Often labeled a “young” city, the history of Phoenix actually goes back millennia — originally settled around 1 A.D. by the Hohokam, and later inhabited by the O’odham and Sobaipuri. To this day, Native American history and culture is woven through every aspect of the city, as is the legacy of Phoenix’s Mexican communities, which existed well before the city’s founding.

The “young” part of Phoenix refers to its urban development. The original townsite dates back to 1870, just 150 years ago, and encompassed what’s presently known as Downtown Phoenix — Van Buren Street south to Jackson Street, Seventh Street west to Seventh Avenue.

Scroll through the timeline below for a short history of Downtown Phoenix development and milestones over the years.

Timeline

2013
2013

Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI) was formed.

Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI) was formed.

DPI was developed as a community building organization to work with city, business and community leaders to make Downtown Phoenix an economically strong and increasingly diverse live/work/play/learn neighborhood.

2008
2008

The $1.4 billion Valley Metro Light Rail project premiered. It involved the coordination of dozens of contracts to complete the system.

The $1.4 billion Valley Metro Light Rail project premiered. It involved the coordination of dozens of contracts to complete the system.

The route attracts scores of passengers, connects urban hubs and provides an economic lift to neighborhoods along the line. The route runs between north-central Phoenix and western Mesa.

2006
2006

Arizona State University Downtown opened. A $220 million city bond, approved by voters in 2006, helped fund construction.

Arizona State University Downtown opened. A $220 million city bond, approved by voters in 2006, helped fund construction.

The university partnered with city leaders to open the downtown campus — a key part of plans to revitalize the heart of the city. ASU continues to expand.

1998
1998

Bank One Ballpark was the first Major League Baseball ballpark to feature a swimming pool.

Bank One Ballpark was the first Major League Baseball ballpark to feature a swimming pool.

The ballpark is now named Chase Field and is on Jefferson Street between Fourth and Seventh streets. The final cost of building the stadium was about $364 million.

1992
1992

Talking Stick Resort Arena opened as the benchmark for other cities and other sports facilities.

Talking Stick Resort Arena opened as the benchmark for other cities and other sports facilities.

New facilities around the country followed the example of the arena and new projects sprung up in nearly all the major western state metropolitan areas. It is currently under renovation.

1992

Margaret T. Hance Park opened atop the Deck Park Tunnel, between Third Avenue and Third Street.​ The 32-acre park was named in honor of the city’s first female mayor.

Margaret T. Hance Park opened atop the Deck Park Tunnel, between Third Avenue and Third Street.​ The 32-acre park was named in honor of the city’s first female mayor.

A $100 million revitalization project is underway. The fundraising campaign is being led by Phoenix Community Alliance.

1990
1990

Arizona Center opened to great fanfare and high expectations.

Arizona Center opened to great fanfare and high expectations.

The large central plaza included richly landscaped courtyards and fountains. It was considered one of the original downtown revitalization efforts taking place in the early 1990s.

1990

Phoenix’s Business Improvement District (BID) was established, managed by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP).

Phoenix’s Business Improvement District (BID) was established, managed by the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP).

DPP was created to boost smart urban development and encourage an environment of activity, energy and vitality.

1983
1983

Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) was formed.

Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) was formed.

During a period when downtown was in decline, PCA launched significant public-private partnerships that catalyzed quality new development in downtown, and greatly contributed Phoenix’s urban revitalization.

1976
1976

The Hyatt Regency was completed, complementing Phoenix Civic Plaza and Phoenix Symphony Hall.

The Hyatt Regency was completed, complementing Phoenix Civic Plaza and Phoenix Symphony Hall.

Three “scenic elevators,” which glide upward from the lobby through the atrium and, finally, onto the building’s exterior, offer amazing views of Phoenix, as does the iconic revolving rooftop restaurant.

1975
1975

The Hotel Adams was rebuilt for the third time.

The Hotel Adams was rebuilt for the third time.

In its place, local architects created a modern hotel tower of concrete, punctuated by rows of arched windows with sculpted hoods — now home to the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

1973
1973

Valley Center Tower (Chase Tower) opens as the tallest building in Arizona.

Valley Center Tower (Chase Tower) opens as the tallest building in Arizona.

The 483-foot, 40-story skyscraper remains the tallest building in Arizona to this day. The simplicity of the geometry and contrasting smooth-skinned glass and concrete give it a timeless aesthetic appeal.

1971
1971

The First National Bank Plaza was built on the northwest corner of Washington Street and First Avenue.

The First National Bank Plaza was built on the northwest corner of Washington Street and First Avenue.

It was the state’s tallest building to date, and enjoyed its standing for about two years before it was surpassed in height by the 40-story Valley Center Tower.

1963
1963

The Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building opened on Washington Street and Third Avenue.

The Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building opened on Washington Street and Third Avenue.

It’s named for Calvin C. Goode, who served a record 22 years on City Council. The City Council Chambers are in the circular structure next to the building.

