Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The oldest church in the Phoenix area - St. Mary's, Tempe, Arizona

If you've been on the campus of Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, maybe as a student, or visiting, or going to a game at the stadium, or, like I did today, eating a burger at the Chuckbox, you've been right nearby the oldest church in the valley, St. Mary's in Tempe, on the northwest corner of University and College. If you've gone past it a million times, that wouldn't be surprising either, it's pretty small. But it's been there since 1903, making it the oldest church in the valley.

Time travel with me (after you've had your burger, of course) and stand looking at the church in 1903. To the north is Tempe Butte (I call it A Mountain). The streets were dirt. Yes, the school was there, and had been since 1885, but it was called the Tempe Normal School. Nowadays, of course it's the home of the Sun Devils, ASU. Back then it was the home of the, uh, Normals. Really, that was the name of the team back then.

That's all I know. The sign in the front says the Newman Center, but mostly I looked at the historical plaque, which was installed in 1980. It says, "The Old Church. Built in 1903 with stone from Tempe Butte and dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, this Church is the oldest in the valley. For decades it was the only Catholic Church in the area and former Pastors include Bishop James Davis of Santa Fe and Bishop Francis Green of Tucson. It is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places."

Thank you for time-traveling with me.

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Mission Revival architecture in Phoenix, Arizona

Mission Revival is the name of a style of architectural design that was very popular in the 1920s, and it's still popular nowadays in Phoenix. Well, kind of. In its simplest form, you can describe it as red tile roofs and stucco.

Personally, I like the look of Mission Revival. And yes, I know it's an artificial style that was inspired by the Spanish Missions, and the popularity of Zorro movies. Of course, the building has to have a red tile roof and stucco, but true Mission Revival has so much more.

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The Heard Museum, shown above in 1938, when it was pretty new, is a great example of Mission Revival. It's still there, on Central south of Thomas Road (between Oak and Monte Vista). It does everything right. There are the romantic balconies with the ironwork, the arching windows and entrance ways, and a courtyard. Yes, it's the feeling of old Spain, or old California, as if Zorro will come riding in any minute.

If you visit Santa Barbara, California, this is about all you'll see. The earthquake of 1925 pretty much knocked all of the old buildings down, and the city decided to rebuild with Mission Revival. So, if you like Mission Revival, go visit Santa Barbara, where it's done beautifully, all over the town. And realize that you're looking at an artificial city created in the 1920s to look like old Spain, or old California.

I love old buildings, of any style. And the next time someone criticizes your red tile roof and stucco house in Phoenix, just smile knowingly and say, "It's modified Mission Revival!"

Why there is no such thing as reverse discrimination

Every once in a while I hear someone use the term "reverse discrimination", and it just makes me cringe. Discrimination is discrimination. If someone is denied a job on the basis of their gender or the color of their skin, they have been discriminated against. And not only has it been against the law in the United States for almost fifty years, it's just plain wrong, cruel and evil.

Equal opportunity is not about discriminating against one group of people, and favoring another group. It's about equality. And equality does not mean "turnabout is fair play" and creating a barrier for someone in a particular group. For people who believe in this, they have missed the point.

Yes, discrimination is still functioning with a lot of people in the United States. They have selected groups to favor, and groups to discriminate against. And that brings me to "reverse discrimination".

I'm a white guy, so discriminating against me is typically called "reverse discrimination". So if I'm denied a job on the basis of my gender and race, it's as illegal as discriminating against a person for being a woman, or being black, which is wrong.

As a young man in Los Angeles in the 1980s, I saw it up close and personal as companies tried to figure out what to do to be inclusive, and have a diverse workplace. And all it meant to me personally is that I was told that because of my race and gender that I couldn't get the job. If you think it's funny, think again. People need jobs, and being discriminated against stinks. When I did get a job in a company in Los Angeles, my boss regularly was given memos which effectively said "skip over any person of a particular race and gender for promotions" - which was me.

No, I'm not complaining, I'm just looking back. And things have gotten so much better since then. There's still a long way to go, and it begins with everyone understanding that a person should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

A visit to the Pueblo Grande Museum to see a old hitching post, Phoenix, Arizona

Yesterday I visited a wonderful place, the Pueblo Grande Museum at 46th Street and Washington in Phoenix. I highly recommend it. You can, of course, just go there, but I'm not really much for museums. So my visit was different.

Usually when people hear that I'm interested in Phoenix history, they want to take me museums, or make me look at history books. And yeah, I like to do a little bit of that, but what I'm looking for, and looking at, is a bigger picture. I'm not a researcher, I'm a time-traveler.

