Ranch Realty: Scottsdale's History - The West's Most Western Town
In 1888, U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott visited the Salt River Valley, was impressed with its potential, and subsequently made a down payment on 640 acres to start a farming operation. Scott’s purchase, near the heart of present-day downtown Scottsdale, would be the impetus for the development of the city that bears his name.
Scott’s original homestead lay adjacent to the new Arizona Canal, which tapped the Salt River, and the development of a reliable water supply was crucial to the early growth of the community and the entire Valley. The construction of the Granite Reef Dam in 1908 and the Roosevelt Dam in 1911 transformed the Salt River Valley and allowed Scottsdale to share in a population boom. Between 1908 and 1933 Scottsdale grew slowly but steadily as a small market town providing services for families involved in the agricultural industry.
In its early years, the area also saw the development of ranching operations that later inspired the “West’s Most Western Town” moniker. One of Scottsdale’s most prominent businessmen began investing in land north of the community in 1916, establishing a cattle ranch that eventually covered 44,000 acres. DC Ranch continued to operate – complete with cowboys and cattle drives – through the 1950s.
In 1947, the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce was formed and Scottsdale leaders made a conscious effort to promote a special identity, linked to the Old West, as a reflection of the city’s roots and as a draw for tourists. The chamber established a Western design theme for the downtown and adopted the “West’s Most Western Town” as Scottsdale’s slogan.
By the end of the 1960s, Scottsdale’s population had increased six-fold to nearly 68,000 while its land area increased twelve-fold to 62 square miles. During this decade, the city rejected federal plans for a concrete-lined ditch to handle floodwaters and later began work on the Indian Bend Wash greenbelt, an innovative project that turned the wash into a series of parks, golf courses and open space that double as a floodwater during infrequent heavy rains.
The following decades brought even more growth in population and land area, as the city pushed northward into the high Sonoran Desert and experienced several building booms. By 1980, its population of more than 88,000 covered 88.6 square miles. By 1990, it had reached more than 130,000 in population and expanded to roughly its present size – about 185 square miles. By 2000, the city was home to more than 202,000.
Beginning in the early 1970s with McCormick Ranch, the city saw the development of a series of large-scale, master planned communities within its borders. Others included Scottsdale Ranch, Gainey Ranch, McDowell Mountain Ranch, Desert Mountain and DC Ranch.
> * Ranch Realty opens for business on McCormick Ranch in 1974!
Residents’ concerns about growth prompted a movement in the 1980s to protect the slopes of the McDowell Mountains and, in the 1990s, to set aside the mountains and adjoining land in a huge preserve. Voters enacted a dedicated sales tax in 1995, and set the city on course to eventually acquire 36,000 acres, nearly one-third of Scottsdale’s land area, equal in size the Bryce Canyon National Park.
A flourishing gallery district grew up in the city’s downtown area, complemented in the 1990s and 2000s by an influx of restaurants, lounges and nightclubs.
Scottsdale has become a study in contrasts, where residents and visitors can ride horseback ride through pristine Arizona desert in the morning and visit one of the country’s best contemporary art museums in the afternoon. It is now counted among the 100 largest cities in the nation, but retains its connection to its small-town, Western heritage.