1957
1957

Park Central Shopping City opened as the first major shopping center outside the central core.

Park Central Shopping City opened as the first major shopping center outside the central core.

The suburban character of the regional shopping center was a new experience for customers used to shopping downtown. Upon leaving their cars, the shoppers entered a shaded open-air mall.

1949
1949

KPHO, Arizona’s first television station, was formed next door to the Hotel Westward Ho.

KPHO, Arizona’s first television station, was formed next door to the Hotel Westward Ho.

The first signals traveled up the steel tower atop the Hotel Westward Ho. Programs were directed at children and included the many evolutions of “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.”

1946
1946

Hanny’s Clothing Store, constructed by Del Webb, was inspired by the 1939 Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Hanny’s Clothing Store, constructed by Del Webb, was inspired by the 1939 Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Crowning the parapet wall of the roof deck is a concrete canopy pierced with a series of circular openings to the sky, the signs gracefully integrated into the architecture.

1932
1932

The Professional Building, a 12-story Art Deco tower, was built with a steel frame and sheathed with Indiana limestone.

The Professional Building, a 12-story Art Deco tower, was built with a steel frame and sheathed with Indiana limestone.

It was the last and tallest of the prewar high-rise office buildings. This building served as the headquarters for the Valley National Bank.

1931
1931

The elegant Title and Trust Building was built on the northwest corner of Adams Street and First Avenue.

The elegant Title and Trust Building was built on the northwest corner of Adams Street and First Avenue.

An 11-story Moderne office tower, its exterior is finished with brick and terracotta. Today the building is home to the Orpheum Lofts condominium project.

1929
1929

The Orpheum Theatre was the last and largest major construction project in Phoenix just before the Great Depression.

The Orpheum Theatre was the last and largest major construction project in Phoenix just before the Great Depression.

On Jan. 29, 1997, the completely renovated landmark opened its doors again under the ownership of the City of Phoenix with a production of “Hello Dolly” starring Carol Channing.

1929

The Maricopa County Courthouse and Phoenix City Hall opened on the southwest corner of First Avenue and Washington Street.

The Maricopa County Courthouse and Phoenix City Hall opened on the southwest corner of First Avenue and Washington Street.

This building virtually shouts out that the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County anticipated a prosperous future in the pre-depression years. Note the cheery scrolls around the top.

1929

The Luhrs Tower, one of the most prominent high-rise office buildings, rose 14 stories above downtown.

The Luhrs Tower, one of the most prominent high-rise office buildings, rose 14 stories above downtown.

A blend of Spanish Eclecticism and Art Deco styles, the stepped-back massing and dominant vertical emphasis reflect the influence of other nationally-prominent Art Deco skyscraper designs.

1928
1928

The Hotel Westward Ho was completed.

The Hotel Westward Ho was completed.

It was the city’s premier luxury hotel, and at 16 stories, was the tallest building in Arizona until 1960. It’s still one of the most readily identifiable landmarks in Phoenix.

1928

The nine-story Security Building was built on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren Street.

The nine-story Security Building was built on the southwest corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren Street.

In 1958, the ninth-floor penthouse apartment was added, serving as the home of Walter R. Bimson, the chairman of the successful Valley National Bank of Arizona.

1924
1924

The Luhrs Building opened up, housing the Arizona Club on the four upper floors.

The Luhrs Building opened up, housing the Arizona Club on the four upper floors.

The exclusive club included dining rooms, lounges, a library, and bedrooms for club members. The Luhrs Building should not be confused with the adjacent Luhrs Tower, built five years later.

1919
1919

The Heard Building opened as the largest and tallest office building in Arizona.

The Heard Building opened as the largest and tallest office building in Arizona.

When the building opened, offices of the “Arizona Republican” newspaper occupied most of the first floor and portions of the basement were filled with printing press equipment.

1915
1915

St. Mary’s Church, built in the Spanish Revival style, was known for its exquisite stained glass windows from The Munich School of Stained Glass.

St. Mary’s Church, built in the Spanish Revival style, was known for its exquisite stained glass windows from The Munich School of Stained Glass.

In 1985, St. Mary’s Church was designated a Minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II. He later prayed there during his visit to Phoenix in 1987.

1915

At six stories tall, The Jefferson Hotel became the first high-rise building in Phoenix.

At six stories tall, The Jefferson Hotel became the first high-rise building in Phoenix.

It’s also where Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Psycho” started. In the movie, Janet Leigh and her boyfriend had their lunchtime tryst in a fourth-floor hotel room.

1913
1913

The people of Phoenix ratified a new charter to form a council-manager form of government.

The people of Phoenix ratified a new charter to form a council-manager form of government.

Phoenix was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt this form of government. The council-manager plan has three main positions – mayor, council member and city manager.

1912
1912

Phoenix Union High School’s domestic arts, science and auditorium buildings were constructed.

