This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

How to find the soul and spirit of Phoenix, Arizona


I collect old photos of Phoenix, and post them on the web, and every once in a while I see a comment that says that Phoenix has lost its soul. Maybe the buildings have lost their soul, or the malls, or whatever. And it makes me sad, because I want to show them that Phoenix has never lost its soul, or spirit. It has what I call "unrealistic optimism", and it's always had it, and still does. Please let me explain.

My research of Phoenix is leading me to discover that the people who have done things there are, well, just a little bit crazy. Sorry, but the pioneers who built the canals in the 1800s, to people who invested in gigantic air conditioned malls in the 1960s have something in common - an optimism that I find amazing.

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If you want to a label on it, it's Progressivism. That's someone staring out at miles and miles of empty desert and imagining an oasis. Imagining a city, with places for people to live, to work, to play, to live.

The city of Phoenix exists because people were crazy enough to build stuff there. They built canals, for a steady supply of water, they built dams to insure water for the future. They built buildings, homes, schools, roads, freeways. From the first time that Jack Swilling set down his whiskey bottle long enough to get his crew working on the canal from the Salt River, people have been building. It's never stopped, and it's never even slowed down.

And that's what's at the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. Moving forward, progressing, building. So to look for the soul and spirit of Phoenix look for construction. Look for buildings being built, for roads being widened, for freeways under construction. Phoenix moves forward, it always has, and hopefully always will.


Image at the top of this post: the Heard Building under construction in 1919, Central Avenue between Adams and Monroe.