Atlantic Cities
Archives

Phoenix, Then and Now (1885 to 2011)

Phoenix, Then and Now (1885 to 2011)
Library of Congress

Incorporated in 1881, Phoenix, Arizona, has undergone a remarkable change to its layout and economic importance since. Thanks to rapid annexation in the late 19th century, the city decided to change their north-south street names, switching to numbers instead of Native American tribe names for the sake of navigation.

In this 1885 map, courtesy of the Library of Congress, you can see just how young and undeveloped Phoenix was at the time. Still, the foundations of a healthy town were already in place. A rational street grid, public space, and a waterway soon to be replaced by railroad put the city on a path to what it is today.

The former Phoenix Hotel and adjacent billiard hall has since been replaced by Phoenix's Symphony Hall.

 

"J.Y.T. Smith's Flour Mill" once stood where the center of the sizable Cityscape development is now.

 

What was once Phoenix's Public Plaza is now surface and underground parking adjacent to Cityscape.

 

A health and human services organization and an apartment complex take up what used to be the estate of H.H. McNeil. McNeil helped create the city's volunteer fire department and was at one time part owner of the Gazette newspaper.

 

The Arizona Diamondback's stadium, Chase Field, takes up what once consisted of blocks of undeveloped land.

 

The imposing, new U.S Federal Courthouse now stands where there was once only a handful of homes and open space.

 

Renaissance Square fulfills the city's need for typical 1980s financial services towers. An unimaginable development for 1885 Phoenix (especially the rooftop tennis court).

 

A cluster of housing developments and a children's museum replaced what was once the edge of the city's core and is now fully part of the downtown community.

 

The absurdities of Phoenix's postmodern construction boom are far more noticeable as you stretch farther away from the city's center. Lush, green, golf courses and endless stretches of subdivisions were likely unfathomable to the 19th century cartographers putting together the map of this new, southwest city.

Keywords: Phoenix, Maps

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion