Brief History of Scottsdale, Arizona

Scottsdale is a city in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, that is a part of the Greater Phoenix Area. Scottsdale was established in 1894 and was organized in 1951 with a population of 2,000 people. It was named for it's founder Winfield Scott, a former United States Army chaplain. The population in 2019 was 258,069. "The West's Most Western Town," it proclaims.

In 1888, U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott came to the Salt River Valley, was inspired with its promise, and put down a deposit on 640 acres to begin farming. Scott’s acquisition, which took place near the center of modern-day downtown Scottsdale, will serve as a catalyst for the growth of the community that bears his name.

Scottsdale’s initial settlement was inspired by its favorable climate, irrigated desert location, and stunning scenery. Though agriculture was the primary attraction, Scottsdale also attracted a large number of health-conscious visitors. Many of the community’s initial residents were trained and appreciated cultural activities, having been attracted by Scott from the East and Midwest.

Between Scottsdale Road and Civic Center Boulevard, and Second Street and Osborn Road, Scott plants olive trees along the edge of a citrus grove. Near the hospital, a number of the trees still remain along Civic Center Boulevard and 2nd Street.

By Dru Bloomfield -, CC BY 2.0,

First School in Scottsdale

These early settlers established the Scottsdale public school system in 1896, embraced a flourishing artists and writers community in the early 1900s, and encouraged Scottsdale’s links to the area’s first resorts, the Ingleside Inn (1909) and the Jokake Inn (1922).

With enough students coming into the town by the summer of 1896, Winfield Scott and some of the early settlers lobbied the Maricopa County School Board Supervisor to establish a school district. Scotts-Dale School District #48 is created. The district appoints Scott, John Tait, and Frank Titus to the first school board. The men of the town gather in September to build the one-room schoolhouse east of the current Scottsdale Historical Museum.

Farming, Ranching and Water Source

The construction of a secure water source was essential to the early growth of the settlement and the entire Valley, and Scott’s initial homestead was next to the modern Arizona Canal, which tapped the Salt River. 

The Granite Reef Dam was built in 1908, and the Roosevelt Dam was built in 1911, transforming the Salt River Valley and allowing Scottsdale to benefit from a population boom.

Scottsdale developed slowly but gradually as a small market town supplying services to families engaged in the farming industry between 1908 and 1933.

The area’s early years saw the growth of ranching operations, which later inspired the nickname “West’s Most Western Town.” In 1916, one of Scottsdale’s most influential businessmen started investing in property north of the city, ultimately creating a 44,000-acre cattle ranch. Over the 1950s, DC Ranch remained in operation, along with cowboys and cattle drives.

Growth in Population

The town incorporated on June 25, 1951, with a population of around 2,000 people residing in an area of less than a square mile. Scottsdale’s first mayor was Malcolm White, and the city’s official slogan was “The West’s Most Western Town.”

Over the 1950s, the town grew exponentially, reaching a population of over 10,000 people in a 5 square mile radius. Scottsdale’s population had grown sixfold to nearly 68,000 people by the end of the 1960s, while its land area had grown twelvefold to 62 square miles. 

As the city pushed northward into the high Sonoran Desert and underwent many construction booms, the city’s population and land area grew ever further. Its population of over 88,000 people occupied an area of 88.6 square miles by 1980. It had grown to nearly 185 square miles in area by 1990, with a population of more than 130,000 people. By the year 2000, the city had grown to a population of over 202,000 people.

Early Tourist Destinations

As new resorts sprung up along the Scottsdale Road corridor and then farther north, the city’s tourist industry exploded. Thousands attend seasonal gatherings. The FBR Open, formerly the Phoenix Open, has broken attendance records as the world’s most-attended golf tournament. Today, the city is a well-known tourist destination, attracting more than 6 million tourists each year.

In the city’s downtown core, a thriving gallery district rose up, complemented in the 1990s and 2000s by an explosion of bars, lounges, and nightclubs.

Residents and tourists will ride horses through the pristine Arizona desert in the morning and visit one of the country’s finest modern art museums in the afternoon in Scottsdale, which has become a study in contrast. It is currently one of the top 100 biggest cities in the United States, but it preserves its small-town, Western roots.

Scottsdale, Arizona is full of amazing historical landmarks that help to make our city an amazing, culturally rich city:

  • George Ellis House
  • Louise Lincoln Kerr House
  • McCormick Stillman Railroad Park
  • The Valley Field Riding and Polo Club of Scottsdale
  • Roald Amundsen Pullman Private Railroad Car
  • Historic Taliesin West
  • Old Town Scottsdale
  • Main Street Arts Disctrict

All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location at 7106 East Main Street! Stop by for a visit anytime!

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Thursday: Extended hours from 7 - 9 p.m. for the Scottsdale ArtWalk
Sunday: Closed

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