Pueblo Grande is all that is left of the remnants of the civilization that existed before the arrival of the Phoenix pioneers in the 1860s. It's Spanish for Big Town, but really the Big Town was all over the Phoenix area. It was a civilization that built gigantic canals, and huge buildings. And it had been deserted for hundreds of years by the time people like Jack Swilling arrived in the valley. The modern city of Phoenix grew right on top of it, and the modern canals, although much smaller, follow similar routes to those built by the People Who Had Gone - the Hohokams.
|1929 Omar Turney map of the ancient canals.|
It must have been astonishing to see. In my imagination I can walk around the valley and see the gigantic empty canals, the crumbling remnants of adobe buildings. By the 1920s people like Omar Turney were scrambling to map it all, to photograph as much as they could, and to preserve a tiny bit, which is what the Pueblo Grande at 44th Street and Washington is.
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I've talked to a lot of people who have gone to the Pueblo Grande Museum. A large percentage had to go there on a field trip in school, some people went to the museum and came back wondering why they had even gone. So here's what I suggest:
Find out a little bit about the Hohokams in the Phoenix area. Take a look at the drawing at the top of this post, which is looking southeast towards where Tempe is today, and imagine Pueblo Grande. From the Salt River to the Phoenix Mountains. From Tempe to Peoria, and even more so. Then when you go visit Pueblo Grande, don't bother with the museum, or the gift shop. If someone hands you a pamphlet, just thank them politely and look towards the mountains. Pueblo Grande is a place, not a museum. When you see it, it's astonishing.