United States of America
Phoenix, capital city of Arizona and seat of Maricopa County, located on
the Salt River in the south central part of the state. Phoenix sits on the eastern
edge of the Sonoran Desert. A commercial, manufacturing, financial, tourist, and
retirement center, Phoenix serves as a distribution point for the agricultural products
of the irrigated Salt River Valley. It is the hub of a vast metropolitan region
that includes Avondale, Chandler, Gilbert, Glendale, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Peoria,
Scottsdale, Sun City, and Tempe. Phoenix has become one of the nation’s largest
and fastest-growing cities. Several factors have contributed to the city’s spectacular
growth, including its temperate, dry, sunny climate during much of the year, its
recreational opportunities, and its diversified industries.
Phoenix’s population grew from 789,704 in 1980 to 1,321,045 in 2000; in the 1990s
it was second in total population growth among the country’s large cities, behind
only New York City. According to the 2000 census, whites constitute 71.1 percent
of the city’s population; blacks, 5.1 percent; Native Americans, 2 percent; Asians,
2 percent; and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 0.1 percent. People
of mixed heritage or not reporting race are 19.7 percent. Hispanics, who may be
of any race, make up 34.1 percent of the population.
Almost two-thirds of Arizona’s population lives in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
The regional population increased from 1,600,000 in 1980 to 3,252,000 in 2000. Three
Native American reservations in the area cover a total of more than 1,800 sq km
(more than 700 sq mi); these are the Fort McDowell, Salt River, and Gila River reservations,
with a total population of almost 19,000.
Products manufactured in the metropolitan area include semiconductors, aerospace
and electronic equipment, processed food, metal products, cosmetics, sporting goods,
paper items, and clothing. Government operations, tourism, research and development
concerns, and construction are also important to the city’s economy, as is nearby
Luke Air Force Base. Information processing, customer service, and warehouse and
distribution activities were increasing in the 1990s. Agricultural products include
cotton, alfalfa, durum wheat, vegetables, citrus and other fruits, and beef and
dairy cattle. The health service industry is a large and growing part of the city’s
Phoenix is served by interstate highways 10 and 17, the Southern Pacific and the
Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads, and Sky Harbor International Airport.
In its early years, Phoenix became popular as a haven for winter visitors from North
America’s colder climates. Many people with health problems, particularly respiratory
ailments, visited the area for its dry and relatively pollen-free air. In the second
half of the 20th century developers created near Phoenix huge planned retirement
communities such as Sun City and Leisure World. Today Phoenix is a popular destination
for vacationers and conventioneers.
The Urban Landscape
Phoenix is rapidly expanding upon its periphery. In 1997 the city’s area was 1,087.3
sq km (419.8 sq mi). The growth of Phoenix has radiated from the now highly developed
original downtown. Several minutes north of downtown is a second site of tall buildings
and commercial establishments, as well as Encanto Park. To the north and east lie
affluent residential areas, along with high-technology and other light industries.
Papago Park, containing the Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo, is in the
east. The west side is generally a lower-income residential area with some light
industry. The smaller south side includes predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhoods,
as well as older industries and distribution warehouses. South Mountain Park, one
of the largest city parks in the nation, covers about 6,900 hectares (about 17,000
acres) on the city’s south side.
Points of Interest
Points of interest in Phoenix include Civic Plaza, which comprises Symphony Hall
and a convention center; and America West Arena, the home of the Phoenix Suns professional
basketball team and the Phoenix Coyotes professional hockey team. The Arizona Cardinals,
a professional football team, plays its home games at Sun Devil Stadium in nearby
Tempe. The Arizona Diamondbacks, a professional baseball team, began playing in
the new Bank One Ballpark in 1998. Annual events in Phoenix include the National
Livestock Show, the Agricultural Trade Fair, the Arizona State Fair, and the Cowboy
Artists of America Exhibition.
