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

How Scottsdale, Arizona got its name


Scottsdale, Arizona was named after Winfield Scott in 1894. He had a big ranch out there, in what was then called Orangedale, where downtown Scottsdale is now. Specifically, it was between Scottsdale and Hayden Roads and Chaparral and Indian School Road.

Winfield Scott

I've always had a fascination with names. I live in Glendale, Arizona which really doesn't mean anything (there was no one named Glen!) but the word "dale" was often used to give a nice, peaceful feeling to an area. Dale just means valley, but it's more poetic, I guess. I suppose the towns could have been called Scottsvalley or Glenvalley, but it just sound sound as good, does it?

Anyway, Winfield Scott was an U.S. Army Chaplain in the 1880s, and he and his brother decided to see how well it would go growing oranges out in the middle of the desert. I guess you'd call these guys "unrealistically optimistic" - but those are the kind of slightly kooky people who create places like Phoenix, and Scottsdale. Speaking for myself, I wouldn't have moved to the Salt River Valley decades before air conditioning was invented, but a lot of people did.

And contrary to how Scottsdale has been marketed, as "the West's Most Western Town", it never really was a wild place of shoot-outs, etc. It was a peaceful place of ranches, farms, and businesses. Most of what you see in Old Town Scottsdale was created in the 1950s, to give the illusion of an "Old West" town, mostly based on Western movies and TV shows. It's been very successful that way, as people love to go there, especially in the winter, from back east and see what life was really like in the "Old West". The city of Scottsdale has been very successful, and some of the most valuable Real Estate in the valley is there, so don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Many other towns that were established around that time weren't as successful, such as Weedville.

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And yes, there really was a time when horses had the right-of-way in Scottsdale, but it was before automobiles were invented. Winfield Scott got to see it all happen. He died in 1910, but he still saw amazing growth in the valley, including the invention of electricity, and automobiles. He didn't live long enough to see air conditioning, however, which really only got its start in the 1920s, and didn't become the modern version that we know of until the 1940s.

So yes, there really was a person named Scott, and Scottsdale really is a very nice, and successful, city in the Salt River Valley.

Thank you for going to Scottsdale with me!

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