The city of Phoenix was founded 140 years ago today – here is a brief review of the city’s history |

Downtown Phoenix at sunset; Courtesy Visit Phoenix

As the city of Phoenix celebrates 140 years of founding, courtesy of Out of the Ashes, let’s take a quick look back at how the city we love was born.

Old story

Hundreds of years before any of the cities in the east of our country were clearings in the wilderness, a well-established, civilized community occupied the land we know as the Phoenix. The ruins of Pueblo Grande, occupied between 700 and 1400 AD, bear witness to our city’s ancient roots.


The modern history of Phoenix begins in the second half of the 19th century. In 1867 Jack Swilling of Wickenburg stopped to rest his horse at the foot of the northern slopes of the White Tank Mountains. He looked down and across the vast Salt River Valley, and his gaze fell on the rich glimmer of the brown, dry ground exposed by the horse’s hooves. He saw farmland, mostly clear of stones, and in a place out of reach of severe frost or snow. All it took was water.

Bird's eye view of Phoenix 1885

Poster: Bird’s Eye View of Phoenix, ca.1885


On April 10, 1874, President Grant Richter granted Alsap a patent for the current location in Phoenix. The declaration of discovery was filed with the Prescott Land Office on February 15, 1872. The official entry took place on November 19, 1873 at the Florence Land Office. The total cost of the Phoenix Townsite of 320 acres was $ 550, including all service charges.


By 1880, Phoenix had a population of 2,453, 379 students enrolled, an ice cream factory, and a new brick sidewalk in front of the Tiger Salon.

Phoenix City Hall

Phoenix City Hall, Washington Street, ca.1908


“The Phoenix Charter Bill” was passed by the 11th Territorial Legislature. The law made Phoenix an incorporated city and provided a government that consisted of a mayor and four councilors. It was signed by Governor John C. Fremont on February 25, 1881.

Downtown Phoenix from Mummy Mountain

Downtown Phoenix from Mummy Mountain; Courtesy Visit Phoenix


Fast forward to 2021, and Phoenix is ​​the fifth largest city in the United States with nearly 1.7 million residents as of 2019, the most populous state capital, and the only state capital with a population greater than one million.

You have come a long way, Phoenix. Happy Birthday! |CST

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