Scottsdale is a city in the eastern part of Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, adjacent to Phoenix. As of 2007 the population of the city was 240,410. Scottsdale is regarded as an upscale tourist and shopping destination and as a representation of western American style. The New York Times described downtown Scottsdale as "a desert version of Miami's South Beach" and as having "plenty of late night partying and a buzzing hotel scene."
Scottsdale is bordered to the west by Phoenix and Paradise Valley, to the north by Carefree, to the south by Tempe, and to the east by Fountain Hills and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Scottsdale was originally inhabited by Hohokam. From 800 AD to 1400 AD, this ancient civilization farmed the area and built ingenious irrigation canals.
Before European settlement, Scottsdale was a Pima village. Some Pima remained in their original homes well into the 20th century. For example, until the late 1960s, there was a still-occupied traditional dwelling on the southeast corner of Indian Bend Road and Hayden Road. By now, however, all Pima have either been priced out of town or moved into newer homes within Scottsdale; primarily South Scottsdale, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, or elsewhere.
The Hohokam's legacy is their creation of more than 125 miles of canals to provide water for their agricultural needs. The remnants of this ancient irrigation system were adapted and improved upon in 1868 by the first Anglo company to stake a claim in the Valley of the Sun, when Jack Swilling set up the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company. Twenty years later, Scottsdale's future would turn sharply upwards, when a U.S. Army Chaplain, Winfield Scott, paid the paltry sum of $2.50 an acre for a 640-acre stretch of land where the city is now located. Winfield's brother, George Washington Scott, was the first resident of the town that was then known as Orangedale and later changed to Scottsdale in 1894.
In 1937, internationally renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright set up his "winter camp" at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, creating what is now known as Taliesin West. Scottsdale, and the rest of Phoenix, have seen an everlasting influence from Frank Lloyd Wright. Many buildings throughout the region were designed by the famous architect. Today, a Frank Lloyd Wright memorial stands in North Scottsdale and a major street bears his name.
From the 1950s through the 1970s, several large manufacturing companies in the Scottsdale and Tempe areas used the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) in their manufacturing and operating processes. In 1981, TCE began to show up in two Scottsdale drinking wells, and in 1983, the Indian Bend Wash superfund site was listed on the Environmental Protection Agency's National Priorities List. Physical construction of cleanup systems was completed by 2006, with soil cleanup expected to be completed in five years and groundwater cleanup completed in 30 years.
Real estate development had begun in what is now the Old Town area, and moved south. With Phoenix bordering the west and an Indian reservation bordering the east, the town (which is now the long, narrow, extreme southern portion of Scottsdale) developed its narrow shape, stopped by Tempe in the south, and an enormous privately owned ranch, McCormick Ranch to the north. Indian Bend Wash, a rarely flowing river (completely dry otherwise), bisected the city lengthwise, and the normally dry riverbed carried a significant river of water during what were supposed to be rare periods of heavy rains, so called "99 year floods," flowing into the long dammed up Salt River. As the city was home to mostly lower middle class suburbanites, there was no money for bridges over such a rarely running, normally dry river, so even major roads that crossed it simply ran right down into the river bed and out the other side. It flowed several times in the 60s during a succession of floods that were only supposed to occur every 99 years.
As Indian Bend Wash flowed more and more frequently in the late 1960s, federal tax dollars were allocated to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to cement Indian Bend Wash as a large canal, and build bridges over it, similar to the storm drains of Los Angeles, but using wider canals. Doing so would allow the condemnation and purchase of the houses that had been built in the wash, that the Federal government was required, under the Federal flood insurance laws at the time, to rebuild each time the wash flowed. However, it was believed that grass would channel the water as effectively as a cement canal, and a vote was held to determine whether the city should use the federal money allocated for the cement canal to build a system of parks and golf courses in the bottom of Indian Bend Wash instead of a cement canal. Because it would bisect the long narrow city, this system of parks and golf courses would be within biking range of nearly every child in the city and very near houses and condos in which retirees might want to live.
