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Overview of Phoenix,  Arizona

"Some information from Wikipedia"

Phoenix Arizona Overview

Phoenix, Arizona

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phoenix is the capital of the state of Arizona in the Southwestern United States. It is Arizona's largest city and the Phoenix metropolitan area is the largest metro area in the state, with well over half of the total state population. Phoenix is located in the center of the state, 118 miles (188 km) northwest of Tucson. It is the county seat of Maricopa County. It was incorporated as a city on February 25, 1881 and is called Hoozdo, or "the place is hot", in the Navajo language and Fiinigis in the Western Apache language.

Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States, having recently passed Philadelphia, population-wise, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest estimates. The 2000 U.S. Census reported the Phoenix Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as the fourteenth-largest in the U.S., with a population of 3,251,876. The city's MSA grew to an estimated 3,790,000 by 2004. Between 1990 and 2000, the metropolitan area grew by 34 percent, making it the eighth fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S.

Phoenix is the largest capital city in the United States, with a greater population than any other state capital or Washington, D.C., the national capital. Only the state capitals Juneau, Alaska and Oklahoma City are larger in area than Phoenix. Phoenix natives and residents are referred to as Phoenicians.


Phoenix was incorporated in 1881; the charter of that year was revised in 1893.


The earliest settlers in the Valley of the Sun were the Hohokam Indian people, who lived there as early as 300 BC. They were the first to farm there, building an extensive network of irrigation ditches that brought water from the Salt River. Their English name is derived from their O'odham name, Huhu:gam. They also lived in the Pueblo Grande between 700 and 1400 A.D. Their irrigation system comprised some 135 miles (217 km) of canals that lasted until their culture's decline. Their disappearance ca. A.D. 1450 remains a mystery. Prolonged drought may have destroyed or displaced them; or, they may be the ancestors of the modern Pima who now live on the Salt River and Gila River reservations and the Tohono O'odham who live in southern Arizona.

Origin of the city

In 1867, Jack Swilling of Wickenburg, Arizona stopped to rest his horse at the foot of the north slopes of the White Tank Mountains. He looked down across the expansive Salt River Valley and his eyes caught the rich gleam of the brown, dry soil turned up by the horse's hooves. He imagined farmland at the site, predominantly free of rocks, and beyond the reach of heavy frost or snow. All it needed was water. By 1868, he and others from Wickenburg had dug a short canal from the Salt River and founded a small farming colony approximately four miles (6 km) east of the present city and a few miles northwest of a similar farming community at Hayden's Ferry, which would become Tempe.

The area was named Swilling's Mill in his honor. It would later become Hellinwg Mill, Mill City, then East Phoenix. As for the town that was to be built, Swilling, a former Confederate soldier, wanted to name it Stonewall, after Stonewall Jackson; others suggested Salina.

Lord Darrell Duppa recommended the name Phoenix, memorializing the birth of a new civilization from the ruins left by the Hohokam.

The town of Phoenix was officially recognized on May 4, 1868, when the Board of Supervisors of Yavapai County (which at the time encompassed Phoenix), formed an election precinct there. The Phoenix post office was established June 15, 1868, with Jack Swilling as postmaster.

The area was surveyed in 1870 and a mass meeting of the citizens of the Salt River Valley was held on October 20, 1870, to select a suitable piece of unimproved public land for a town site. They recommended the North ½ of section 8 Township 1 N., Range 3 E. and that the town be called Phoenix.

On February 12, 1871, the territorial legislature created Maricopa County, the sixth in the state, by dividing Yavapai County. Maricopa county gave up portions in 1875 and 1881 to help form Pinal and Gila counties, respectively. The first county election in Maricopa County was held in 1871, when Tom Barnum was elected the first sheriff of Maricopa County.

The first public school in Phoenix opened on September 5, 1872, in the courtroom of the county building. By October 1873, a small adobe school building was completed on Center Street (now Central Avenue), a short distance north of where the San Carlos Hotel now stands. Miss Nellie Shaver, a newcomer from Wisconsin, was appointed as the first female schoolteacher in Phoenix.

On April 10, 1874, President Grant issued a land patent for the present site of Phoenix. The total cost of the Phoenix Townsite of 320 acres was $550, including all expenses for services.

By 1881, Phoenix had outgrown its original townsite-commissioner form of government. The 11th Territorial Legislature passed the Phoenix Charter Bill, incorporating Phoenix and providing for a mayor-council government. The bill was signed by Governor John C. Fremont on February 25, 1881. Phoenix was incorporated with a population of approximately 2,500, and on May 3, 1881, Phoenix held its first city election, in which Judge John T. Alsap defeated James D. Monihon, 127 to 107, to become the city's first Mayor.

Prosperity and modernity

The coming of the railroad in the 1880s was the first of several important events that revolutionized the economy of Phoenix. Merchandise now flowed into the city by rail instead of wagon. Phoenix became a trade center with its products reaching eastern and western markets. In recognition of the increased tempo of economic life, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was organized on November 4, 1888.

In early 1888, the city offices were moved into the new City Hall, built where the downtown bus terminal now stands. This building also provided temporary offices for the territorial government when it moved to Phoenix from Prescott in 1889.

