This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Speaking for the trees in Phoenix, Arizona


I like trees. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where there are a LOT of trees. When I moved to Phoenix, as a teenager, I missed the trees. When I lived in Tempe, going to ASU, I made a point of going to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum when I could, so I could walk under trees. Trees make me feel better. Yeah, I'm a tree-hugger. I speak for the trees. And whenever I see another one cut down in Phoenix, a little bit of me dies, too.

But I understand that I live in the desert. The Phoenix that I first saw was a pretty sterile tree-less place, and I figured that it always had been. But then I started finding photos of old Phoenix, when it was a city of trees. And it all started making sense.


Before the invention of air conditioning, Phoenix had a LOT of trees. The pioneers started planting them in the 1860s, and by the time Arizona became a state, in 1912, Phoenix was a forest of trees. It must have been amazing. All that shade, all of those green leaves. People could walk in the shade along just about every road.

Looking north on Central from Monroe in 1920, Phoenix, Arizona.

If you want to see what Phoenix used to look like, drive along Central Avenue between Bethany Home Road and the canal. Or better yet, walk, or ride a horse, under the trees.


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