I visited the archival area. They have a granite hitching post that had been found buried under the street at the intersection of Jefferson and 1st Avenue during construction of the light rail in 2006. Of course, it's historic (from territorial times) not Hohokam, so I had no idea that Pueblo Grande would have any interest in it. I was amazed, and pleased, to see that they do care.

Of course, there's no way to precisely date the hitching post, but it's been over 100 years since anyone hitched a horse in downtown Phoenix, at Jefferson and 1st Avenue. It has a rounded top and a hole drilled into it, which I learned is where there was a ring for tying the reigns of a horse. I found a lot of images that look like it on the internet, but I really know nothing about horses. The rock is exactly three feet long. The grooves cut along the side still puzzle me. At first I thought that it was so it could be a fence post, but they're on two edges, and there's spaced in a strange way. So I'm still puzzled.

It's a fun puzzle. And I got to touch a piece of Phoenix history, even if it's just an old rock. If you're a time traveler, like me, you understand. Otherwise it's just an old rock. This isn't the kind of thing that's displayed with velvet ropes around it, and it really doesn't have a value on eBay. But it's priceless, and when you time-travel to downtown Phoenix in territorial days, and hitch your horse to it, it's amazing.

Thank you, Pueblo Grande Museum!

Pueblo Grande Museum is located on a 1,500 year old archaeological site left by the Hohokam culture located just minutes from downtown Phoenix next to Sky Harbor International Airport.  This National Historic Landmark and Phoenix Point of Pride has been a part of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department since 1929, and is the largest preserved archaeological site within Phoenix.  Easily accessible by the Sky Train and the Light Rail, the museum is open 7 days a week October through April, and closed Sundays and Mondays, May through September.

How to do history adventuring in Phoenix, Arizona

I love going history adventuring in the Phoenix area, and I do it all of the time. I live nearby Glendale Community College, which is just south of the Sahuaro Ranch (yeah, that's how they spell it), and when I walk over there, it transforms for me into the Bartlett Ranch in the 1890s. I stand there and try to imagine when you could see to Four Peaks in the east and the White Tanks in the west (you can still easily see the White Tanks - it's not that far from them). Just being there is the whole point. I don't necessarily need to take photos, or read plaques, or go into buildings and talk to tour guides. I just like being there, with my feet touching the same ground that the pioneers walked on, and the Hohokam, too.

Collecting old photos of Phoenix is my hobby, and I've never been satisfied with "back in the day" or "somewheres". I want to know as precisely as possible when the photo was taken, and exactly where. And I want to visit there, both physically, and as a time-traveler.

I've been doing this kind of stuff since I lived in Los Angeles in my twenties. It was a way for me to take a "mini-vacation" - to just get away from the noise, the traffic, and all that stuff that makes life exciting and nerve-racking. But you have to realize that most people enjoy traffic, and noise, and crowds, and going to the local Starbucks, maybe talking about what a celebrity has been doing lately. So, if you wander off, well, you're kind of weird. Here are some things I've done over the years to make me feel less weird:

• Have a cover story. Telling people that you're looking for where Hattie Mosher's house used to be is just gonna puzzle people. They would have to listen to who she was, and then try to figure out why anyone would want to just go where there's just a parking lot nowadays. I have several cover stories - I have a bad ankle, so I'm always rehabbing it (that's actually true, it's made me gimpy for over ten years now), I'm interested in architecture (that's true, although I could never do the math to become an architect), I'm doing research on a book (that's not true, I just write in this blog). In my younger days I used a trick that I learned from reading John Steinbeck, which is to tell people that you're trying to win a bet. People will be comfortable with just about anything you're doing as long as they know you're trying to win a bet!

• Find an historic building in Phoenix. Yeah, you'll have to start by listening to people say that they've all been torn down, so just show them this list of the Historic Property Register for the Phoenix area. If you go visit all of the places on that list, let me know!

• Find someone to share it with. Over the years I've found that many people actually do like this, if they understand the point. At first most people may think that it's some kind of "history lesson", but time-traveling is different, and you have to do it to understand. It just feels good.

Image above: Floyd Ikhard Appliance in 1945, 1st Avenue just south of Roosevelt, Phoenix, Arizona.

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John Greenway in Ajo, Arizona and Coleraine, Minnesota

John Greenway, a former Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt, helped to develop the fabulous Mesabi Iron Ore Range of Northern Minnesota in the early 1900's and then did the same for copper in Ajo, Arizona.

