as well as Yavapai and Apache segments, began to use the area.

The Akimel O’odham were the most populous tribe in the area. They lived in small villages with well-defined irrigation systems that stretched from Florence in the east to the Estrellas in the west along the Gila River Valley. Bread, beans, and squash were grown for food, as well as cotton and tobacco. They joined forces with the Maricopa to defend themselves from the Yuma and Apache tribes.

The Maricopa are part of the larger Yuma people; but, in the early 1800s, when they became rivals with other Yuma tribes, they migrated east from the lower Colorado and Gila Rivers, settling among the Akimel O’odham’s established groups.

On the other hand, the climate in Phoenix is arid, with long, hot summers and mild winters. It has the highest average temperature in the United States of any metropolitan region. The weather changes dramatically from season to season. Although it is not as cold as it is in the northern states during the winter, it does sometimes freeze, with temperatures in the 30s°F (around or just above 0°C) not uncommon. In the summer, the weather is very hot and dry. It can reach 115°F (46°C) or higher on the hottest days, but due to the low humidity, it is never uncomfortable. From July to September, monsoon rains with lightning are common in the late afternoon and evening, and sometimes overnight. April is the best month to visit. Cicada insects make noisy noises in some neighborhoods from sunset to sunrise.

Phoenix, Arizona is blessed to be the home of so many amazing historical landmarks.  Here’s a short list of our favorites: 

  • Camelback Mountain
  • Arizona State Fair
  • Heritage Square Phoenix
  • Chinese Cultural Center
  • Canaan in the Desert
  • Gila River War Relocation Center
  • Hunt’s Tomb
  • Steele Indian School Park
  • Tovrea Castle

All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location located at 7319 North 16th Street in Phoenix, Arizona! Stop by for a visit anytime!

GillespieShields Phoenix Arizona Top Family Law Attorney(2)

By Azwatchdog – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

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Phoenix Location

7319 North 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85020 | 602-870-9700

Mesa Location

1630 S. Stapley Drive, Suite 212, Mesa, AZ 85204 | 480-985-4000