Phoenix Union High School’s domestic arts, science and auditorium buildings were constructed.

The restored buildings are located on Van Buren and Fifth streets, and are now part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

1910
1910

The Adams Hotel burned down and was immediately rebuilt using fire-resistant materials.

The Adams Hotel burned down and was immediately rebuilt using fire-resistant materials.

Its destruction spurred the use of brick and concrete construction for public buildings and lodgings. The newly named Hotel Adams was considered the finest hotel in the Southwest.

1909
1909

President-Elect William Taft rode through the streets of Phoenix in a parade in his honor.

President-Elect William Taft rode through the streets of Phoenix in a parade in his honor.

In 1912, President William Taft signed the bill creating the State of Arizona. This photo taken where the Heard Building currently sits. The Gooding Building to the left still stands.

1908
1908

Dorothy Bacon McClintock, wife of James Harvey McClintock, recieved a Carnegie Grant to build the Phoenix Public Library.

Dorothy Bacon McClintock, wife of James Harvey McClintock, recieved a Carnegie Grant to build the Phoenix Public Library.

Located on 11th Avenue and Washington Street, the library cost $25,000 to build. Today the building is home to the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.

1901
1901

The capital of Arizona moved four times before settling in Phoenix.

The capital of Arizona moved four times before settling in Phoenix.

The building was created as part of an effort to demonstrate that the Arizona Territory was ready for statehood, which finally arrived in 1912 (48th in the union).

1898
1898

Phoenix Rough Riders (volunteer cavalry) paraded down Central Avenue on their way to fight in the Spanish American War.

Phoenix Rough Riders (volunteer cavalry) paraded down Central Avenue on their way to fight in the Spanish American War.

Originally 1000 men volunteered for the Arizona Rough Riders, but only 210 were allowed to join Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba.

1896
1896

The Adams Hotel was built on the northeast corner of Adams Street and Central Avenue.

The Adams Hotel was built on the northeast corner of Adams Street and Central Avenue.

The four-story structure, built entirely out of wood, was one of the most elaborate buildings of the era. It later burned down in a devastating fire.

1895
1895

Dwight Heard came to Phoenix from Chicago on doctor’s advice after he was diagnosed with lung ailments.

Dwight Heard came to Phoenix from Chicago on doctor’s advice after he was diagnosed with lung ailments.

Heard was a prominent rancher, president of the Arizona Cotton Association, and is famous for publishing the “Arizona Republican,” now “The Arizona Republic,” from 1912 to 1929.

1895

Sisters of Mercy founded St. Joseph’s Sanitarium as the tuberculosis endemic besieged the Valley.

Sisters of Mercy founded St. Joseph’s Sanitarium as the tuberculosis endemic besieged the Valley.

The sanitarium opened in a rented six-bedroom cottage on Fourth and Polk streets, which would eventually grow into St. Joseph’s Hospital, one of the largest in the state.

1895

The Rosson House was built for Dr. and Mrs. Roland Lee Rosson. It was one of the most prominent and beautiful homes in Phoenix.

The Rosson House was built for Dr. and Mrs. Roland Lee Rosson. It was one of the most prominent and beautiful homes in Phoenix.

It stands today as it did then on its original foundation in Historic Heritage Square. Restorations began in the early 1970s, and in 1980 it reopened as a museum.

1881
1881

A bond was passed to improve the water supply, purchase modern firefighting equipment and form Phoenix Engine Company #1.

A bond was passed to improve the water supply, purchase modern firefighting equipment and form Phoenix Engine Company #1.

It was strictly a volunteer fire company with a charter membership of 25 men.

1878
1878

German immigrant George H.N. Luhrs rode on horseback into the small settlement of Phoenix.

German immigrant George H.N. Luhrs rode on horseback into the small settlement of Phoenix.

The modest adobe shop where he set up business on the northeast corner of Jefferson Street and Central Avenue eventually became the Commercial Hotel, later renamed the Hotel Luhrs.

1873
1873

The first schoolhouse was built, and the first professionally trained schoolteacher, Miss Nellie Shaver Smith, was hired the same year.

The first schoolhouse was built, and the first professionally trained schoolteacher, Miss Nellie Shaver Smith, was hired the same year.

After a series of four untrained male teachers, Phoenix got its first professional teacher and its first school building, “Little Adobe,” located where the Hotel San Carlos now stands.

1870
1870

The Phoenix townsite was founded with a population of 240 people.

The Phoenix townsite was founded with a population of 240 people.

Phoenix looked very much like a Mexican settlement with half of the population being native-born Spanish speakers from Mexico.

1850
1850

One of the founders, John William “Jack” Swilling, moved to Arizona to prospect for gold.

One of the founders, John William “Jack” Swilling, moved to Arizona to prospect for gold.

Known for his work rebuilding the extensive Hohokam canal system that brought commercial agriculture and people to the Valley.