"Greenway was the second man to the top of San Juan Hill and first behind enemy lines...I only envy Greenway. I wanted to be the first there myself, but he outran me!...He was a 200-pounder, slightly over six feet tall, who thrived on embalmed beef and regarded the entire Cuban campaign through intense heat and jungle as nothing more an enjoyable outing..."
— The Rough Riders1899, Theodore Roosevelt.

Rough RidersJohn Greenway and Teddy Roosevelt as Rough Riders. That's John Greenway (in the white shirt) at Teddy Roosevelt's right side (To the left of Teddy as you look at the photo). More about the Spanish-American war.

Michael CurleyMichael Curley, 1874-1945. Photo from The Ajo Copper News, 1954. He became the Superintent of the Ajo mine. When John Greenway was chosen by The Oliver Mining Company in 1905 to open a new iron ore district of Coleraine on the western Mesabi, he picked Curley to go with him. When Greenway began operations at Ajo, Arizona, in 1912, he brought Mike down from Minnesota with him. The High School in Ajo, Arizona, is named after Michael Curley. It was built in 1919.

Isabella, John, MarthaIsabella Greenway (John's wife), John Greenway, Martha Ferguson. Martha was Isabella's daughter from a previous marriage to John's friend and fellow Rough Rider Bob Ferguson. Ajo, 1924. This photo is from Tucson's Arizona Inn, The Continuum of Style, by Blake Brophy, reprinted from The Journal of Arizona History, Volume 24, Number 3, 1983. I got this booklet at The Arizona Inn, in Tucson, which was founded by Isabella Greenway. More about Isabella Greenway in Congress. Isabella Greenway, an Enterprising Woman by Kristie Miller.

Coleraine 1920Coleraine, Minnesota, 1920. John Greenway named this town after the president of the Oliver Mining Company, Thomas F. Cole. It was to be a "spotless" town for the miners and their families and it's still a gem today 100 years later. The main street, Roosevelt, was named after John's old friend and fellow Rough-Rider, Teddy.

view of AjoAjo, Arizona, 1941. John Greenway came to Ajo, Arizona to do the same thing for copper in Arizona that he had done for iron ore in Minnesota, that is, take mines that had not been producing much and make them work. He did. Drawing from booklet Ajo, Early history of Ajo, home of New Cornelia Branch, Phelps Dodge Corporation, 1941. This view of the town is still about the same today, the palm trees are much taller, that's about all. The school under the flag is Curley High School. The Greenway mansion was just over the hill, facing the copper mine. 

Ajo plazaThe beautiful plaza in Ajo, Arizona, modern day. This is the view of the town to be seen as you stepped off of the train. The layout and construction of the plaza was in 1916. The Town Site of The New Cornelia Copper Co., Ajo, Arizona, from Architecture Magazine, 1919 (pdf)

Greenway mansionLocation of the Greenway Mansion and John Greenway's former burial site, Ajo, Arizona. Every morning on his way to work, John Greenway would stop his horse on a small hill, look back at the house and wave to Isabella. In 1926 he was buried at that spot, overlooking the Ajo mine in one direction and his home in the other. In 1995, John Greenway was disinterred and moved to the family vault near Burlington, in Boone county, Kentucky.

Greenway mansionGreenway mansion, Ajo, Arizona. Built in 1924. Designed by George Washington Smith, a reknown Santa Barbara architect famous for Spanish mission revival style. Isabella Greenway moved to Tucson when her husband John died in 1926 from complications during a minor surgery. He was only 54. The giant cross on the hillside nearby was put up by Isabella in his memory. It is made from the wire frame of the funeral floral piece that has been covered with cement. The Greenway mansion was used for a time as a convent and was unoccupied when I visited it back in the late nineties. Currently, the Greenway mansion is owned privately and is being restored.

John Greenway's funeralJohn Greenway's funeral was held in Ajo, Arizona on Saturday, January 26, 1926. Five Pullman cars arrived. Forrest Rickard [The development of Ajo to mid-year 1942] claims over 3000 people were at the funeral…believable since nearly all of Ajo would have turned out. 17 of the 18 living Arizona Rough Riders were in attendance. Governor George Wylie Hunt and ex-governor Thomas E. Campbell were there. P. G. Beckett, Vice President and General Manager, Western Organization, Phelps Dodge Corporation" was also in attendance. The President of the University of Arizona (Cloyd Heck Marvin) and the President of Valley National Bank (C. E. Mills) were there too. No mention was made of any Roosevelts by Rickard but he only gave a partial list of notables. The funeral directors called it the funeral of the century. Bi-planes flew overhead dropping flowers on the gravesite.

