As a history adventurer, I'm fascinated with the growth of cities. I live in Glendale, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix, and I'm especially interested in rebirth. It's been the story of Phoenix since it began, it grows and builds on top of itself. Underneath the Walmart Neighborhood Market at Westporte Village, at 67th Avenue and Peoria, is the history of this tiny part of the Sonoran Desert, going back to the Hohokams, and the beginning of the desert, over 10,000 years ago, when the last Ice Age ended.
Let's start with today. I bought the crackers and cheese that I'm eating as I write this at my local Walmart Neighborhood Market. The little shopping center is called "Westporte Village", although I've never heard anyone refer to it by that name. In fact, I've never heard anyone refer to any of the names of the shopping centers in my neighborhood, like Peoria Station, or my favorite, Ted's Plaza, which is on Olive and 47th Avenue. But that's what the sign says. I watched the Neighborhood Market being built, over ten years ago. They leveled the old building, which was from the 1980s, and put this one up on top of the remains.
But let's time-travel way back to before the 1980s, when this was the northwest corner of the Sahuaro Ranch, which was a square mile going from Peoria Avenue to Olive, and from 67th Avenue to 59th Avenue (640 acres). We've now travelled back to the 1890s.
|The Sahuaro Ranch in 1899|
Water is supplied both by wells and by a lateral from the newly-completed Arizona Canal. This part of the ranch is just the edge of grazing land, with really nothing growing but creosote, and an occasional mesquite. One of the ranch hands might ride out here to bring in a stray goat, or chicken, but that's all. Jackrabbits lived here, not much more.
Going back farther in time, to many hundreds of years ago, this is the land of the People of the Stone Hoe, often called the Hohokam people. No one knows for sure if their bare feet touched this soil exactly here, but we know that they lived along New River, and left their artifacts there. Frank Midvale studied the settlements in what is now called Peoria.
|Prehistoric ruins along New River at Weir Wash in Peoria, Arizona, 74th Avenue between Happy Valley and Jomax Road. Frank Midvale map, 1969.|
Ten thousand years ago, the desert was just beginning. The creosote was starting, and this area was was about to get much hotter. As you go farther back in time the mountains surrounding the valley are still active volcanos. The animals that lived here are about the same as the ones that you see at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.
When I stand on the sidewalk of my local Walmart Neighborhood Market, I see all of this. So when you see me there looking towards the White Tanks or the Bradshaws, you know what I'm seeing.
Thank you for history adventuring with me.
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