The West’s Most Western Town

By Alyssa Mammano

Initially purchased as farmland and developed by its namesake, Scottsdale, Arizona originated from 640 acres of irrigated desert terrain. Winfield Scott, a notable U.S. Army Chaplain, envisioned a city of wealth and affluence when he placed a down payment on the property that would later become downtown Scottsdale. Scott enlisted many of the settlement’s first inhabitants, who were an educated and cultured people. Development of the scenic location was quickly underway shortly after its 1888 acquisition. Only eight years later a public school system was chartered. In the early 1900s a culture of artistry flourished as the newly established community celebrated local writers and creatives. Soon after, a tourism industry burgeoned with the erection of the colony’s first resorts: the Ingleside Inn in 1909 and the Jokake Inn in 1922.

An era of growth and development boomed following the utilization and reconfiguration of the Salt River. Two dams were built to promote an essential supply of water to the Valley. Shortly after the construction of the Granite Reef Dam and the Roosevelt Dam in 1908 and 1911 respectively, Scottsdale saw a population influx to the area. With agriculture as its basis, the city continued its growth for nearly three decades. Through the Depression, Scottsdale’s development slowed but established ranching operations prevailed, inspiring the city’s slogan, “The West’s Most Western Town.” From Scottsdale’s early years through the 1950s, DC Ranch maintained operations, eventually expanding to 44,000 acres of cowboys and cattle drives before its culmination.

Its support of the arts influenced artists to take up residence in Scottsdale during the Depression, namely Frank Lloyd Wright. He and his wife invested in 600 acres, on which he built Taliesin West. Now a National Historic Landmark presiding at the base of the McDowell Mountains, the home was completed in 1937 after years of diligent craftsmanship. Wright utilized the location as his winter home until his passing in 1959. He and his apprentices maintained the home themselves, which labels it as one of the most personal designs created by the architect. The structure now functions as the headquarters of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin.

The identity of Scottsdale truly came underway with the formulation of the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce in 1947. It was then that a conscious effort was made to give a personality to the city linking back to its origins. The slogan, “The West’s Most Western Town” was officially adopted and an Old Western theme for downtown was conceptualized. With this distinction, promotion of travel and tourism gained significant traction. Less than five years later on June 25, 1951, Scottsdale incorporated and appointed a mayor: Malcolm White. He oversaw nearly a square mile of land with about 2,000 residents living within its borders.

In the decade to come, Scottsdale grew by 8,000 people to a population of more than 10,000 occupants and gained another four square miles of area. Many of the city’s modern-day major attractions were established between 1950 and 1960. Parada del Sol is an annual rodeo celebration of the city’s roots. It began in 1951 as a parade through downtown that culminated in a family barbecue. The rodeo aspect was added to the parade in 1956 and has taken off since then. Now, the month-long celebration includes five rodeo performances, a Fun Run, Cattle Drive, Trails End celebration, dances and other attractions in addition to the parade.

Scottsdale’s first All Arabian Horse Show was held on the grounds of the beautiful Biltmore Hotel in 1955. The event set the bar in the Arabian horse arena as a first-class show from the very first performance. The show’s early years inspired wealthy Arabian horse breeder Ann McCormick to invest in 150 acres on which to host the annual event. The property later came to be known as Paradise Park. As of late, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show has been held at Westworld and has grown to show more than 2,000 horses. The competition attracts top breeders, trainers and owners hopeful for a win at the major showcase.

Based in Scottsdale, Barrett-Jackson, an industry leader in collector car auctions, has drawn a crowd of automotive enthusiasts to the area each year for the past 47 years. In recent years, the gathering has amounted to more than 500,000 attendants who come to bid on, sell and appreciate classic and exotic automobiles that can only be seen at events of this caliber. The high-end lifestyle event is also broadcast to a global audience on the Discovery Channel and Velocity. Onlookers and attendants can expect to mingle with celebrities, learn more about collector cars, ride in newly-released vehicles and shop luxury products.

The city still has significant ties to its roots and continues to celebrate its Old West heritage. It has grown exponentially by land and population over the years, producing innovative projects such as the Indian Bend Wash greenbelt and attracting advanced technology companies such as Motorola. The Baltimore Orioles traveled to Scottsdale for spring training during its era of expansion and the FBR Open set attendance records as one of the largest golf tournaments in the world. Scottsdale continues to be a hub for the arts with a small town country vibe in a beautiful desert setting.