John Greenway's grave markerJohn Greenway's Marker in Kentucky. From the book by Don Boese and Patricia Wells: John C. Greenway's funeral in 1926 in the desert near his Arizona model town, Ajo, was an elaborate affair with special trains carrying the multitude of mourners to the remote location and bringing vast quantities of flowers along with the latest in funeral equipment and a new model hearse. The hearse ignored, Greenway's coffin was hand-carried to the rock cut tomb that had been carefully prepared. For many years a daily flag raising ceremony was held there but in later decades the site was deserted and fell into disrepair although the magnificent desert view remained. The large copper plate that bore Greenway's name included also that of his wife, Isabella, who he had married not long before his death. But after her illustrious career serving the state of Arizona, she was buried in her family plot located in Kentucky adjacent to the home where she grew up. Before her death she had expressed a wish that Greenway's body be moved to be near her own future resting place and in a surprising move, ten-years ago Greenway family members at last decided to fulfill that request. Greenway's remains were disinterred and taken to the Kentucky location.

John Greenway statueJohn Greenway's statue given by Arizona in 1930 at the National Statuary Hall Collection, Washington DC. Bronze by Gutzon Borglum. In 2008 the Arizona State Legislature began making provisions to have the statue of John Greenway replaced by a statue of Barry Goldwater, but currently, John Greenway is still there.

Bisbee deportationThe Bisbee Deportation. In 1917, John Greenway supervised the creation of vigilante leagues, falsely implying that the roundup had support of the federal government, which it did not. Read more about the Bisbee Deportation.

John C. GreenwayJohn Greenway's life after the mines. In October, 1917, John Greenway resigned his position with the mine and accepted a commission as a major in the army, and was sent to France. He was indicted for kidnapping and conspiracy for his role in the Bisbee Deportation, but the charges were dropped. After the war, he returned to Arizona where he was active in business and was frequently mentioned as a candidate for governor.

Ajo strike of 1984Arizona Republic, August 13th, 1984. The mining strike against Phelps-Dodge in Ajo.This is how the ownership of the Ajo mine went: It started as a Spanish mine nicknamed "The Old Bat Hole", which was abandoned and later discovered in 1847 by the first Anglo in Ajo, Tom Childs. This became the Arizona Mining & Trading company, founded by Peter M. Brady. He sold the mine to the Cornelia Minining Company (of St. Louis, Missouri). They were unsuccessful and in turn sold it to the Calumet and Arizona Mining company, which was coordinated by John Greenway. They were very successful!

You can visit the Calumet and Arizona guest house here. The Calumet and Arizona sold it to Phelps-Dodge. On March 19th, 2007, Phelps-Dodge was aquired by Freeport-McMoRan and now operates under the name of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.

markerA.V. Towsend marker, Lake View Cemetery, Coleraine, Minnesota. This marker from 1908 caught my eye. It says "Died Dec. 25 1908, Age 35 yrs, 2 months, 12 days. Member of Roosevelt's Rough Rider Regt. This stone erected in affectionate memory by a comrade". I took this photo in 1995 during a visit to see my Grandmother, who lived in Bovey. The comrade was John Greenway.

The Arizona InnThe Arizona Inn, founded by Isabella Greenway, John's widow. The Arizona Inn was founded by Isabella in 1930, four years after John's death. Isabella built the Inn in for its own sake and also to help disabled World War I veterans preserve their jobs in her philanthropically inspired furniture shop, “The Arizona Hut”. When the shop ran into financial trouble following the stock market crash of 1929, Isabella characteristically rose to the occasion and built the Arizona Inn as a way to create enough demand to keep the shop going. Read more about the Arizona Inn. Photo ©2009 Kristen Aliotti.

Greenway house view in Santa Barbara, CaliforniaThe view from the Greenway house, Santa Barbara, California. Isabella Greenway lived in Santa Barbara in the 1920s, as confirmed by Michael E. Redmon, Santa Barbara Historical Museum Director of Research, in the 1929-1930 Santa Barbara City Directory. It is now a private residence and it has this wonderful view of the harbor.

Flooding in the desert, Phoenix, Arizona

While I was attending ASU in Tempe, Arizona, I got to experience what was called the "100-year flood" and the "500-year flood". I have to admit that I was genuinely puzzled as to how a city in the desert could suffer from such severe flooding. I have since learned about the flood of 1965, and just recently about the flood of 1891 (pictured). And once you understand why this happens, you understand why Phoenix was really such a good place to build a city in 1870, and why it still prospers today, out in the desert, with plenty of water.

