Scottsdale (O’odham Vaṣai S-vaṣonĭ; Yaqui Eskatel) is a city in the eastern part of Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, adjacent to Phoenix. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010 the population of the city was 217,385. The New York Times described downtown Scottsdale as “a desert version of Miami’s South Beach” and as having “plenty of late night partying and a buzzing hotel scene”.
Scottsdale is bordered to the west by Phoenix and Paradise Valley, to the north by Carefree, to the south by Tempe, and to the east by Fountain Hills and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The Scottsdale area was originally inhabited by the Hohokam, one of the four major prehistoric archeological cultures in the region that is now the American Southwest. From 800 AD to 1400 AD, this ancient civilization farmed the area and built irrigation canals, constructing more than 125 miles (201 km) of canals, much of which remains extant today.
Before European settlement, Scottsdale was a Pima village known as Vaṣai S-vaṣonĭ, meaning “rotting hay.” Some Pima remained in their original homes well into the 20th century. For example, until the late 1960s, there was a still-occupied traditional dwelling on the southeast corner of Indian Bend Road and Hayden Road. Currently, those Pima who live within Scottsdale reside in newer homes rather than traditional dwellings. Many Pima and Maricopa people continue to reside on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which borders Scottsdale directly to the east.
Early history and establishment
The first white company staked claim in the region in 1868. Jack Swilling set up the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company to refurbish and improve upon the ancient irrigation system originally constructed by the Hohokam. However, the influx of Anglos would not significantly increase until twenty years later. In the early 1880s, U.S. Army Chaplain, Winfield Scott, who was lured in to help promote Phoenix and the surrounding area, was impressed with the region and paid the paltry sum of $2.50 an acre for a 640-acre (2.6 km2) stretch of land where the city is now located. Winfield’s brother, George Washington Scott, became the first resident of the town, which was then known as Orangedale. The Scott brothers were known as adept farmers, capable of cultivating citrus fruits, figs, potatoes, peanuts and almonds in the desert town. Scott was known to have encouraged others to create a desert farming community in the region. The town’s name was changed to Scottsdale in 1894.
By 1912, the Ingleside Inn, located just south of the Arizona Canal and west of the Crosscut Canal (Indian School Road at about 64th Street) in what is today Scottsdale was billed as metro Phoenix’s first resort.
Also in 1912, both the Phoenix Street Railway Company and a competitor, the Salt River Valley Electric Railway Company, proposed building streetcar lines to Scottsdale but due to an economic downturn, neither was built.
In 1937, internationally renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright set up his “winter camp” at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, establishing what is now known as Taliesin West. Scottsdale and the rest of Phoenix have seen an everlasting influence from Frank Lloyd Wright. Many buildings throughout the region were designed by the famous architect. His significant influence on the regional architecture is commemorated through a major street which bears his name and a 125-foot (38 m) spire memorial in North Scottsdale.
The city was incorporated on June 25, 1951. The seal, depicting a mounted cowboy surrounded by a 64-pointed starburst, was designed by Mrs. Gene Brown Pennington.
Development of Indian Bend Wash, 1950s–1970s
Indian Bend Wash, a rarely flowing river (completely dry otherwise), bisects the city lengthwise. However, the normally dry riverbed occasionally carried a significant river of water during rare but recurring periods of heavy rains, also known as the “99 Year Floods”, which flowed into the long dammed up Salt River. Due to its population primarily composed of lower middle class suburbanites at the time, the city lacked funds to construct bridges over the rarely running, normally dry river.
In the 1960s, the Indian Bend Wash flowed more and more frequently, creating a succession of floods several times over the decade that were only supposed to occur every 99 years. Federal tax dollars were allocated to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to cement Indian Bend Wash as a large canal, and build bridges, similar to the storm drains of Los Angeles, but using wider canals. This would permit the condemnation and purchase of homes in the Wash that the Federal government was required, under the Federal flood insurance laws at the time, to rebuild each time the Wash flowed. However, it was later determined that grass could channel the water as effectively as a cement canal, and a vote was held to determine whether to allocate Federal money towards a system of parks and golf courses or a cement canal.
Despite the community’s support for the system of parks and golf courses, the Army Corps favored the canal as a tried and true approach. The concept of utilizing grass to channel flood water in a wash was untried and feared to increase maintenance and upkeep costs. In a controversial move, the city ultimately voted to install the system of parks and golf courses in the Wash. The system of parks and golf courses which worked as flood control channel became known as the Scottsdale Greenbelt. The Scottsdale Greenbelt was extremely successful, coinciding with the mass production of affordable heat pump air conditioners in the 1950s. Scottsdale quickly became a popular city for new family and retiree transplants. Today, the 12-mile (19 km) long Scottsdale Greenbelt connects four city parks – Vista del Camino Park, Eldorado Park, Indian School Park and Chaparral Park – through a 25-mile (40 km) bike path.
Development of McCormick Ranch and redevelopment of Arts Center Area, 1970s–1980s
Having allocated the majority of its budget towards the park system, Scottsdale allowed the downtown area, immediately to the east of the central shopping district on Scottsdale Road to decay. By the early 1970s, downtown Scottsdale had severely deteriorated and left with abandoned wooden buildings. However, in 1970, Anne McCormick, the owner of McCormick Ranch, a 4,236 acre ranch serving much of the eastern boundary of Scottsdale, died. The property was sold to Kaiser-Aetna for $12.1 million. In coordination with the city, Kaiser-Aetna developed a master plan for the property. At the time, the sale of McCormick Ranch was the country’s largest single piece of property sold for a planned community within city limits. The McCormick Ranch/Scottsdale Ranch area was developed into homes, recreational parks and business parks. The planned community also opened with three resorts, two 18-hole golf courses and 130 man-made lakes, two of which used for sailing and many stocked with fish.
Because of the rising status of the city, the developers were able to upgrade the homes built in what became the McCormick Ranch/Scottsdale Ranch portions of the city, which subsequently opened up Scottsdale to the north and added a wide eastern portion, bulging on the middle of the map shown above. The nouveau riche that quickly filled these more expensive homes earned the city several nicknames, including “Snottsdale” or “Snobbsdale”. Nevertheless, the tax money derived from the development of McCormick Ranch was used to purchase the dilapidated area adjacent to Old Town via eminent domain. The Scottsdale Center for the Arts was constructed with the funds, spurring private development in the area, which is now filled with restaurants.
From its official incorporation in 1951 with a population of 2000, the city of Scottsdale has grown to a 2010 Census of 217,385. It is now the state’s sixth-largest city. Scottsdale is commonly defined by its high quality of life, and in 1993 was named the “Most Livable City”, in the United States by the United States Conference of Mayors. This title is notoriously lampooned across the state because of the high cost of living in Scottsdale. It is continually ranked as one of the premier golf and resort destinations in the world, with a sizable portion of tax revenue being derived from tourism.: It is also home to the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament held at the Tournament Players Club.
The city is located in the Salt River Valley, or the, “Valley of the Sun”, in the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert. Immediately to the east and northeast of Scottsdale is the McDowell Mountain Range. Scottsdale borders the city of Phoenix and town of Paradise Valley to the west, Tempe to the south, and Fountain Hills to the east.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 184.4 square miles (478 km2). 184.2 square miles (477 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.12%) is water.