Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

The first subdivision in Phoenix, Arizona - 1893

The city of Phoenix sprawls. I've heard it described as just subdivisions looking for a city. And the most common thing I hear from people who've lived in Phoenix is how ridiculous it is for a developer to go way out into the middle of nowhere and build some houses when there is plenty of open land closer in. And it started in 1893, with a Real Estate developer named Clark Churchill.

Clark Churchill

Back in 1893, they were called "additions". That is, a developer would go outside of the city limits and build. And just like today, they're privately funded by people who hope that the commute won't be too far for people to deal with. And just like today, the idea was to get out into the country, where the air was clean. That was the beginning of suburbia (which just means "less than" urban - and urban means the city). So people were rushing out to suburbia in 1893, and continue to do so.

Of course, looking back on what was considered suburbia just seems ridiculous. But in 1893, anything north of Van Buren was outside of the city limits.

As I collect old photos of Phoenix and share them, I hear the same comments over and over. And I'm sure that the 1893 equivalent of Facebook would have seen the comments: "Who would want to live way out there?" or "Why not use the available land in town?"

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It wasn't as if Phoenix was getting too crowded in 1893, but then, like now, people liked to get a bargain, and living "out in the middle of nowhere" was cheaper. And that meant that you could get a much bigger chunk of property for less money. And so the suburban sprawl of Phoenix began.

By the way, it really started to take off in 1897 when a young Real Estate developer named Dwight Heard started creating additions, and selling Real Estate. He became fabulously wealthy, and he and his wife Maie collected art, especially Indian Art, which you can still see at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, in an area that he developed as an Addition.

1949 ad for Dwight B. Heard Investment, Phoenix, Arizona, in the Heard building, which is still there on Central between Adams and Monroe. 

Image at the top of this post: The Churchill Addition in 1893, the first subdivision of Phoenix, Arizona.

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