History buffs and engineering geeks know that Phoenix sits at the bottom of one of the largest watersheds on the planet. That is, when it rains, and when the snow melts, up in northeast Arizona, all of that water comes pouring down through the Salt River Valley. And that enormous amount of water has been the curse, and the blessing, of Phoenix, Arizona.

Unlike desert cities like Las Vegas, or even Los Angeles, Phoenix, Arizona doesn't need to pipe water in from miles away. The water has been pouring down the Salt River for over 10,000 years. It connects up with The Gila River, going southwest, and empties into Baja California. People who have lived in the Salt River Valley for thousands of years have dealt with seasonal flooding. In good times, it was enough water to grow crops, in bad times, it washed everything away.

Seventy years ago the Federal government built a dam way out on the Colorado River and asked Arizona if it wanted to help pay for it. The Governor of Arizona just laughed. Why would Phoenix need to pipe in water from hundreds of miles away when all it had to do was to catch the water that flowed right by it's front door every year? Governor Hunt did not sign the bill, but the Federal Government pushed it through, anyway. That water, called The Central Arizona Project, arrived in the 1980s.

The water that flows through Phoenix, which provides water and power, and yes, occasionally floods, is called The Salt River Project.

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A celebration of the Old West in Phoenix in 1903

When I first started collecting old photos of Phoenix, I had some idea that I would categorize them by certain eras, such as “territorial”. After a while, as my collection became larger, I came to realize that the term “territorial” really didn't work. That would be from 1863 until 1912, which is nearly fifty years. And as much as I resent the term “back in the day”, the old photos of territorial Phoenix all looked pretty much the same to me. Then I started looking closer at images of parades in Phoenix around the turn of the century, and especially something called the Indian and Cowboy Carnival.

Take a look at the photo above of Washington looking west towards 1st Street. No, it's not really the Old West, it's a parade showing how the Old West might have looked, in their imagination. It's 1903, and Phoenix had already become very modern. Take a closer look - those are telephone and electrical wires. There are trolley car tracks in the street. Even though it was only 1903, an effort was being made to create the look and feel of the “Old West”. You know, back before it was all erased by modern stuff, like electricity.

1900 ad for the Indian and Cowboy Carnival, Phoenix, Arizona.

Now, waitaminute, I'm not criticizing the people who organized this kind of stuff. Phoenix was never really an “Old West” town, with gunfights in the streets, that sort of thing. Phoenix was, and is, a law-abiding and modern city. Phoenix was a town of banks, and of merchants. It wasn't a lawless place, like many other western towns (I won't mention any names, but you know where I mean!). But tourists want to see the "Old West"!

I also have photos of fake gunfights in the streets of Scottsdale in the 1960s. And really, the 1903 photo is just as much of a fake. It was for the tourists. It brought people into town to spend money. And I really hate to spoil the illusion, but that's all it is, an illusion. And there's nothing wrong with fantasy, as long as we don't look at old photos and imagine that it was the truth.

Staged gunfight in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1966

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The warmest part of the Phoenix area, Arcadia

The Arcadia area, on the southern foothills of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, is the warmest area in the valley. If you live in the Phoenix area, as I have for years, that doesn't sound like much of a recommendation, certainly not in summer. But you have to look at it from the perspective of winter visitors, wealthy homeowners, and oranges.

• Tourists. For the past eighty years, a huge amount of the economy in Phoenix has been based on tourism. And, unlike us desert rats, who suffer through the summer, these people do not want to be cold. They are coming from places with snow and ice. And they want to get out into the warm sunshine. So if you could choose anywhere in Phoenix to build a tourist resort that would have the least cold temperatures in the valley, you would build it on the southern foothills of Camelback Mountain.

• The wealthy. As for the wealthier crowd, they can afford to be away in the summer. Many of those big, beautiful mansions in Arcadia are only visited by their owners in the winter. And they want to be warm. And because this area faces south, and is on a slope, it gets the most sunshine, and the least frost, in the valley.

• Oranges. And that brings us to oranges. Long before the tourists, and the wealthy landowners, this land was the best in the valley to grow oranges. That's because of the above reason, the most warmth, the most sunshine and the least frost.

Image at the top of this post: Arcadia in 1956, southern slope of Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona.

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The rivers and creeks of Glendale and Peoria, Arizona

If you grew up in Minneapolis, like I did, it was easy to recognize a river, or a creek. In the Phoenix area, it's not so easy. That's because in Minneapolis they always have water in them, and in Phoenix, the water only flows seasonally. So you have to look more carefully. If you've done much hiking, you know what I mean.