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the National Reclamation Act making it possible to build dams on western streams for reclamation purposes. Valley of the Sun residents were quick to supplement this federal action by organizing the Salt River Valley Waters Users' Association on February 4, 1903, to assure proper management of the precious water supply. It functions to this day as the major agency for controlled use of irrigation water in the Valley.

On May 18, 1911, the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, then the largest masonry dam in the world, began operation. It created Roosevelt Lake, expanded irrigation of land in the Valley for farming, and increased the water supply for the growing population.

On February 14, 1912, President William Howard Taft approved Arizona's statehood, making Phoenix the state capital.

In 1913, Phoenix changed its form of government from mayor-council to council-manager. Phoenix was one of the first cities in the United States to have this form of city government.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge sold 13,000 acres of South Mountain to the city of Phoenix for $17,000. At its present size of 16,500 acres , South Mountain Park is the largest metropolitan park in the world, and it entertains 3 million visitors each year.

In 1926, U.S. Route 60 was commissioned as a transcontinental highway. The highway served Phoenix for well over 40 years. Interstate 10 has since replaced this early route. Despite its reduced use, the highway follows Grand Avenue near downtown, and is a major freeway in Phoenix's East Valley.

The 1940s marked another turning point, as war changed Phoenix from a farming center to a distribution center. Phoenix rapidly turned into an embryonic industrial city with mass production of military supplies. 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.

In 1950, 105,000 people lived within the city limits and thousands more lived in adjacent communities and depended upon Phoenix for their livelihoods. The city had 148 miles (238 km) of paved streets and 163 miles (262 km) of unpaved streets, a total of 311 miles (501 km) of streets within the city limits.

Phoenix has been selected four times since 1950 as an All-America City, rare among larger cities. The hallmark of an All-America City is the extent to which its private citizens get involved in the workings of their government. Thousands of citizens have served on various city committees, boards and commissions to assure that major decisions are in the best interest of the people.

In 1993, Phoenix was selected as the "Best Run City in the World", also known as the Carl Bertelsmann Prize, by the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany, a branch of Bertelsmann media company. It shared the honor with Christchurch, New Zealand.


Phoenix's arid climate is characterized by some of the hottest seasonal temperatures anywhere. In fact, out of the world's large urban areas, only some cities around the Persian Gulf, such as Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Baghdad, Iraq have higher average summer temperatures. The temperature reaches or exceeds 100 F (38 C) on an average of 89 days during the year, including most days from early June through early September. On June 26, 1990, the temperature reached an all-time high of 122 F (50 C). Low temperatures have shown a strong upward trend during the past three decades, likely due to the Urban Heat Island. Overnight lows greater than 90 F (32 C) occur with greater frequency every summer. The all-time highest low temperature was 96 F (36 C), which occured on July 15, 2003.

The dry Arizona air makes the hot temperatures more tolerable early in the season, however, the influx of monsoonal moisture in July significantly raises moisture levels. On the other hand, mild, sunny weather in the winter months makes the area a mecca for golfers and others seeking to escape the cold typical of the northern U.S and enjoy the out doors.

Phoenix sees some 300 sunny days per year and scant rainfall, the average annual total at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport being 8.3 inches (210 mm). March is the wettest month of the year (1.07 inches or 27 mm) with May being the driest (0.09 inches or 2 mm). Although thunderstorms occur on occasion during every month of the year, they are most common during the monsoon from July to mid-September as humid air surges in from the Gulf of California. These can bring strong winds, large hail, or rarely tornadoes. Winter storms moving inland from the Pacific Ocean occasionally produce significant rains but occur infrequently. Fog is observed from time to time during the winter months.

Due to the Urban Heat Island effect, frost rarely occurs in the center of the city. The last time the temperature fell below 32 F (0 C) at the airport was December 23, 1991. The long-term mean date of the first frost is December 15 and the last is February 1; however, these dates do not represent the city as a whole because the frequency of freezes varies considerably among terrain types and elevations. Frequently, outlying areas of Phoenix will see frost the airport does not. The earliest frost on record occurred on November 3, 1946, and the latest occurred on April 4, 1945. The all-time lowest temperature in Phoenix was recorded at 16 F (-8.8 C) on January 7, 1913.

Snow is extremely rare in the area, though still can occur from time to time. Snowfall was first officially recorded in 1896, and since then accumulations of 0.1 inches (0.25 cm) or greater have occurred only seven times. The heaviest snowstorm on record dates to January 20-21, 1937, when 1 to 4 inches fell (2 to 10 cm) in parts of the city and did not melt entirely for four days. Prior to that, 1 inch (2.5 cm) had fallen on January 20, 1933. On February 2, 1935, 0.5 inches (1 cm) fell. Most recently, 0.4 inches (1 cm) fell on December 21-22, 1990. Snow also fell on March 12, 1917 November 28, 1919, and December 11, 1985.

Phoenix was ranked as the #1 hottest city in the U.S., and #2 as the driest city in the U.S. on The Weather Channel's "Top 10", a program involving with ranking cities on criteria such as hottest, driest, coldest, wettest, windiest, sunniest, snowiest, and most humid.

The city's automobile-dependent nature holds implications for greenhouse gas emissions. Although Phoenix has the fifth-largest city population in the United States, its public transit system accounts for just one per cent of the passenger miles that New York City's does. The reason is that Phoenix's booming population has spread so far across the desert; greater Phoenix, whose population is a little more than twice that of Manhattan, covers more than two hundred times as much land.
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