Educational and Cultural Institutions
Phoenix is the site of Arizona State University West (1984), the University of Phoenix
(1976), Grand Canyon University (1949), DeVry Institute of Technology (1967), Western
International University (1978), Southwestern College (1960), Arizona Bible College
(1971), and several junior colleges. Arizona’s largest institution of higher education,
Arizona State University (1885), is located in adjacent Tempe, while the American
Graduate School of International Management (1945) is nearby in Glendale.
Among the city’s museums are the Heard Museum, with more than 75,000 archaeological,
ethnological, and historical objects and an extensive exhibit on native peoples
of the Southwest; the Phoenix Art Museum, which features works from the medieval,
Renaissance, and French baroque periods; the Pueblo Grande Museum, which contains
artifacts of the Hohokam civilization; the Arizona Mineral Museum; the Arizona State
Capitol Museum, located in the restored state capitol building, which displays Native
American relics and modern handicrafts; and the Phoenix Museum of History, with
items relating to the city’s early history. The Arizona Science Center, featuring
a planetarium and hands-on exhibits, opened in 1997. The city has a large central
library with several branches. Taliesin West, an architectural school and complex
established by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is located nearby in Scottsdale
and is open to visitors.
Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been in the area that is now
Phoenix for more than 8,000 years. From the 8th century through the 14th century
the Hohokam people, a society of desert farmers in the region, used water from the
Salt River for an extensive irrigation canal system. Fort McDowell, the first permanent
white settlement in the area, was established in 1865 about 40 km (about 25 mi)
east of present-day downtown Phoenix. Two years later, Jack Swilling, a former Confederate
army officer, envisioned the agricultural potential of the broad and level Salt
River Valley. Swilling organized a canal company near modern Tempe to irrigate the
The company’s irrigation system followed the network of canals that were built there
by the Hohokam some 500 years earlier. In October 1870, several settlers founded
the site of modern Phoenix. In recognition of the former Hohokam culture, settler
Darrell Duppa likened the new community to the phoenix, a mythological bird that
consumed itself by fire every 500 years and arose anew from the ashes. Thereafter,
the group adopted Phoenix as the settlement’s name. Within a short time the area
was producing hay, beef, flour, figs, beer, ice, eggs, and butter for the Arizona
territory’s growing population, particularly the mining boomtowns. Canals in the
Phoenix area totaled about 386 km (about 240 mi) in 1886.
By 1875 the town had a courthouse, a school, saloons, and dance halls. An electricity
generating plant run by steam, one of the first in the west, was built in 1886,
and the railroad arrived in 1887. Phoenix was incorporated as a city in 1881, and
in 1889 it became the capital of Arizona Territory. It remained the capital when
Arizona became a state in 1912. The city’s population first exceeded that of Tucson
in 1920, making it the state’s largest city.
After massive floods of the Salt River in 1891 wiped out many of the canals, a huge
modern flood control and irrigation system was developed around Phoenix. The federal
government in 1902 authorized the Salt River Project, and the completion of the
Theodore Roosevelt Dam on the Salt in 1911 assured the city of an adequate water
supply and flood control, as well as a source of power for the development of industries.
Since then three other dams have been built on the Salt. However, on several occasions
in recent years the Salt River has flooded and caused damage to the area.
During World War II a number of military training bases and airfields were established
near Phoenix. Following the war, thousands of army and air force veterans settled
here. In addition, retirees and others streamed into the Phoenix metropolitan area,
spurred by the development of affordable and reliable air-conditioning. Phoenix
became the largest center of trade, transportation, finance, and government between
Dallas, Texas, and the Pacific coast. Between 1940 and 1950 the city’s population
increased 63 percent; from 1950 to 1960 the increase was 300 percent.
In 1985 the Central Arizona Project, which brings water from the Colorado River,
was completed. This water has facilitated new housing developments and artificially
created lakes. The tremendous growth of the city has brought with it problems, including
urban sprawl, traffic congestion, air pollution, crime, unemployment, and homelessness.
Many residents fear that the beauties of the desert are being destroyed by the rapid
expansion of the city upon its natural periphery.