A couple of years ago I started working on figuring out the different rivers and creeks that I have been crossing over in my car for many years now. And the more I learn, the more I see. There are a lot of bridges in my neighborhood, which for me is from Glendale Community College to the Arrowhead area.

It's quite a compliment to the Maricopa Country Flood Control District that most of the crossings over the rivers and creeks make them virtually invisible. It's not as if I see a sign anywhere that says, “don't cross when flooded”. You can cross all of the time, the bridges are there, and are just a continuation of the street. But I like reading the signs. I'll start with my favorite, which is...

• Skunk Creek. I see that sign as I cross over towards Arrowhead Mall on Bell Road at about 70th Avenue. Go ahead and do a Google map - there it is. It shows up as a blue line, but in real life, it's not really the kind of creek that I remember from being a kid, you know, with flowing water all of the time. Here in the desert, creeks and rivers are riparian, that is, you can see stuff growing there because the water flows seasonally, and the bed remains wet enough for plants with deep enough roots to grow all of the time, that would never survive on the desert floor. If you follow Skunk Creek southwest, it flows into...

• New River. Friends of mine who can put up with my sense of humor have often heard me complain that for as long as it's been there, it still has the name of New River. When the pioneers first saw it, they called it New River. 100 years from now it will probably still be called New River. Like all of waterways in the Salt River Valley, it flows southwest. It empties into...

• The Agua Fria River. In case anyone asks you, that's Spanish for Cold Water. It runs from north to south. It's been an obstacle to travel since the days of the pioneers, and still sometimes is. It runs just west of the 101 Freeway. Take a look at a satellite view, it's mostly a big gouge that is crossed by some very long bridges. The Agua Fria River empties out where...

• The Salt River and the Gila River combine with the Agua Fria. If you speak Spanish, you would call it Tres Rios (Three Rivers). The wetlands with that name is just east of there. And the Gila River carries all of this water out toward Yuma and ultimately into the Gulf of California, and the Pacific Ocean.

Above: Frank Midvale's map from 1969 of the New River area of Peoria, Arizona.

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Where the rain in Phoenix, Arizona flows to

Even though Phoenix is in the desert, a lot of water flows through it. There are always summer thunderstorms, and in the winter what I like to call "Christmas rains", which are usually more gentle. And then in the spring the snow melts in the uplifted areas northeast of Phoenix and flows down to the valley through the Salt River, the Verde, and hundreds of other rivers and washes. Controlling the flooding in the valley has been a problem since the days of the Hohokams, and continues to be a challenge to the engineers of Phoenix. And although the storm drains don't say "flows to the ocean" like they do in LA, the water does. It flows to the Gulf of California. This is how it flows, starting with my little house in suburban Glendale when it rains.

When the rain begins, and starts to water my petunias, after a little while it puddles in my backyard. Then it flows along the side of my house and drains out to the front into the street. The Salt River Valley, from north Scottsdale to Goodyear, tilts from northeast to southwest. So all of the water flows downhill towards a place called "Tres Rios" (Spanish for Three Rivers), which is the convergence of the Agua Fria, the Salt, and the Gila (which flows from the south).

Tres Rios is a wetlands, and also a sewage water treatment plant. From there, the water that started in my backyard in Glendale flows down the Gila River towards Yuma, where it empties out at the mouth of the Colorado River at the Gulf of California, and then on to the Pacific Ocean.

Of course when the snow melts in the watershed northeast of Phoenix, much of the water is caught in reservoirs along the Salt River, the largest of which is the Roosevelt Dam, which has been there since 1911. When there is too much water for the dams to hold (and there are seven on the Salt River), it's released down into the normally-dry riverbed of the Salt River south of the airport. When I went to ASU, I remember that it knocked down most of the bridges. I grew up in Minneapolis, and I always thought that it was kind of strange that the bridges in the Phoenix area only worked when there wasn't any water flowing under them. But I didn't know about the enormous force of the water being released.

If you're new to Phoenix, or you hadn't given it much thought before, it might seem surprising that controlling floodwater is such a big concern for a desert city. I know that it surprised me when I found out about it, and it continues to fascinate me. Thank you, Maricopa County Flood Control District!

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Why the roads that cross Baseline Road do that jog to the west

If you live in the Phoenix area, you may have noticed that the roads that cross Baseline Road do a jog to the west. It's more noticeable on a map, and it has to do with something called "Sections", which is how the area was divided up, long before any of the roads were built.

