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How Phoenix, Arizona was destroyed by cars

To me, Phoenix has always been a city designed around cars. I live in the suburbs, and I remember that the most important thing to me when I bought my house was the garage. I love cars, and I've owned a lot of them. I've always had the "cowboy" mentality, of never walking when I could ride. So it wasn't until I started learning about old-time Phoenix that I realized that it had been destroyed by cars.

Like most people in Phoenix, I had no idea that Phoenix was an old as it is. I figured that it had pretty much started when the oldest malls were built, like back in the '50s. Or that maybe it was as old as the '20s, because of the old buildings that I used to see downtown. Actually, Phoenix goes back to 1870.

Time-travel with me to a Phoenix before automobiles. I'm making the distinction there, because there were cars, it's just that they were Street Cars. It's 1905, and we can go anywhere that we need to without the need for anything but our feet and the Street Cars.

The car lines (or trolley tracks if you prefer) were laid out beginning in the 1880s. Mostly they ran east and west along Washington, but you could also take the Indian School Car Line up 3rd Street, to the Indian School, on Indian School Road. You know, way out in the country. The cars also ran to East Lake Park, where there were things to do, which included a Natatorium (indoor swimming pool).

The cars (remember that I'm referring to Street Cars here) ran just about all of the time. There was no need to consult a schedule. But we really don't need the Street Cars, everything we need is right here within walking distance. And we have something that's almost unheard of in the 21st Century, free delivery. It worked like this: we walk into a store, choose what we want, and it's delivered to us. We don't carry stuff around, we just walk home, or take the Street Car back. The deliveries are done either with horses and wagons, or on bicycles, or on those newfangled things called "motorcycles".

The first car in Phoenix. You're looking east on Washington at 2nd Avenue.

Look! There's Dr. Swetman, with his horseless carriage! Let's go look at it, maybe he'll give us a ride. Can you image how wonderful it will be like when everyone has their own horseless carriage? No more walking, no more muddy streets, no more Street Cars.

Image at the top of this post: Looking west on Washington from just east of 1st Street in 1905, Phoenix, Arizona. The automobiles will change everything in just a few years.

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