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

The luxury of living in a Phoenix suburb


I always wanted to live in the suburbs, which I do. In my younger days I lived in some pretty harsh and crowded conditions, but I knew that I was going to work hard, get promoted, and someday live away from the noise and confusion.

It surprises people when I tell them that if they don't live in the original Phoenix city limits (from 7th Avenue to 7th Street and from Van Buren to where the railroad tracks are), they're actually in the suburbs. And there's a reason why people wanted to move out of town when they could afford it. Time-travel with me.

1913 ad promoting the suburbs of Phoenix

By the time Dwight and Maie Heard started their company, the Suburban Land Company, in the 1890s, Phoenix had been growing, and getting more crowded. It's hard to imagine today, but there really were no rules. Businesses could throw garbage out into the alleys, horses were everywhere, along with the smell of the stuff that they, uh, leave behind. Water ran through the muddy streets. I could go on and on, but hopefully you can see what I mean. I'm making myself kinda ill just thinking about it.

So the suburbs (originally called "Additions") were created for people who wanted to get away from all of that. They were mostly protected by distance from the city, but they were also protected as much as possible by the people who lived in these new neighborhoods and didn't want them to be spoiled, by someone building a corral of pigs, for example. This is what suburbia is all about, the peace and quiet of the country, yet within an easy distance to commute to work downtown. The map up there from 1911 assured people that the new Addition of Los Olives wouldn't be too far away from Phoenix.

Of course, cities grow, and the suburbs end up being "too close" to downtown, where there are new businesses, including car dealerships, and other places that make noise and create pollution. So the suburbs move again. This has been going on in Phoenix for over 100 years.

When I bought my house in the suburbs (I live in Glendale) I never really gave it much thought. I just wanted a place to live, and a place to park my car. But as I write this, with my windows open on a Wednesday morning, I'm reminded of how much I like the peace and quiet of the suburbs. Often the loudest noise I hear is just the sound of the birds. I may hear a car go by, but after the morning rush (it's now 10:30) it's pretty quiet. There's no chance that a gigantic building will grow up a few blocks away from where I live, and in addition to a Homeowner's Association, the city of Glendale has some pretty strict laws pertaining to "not disturbing the peace".

I like the suburbs, and most people in Phoenix do, whether they realize it or not.


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