A section is a square mile, and in Arizona, it's determined by its distance from a point at the Initial Monument, which is on a hill right nearby Phoenix International Raceway, at the intersection of the Gila and Salt River Meridian (Avondale Boulevard), and Baseline Road. There's actually a physical piece of metal up there on the hill, and if you have more energy than I do, you may have hiked up there to take a look.

The map above, which is from 1892, shows that the sections above and below the Arizona Baseline (indicated by the red arrow), never really lined up correctly. I'm no expert on this kind of stuff, but I'm inclined to believe that the more careful surveying was done up near Phoenix, and as you got closer to the river, it wasn't quite so carefully done. I've also read that it was done intentionally to allow for the curvature of the earth. For whatever reason, the sections didn't line up to the north and south of the Arizona Baseline, which is nowadays Baseline Road.

Of course, once something is measured and becomes legal, even a few hundred feet matters to a landowner. I've seen people here in my little suburban neighborhood in Glendale get upset if a brick goes past their property line even a few inches. So the roads had to stay along the edges of the sections. And that meant doing the "Baseline Jog" that you see to this day.

The map is from the last page of the 1892 pamphlet Salt River Valley South Side, the Fruit Belt of Arizona

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The difference between Cave Creek and Cave Creek Road

I've lived in Phoenix for a long time now, and one thing that I learned is that very few people here know much about its geography. I'm not talking about being an expert on rocks and minerals (that's geology, anyway), I'm talking about people who assume that when I say “Cave Creek” I mean Cave Creek Road, or the City of Cave Creek. When I say, “no, I mean the creek”, usually the response is “there's a creek?”

To be fair, places like the Agua Fria River, or Cave Creek, are not really marked all that well on road maps. When people need to travel around Phoenix, they need to know the roads, not the geography. And when I ask someone, I am usually referred to some historic map, or maybe I should go look at a book in the library. And with the huge amount of historic maps and documents that have become available on the internet recently (in only the past 2-3 years), I am getting the answers that I have been looking for. So I will stop asking people and hopefully I will get less “are you crazy?” looks.

Cave Creek (I'm talking about the creek now, not the road, or the town), flowed diagonally just to the west of the Phoenix Mountains. In modern terms, it's where the flood plain is today, just east of the Metrocenter Mall. And yes, there is a flood plain there, and that's why the freeway does that little jog right there. Take a look at a Google map Satellite view and you'll see it.

The map above, from 1892, shows Cave Creek in its historic location. Of course now it's all dried up, except when it rains, and the water flows through storm drains into the diversion channel (Thunderbird Paseo Park).

This was the trail, along the creek that took you to the gold mine areas north of Phoenix, especially F.A. Shaw's Maricopa Mine near Spur Cross Ranch. To get there, you just followed the creek past Shaw Butte. No need for a road map!

Where Cave Creek is in Phoenix, Arizona

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Some common misconceptions about Phoenix, Arizona

I moved to Phoenix when I was a teenager, and I just love it here. I grew up in Minneapolis, land of ice and snow, and even after all of these years I still marvel at how lucky I am to live where it gets to 70 degrees in winter. I'm also interested in Phoenix history, and have stumbled into a lot of misconceptions about my favorite city. Here are a few things.

Some common misconceptions about Phoenix, Arizona

• It used to be much cooler in Phoenix. No, it wasn't. Unless you count the last Ice Age, Phoenix has always been very, very hot. Yeah, I've lived here a long time, and I would like to tell the newcomers that “back in the day” it was cooler, but no, it wasn't. I made the mistake of moving to Phoenix in August, in a car that didn't have air conditioning. The weather has always been extreme in Phoenix. It’s in a gigantic desert. And if someone tells you that the tiny ribbons of concrete and the small amount of asphalt paved on the Sonoran Desert has made it hot, go fly over it. As big as Phoenix is, it's tiny compared to the desert that surrounds it.

• Rivers ran all year-round in Phoenix before the dams were built. No, they didn't. Rivers like the Salt, the Gila, and the Verde, are riparian washes, like just all of the other rivers in the Sonoran Desert. They dry up in the summer, and they flood in the winter. The dams on these rivers didn't stop a gentle flow, they stopped catastrophic yearly flooding. If you want to see what these rivers looked like before the dams were built, look at any other river in the Sonoran Desert. If you've done much hiking, you know what they look like - dry in the summer, wet and muddy in the winter.

Phoenix was all built after World War II. No, it wasn't. The townsite of Phoenix was platted in 1870, and started growing explosively after the Roosevelt Dam was finished in 1911. The reason that Phoenix looks so new it that the city has grown so quickly that it quickly outgrows its buildings, streets and freeways. And the invention of air conditioning was perfected in the 1950s, and that meant that old, poorly-insulated buildings were torn down in favor of newer ones that would be less expensive to air-condition.

So there are a few things about my favorite city that are common misconceptions. Of course, there are a lot more, and I hear new ones all of the time. But don't get me wrong, I love Phoenix, and it's a great place to live. And may I recommend having good air conditioning in your house and car to be your first priority? And if it's winter, go play golf!

Photo above: The Spur Cross Conservation Area near Cave Creek, Arizona. The elevation is slightly higher, but if you want to travel back in time to see what Phoenix looked like over 100 years ago, there it is.

From Phoenix to Tucson and back in four hours in 1911

When W. F. Brong and Frisco Enright drove their car from Phoenix to Tucson and back in 4 hours 39 minutes and 49 1/2 seconds in 1911 it must have been amazing. And the old-timers must have been wondering what the world was coming to. Let's time-travel.

The world that most people knew in 1911, especially in places like Phoenix, moved at a walking pace. That is, about two miles an hour for people, and an average of four miles an hour for horses. Of course, horses could gallop up to 25 miles an hour, and trains went at about that rate, but that was an extreme. Very few people had ever seen anything go faster than that, and automobiles were now able to go double that.

It must have been amazing to see automobiles just absolutely flying by on the track at the State Fairgrounds. But the overland races, like the one to Tucson and back, must have really been something that people could relate to.

For centuries, the pace of a horse was the measure of reasonable distances. Going thirty miles in a day, from sunrise to sundown, was considered a reasonable distance. In fact, if you look at the Missions in California, they were spaced out a day's ride when they were built in the 1700 and 1800s. Of course, people could travel faster than that, but it was an expectation of a reasonable time.

So, jumping in a car in 1911 at Central and Washington and getting to Tempe in 14 minutes must have been amazing. The route, by the way, was along the Tempe Road (which is now Van Buren and then Washington which turns into Mill Avenue as it crosses the river). W. F. and Frisco crossed the river where the Mill Avenue Bridge is nowadays, although they drove across on the river bottom.

And these guys must have been tough, and more than a little bit crazy. The noise of sitting on one of these cars must have been horrific - like sitting on top of a very loud lawn mower for four hours. And even if there were paved roads (and there weren't), the ride was horribly jarring. Not to mention the constant dust. Yeah, these were tough guys.

Every once in a while I go to Tucson and back and it seems to me the most annoying thing is dealing with drivers who are driving too slow, or too fast. Or maybe it's passing trucks. My car, which is very ordinary, has power steering, cruise control, air-conditioning, stereo music, cup holders, and very comfortable shock-absorbers. The guys in 1911 didn't have the Dairy Queen by Picacho Peak to stop at, either.

Thanks for time-traveling with me. By the way, if you want to read the whole article, it's online at the Library of Congress here http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1911-01-07/ed-1/seq-11.pdf

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The Phoenix, Arizona Historical Images Digital Project

In 2011 I took a look at the boxes of old Phoenix photos and collateral that I had rescued when Valley National Bank was taken over by Bank One in 1992. My thought at the time was that it would be a terrible shame to let all of this wonderful history just go into the dumpster. But then I realized that having it sit in a file cabinet in my garage was just about the same thing. So, little by little, I started scanning in stuff.

When Google+ was new, I created a "business page" called Phoenix Historical Images. I had created a few web pages before that had Phoenix images on them, but this looked like a great place to put lots of stuff. And it is! If you keep your images to 2048 or below, Google allows unlimited free uploads.

I finished scanning in the stuff that I had by the middle of 2012, but then found that I was just having too much fun to stop. People who I had met through the Google+ page started sharing stuff with me, and now it has turned into an ongoing project.

My goal for the Phoenix, Arizona Historical Image Project is twofold - I want to have fun (and I am!) and I want to create archive-quality digital images that can never be trapped in boxes on a shelf in a museum, or in a garage, and can never be thrown in to a dumpster.

If you see anything that you like here on this blog, please share it. Use them any way you want to, write a book, make a T-shirt, get rich, it doesn't matter to me. I have no copyright on these images, these aren't mine, you don't need my permission, nor do you have to give me credit. Just please don't let them get lost or thrown away.

Image above: Valley Center under construction in 1972, Central and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. Now called Chase Tower.

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