However, the Army Corps favored the canal as a tried and true approach, the idea of grass to channel flood water in a wash was untried, the grass would have to be watered, and the mud from the now more frequently flowing wash would have to be removed from the parks when it flowed, increasing maintenance costs. Although it would require increased property taxes to maintain that the cement canal would not, and was somewhat controversial at the time, the city voted to install the system of parks and golf courses in the Wash, a move that was seen as bold, by a city that was at that time, not particularly wealthy. The park and golf course system was built in such a way as to minimize damage when the water flowed, placing buildings up high on berms, and leaving the remainder as grass, ponds or streams, relatively immune from water damage. The system worked as a flood control channel, and has been retained as parkland or golf courses ever since. The success of the park and golf course system paid off: because the parks and golf courses followed closely on the heels of the mass production of affordable heat pump air conditioners in the 1950s, Scottsdale quickly became a city to which families and retirees wanted to move. The city, still relatively poor, overspent on the park system, building the El Dorado public pool in a protected berm at one edge of the wash, for example, and ran out of federal money to build all of the bridges over the wash. However, the channeling of the wash allowed condos to be built in places along its newly narrowed western border, and money from the taxes paid on the newly usable land was used to finally complete the bridges years later.
Its money having been spent on the park system, the city of Scottsdale allowed the downtown area, immediately to the east of the central shopping district on Scottsdale Road to decay, and by the early 1970s, the area became a swath of old abandoned wooden buildings with broken windows. However, shortly after the park system was built, Ms. McCormick, the owner of McCormick Ranch, died, and instead of preserving the ranch as mostly scrub land, the McCormick ranch/Scottsdale Ranch area of Scottsdale was developed into homes and business parks, and began to generate tax revenues for the city. Because of the rising status of the city from the newly-built parks and golf course system, the developers were able to upgrade the houses they built in what became the McCormick Ranch/Scottsdale Ranch portions of the city, which opened up Scottsdale to the north and added a wide eastern portion, bulging on the middle of the map shown above. The nouveau riche that quickly filled these more expensive homes became the butt of many jokes and the source of the "Snottsdale" or "Snobbsdale" nickname. Nevertheless, the tax money that the city received from the development of McCormick Ranch was used to purchase the dilapidated area adjacent to Old Town via its powers of eminent domain, demolish the few remaining wooden buildings that had not by then been burned to the ground by vandals, and build a performing arts center and a restaurant row in place of part of it. The upscale locally owned restaurants that had been leaving the downtown area because of the blight were invited to be the first tenants in the restaurant row if they stayed in the area in the difficult years in which it and the arts center were built, and when the arts center and restaurants opened in the late to mid 1970s, it became another draw for the city.
Seeing the once narrow city of Scottsdale annex area to the north and east, the city of Phoenix annexed a then undeveloped six foot wide, miles long stretch of county land north of Phoenix, immediately to the west of McCormick Ranch, effectively extending that western boundary for miles. Because city services would have to be provided on any annexed land, the merely 6-foot wide limit allowed Phoenix to annex the portion inexpensively, yet the annexation effectively blocked Scottsdale.
During this period, the city government of Scottsdale was seen as one with progressive ideas. To the dismay of many businesses, the city passed one of the earliest sign ordinances, restricting the size and height of signs and billboards. The city stated it was protecting the safety of its residents, which it claimed were getting into traffic accidents craning their necks to see higher signs. The ordinance was highly controversial at the time and the city was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, but now such ordinances are common. Scottsdale also contracted out its fire department in what was to be a wave of the privatization of operations of city government that never materialized. Afraid of lawsuits if it used the red color of firetrucks of other cities in the U.S., the company that took over the contract painted the fire engines chartreuse. The city also developed the first robot arm garbage truck, replacing crews who dumped cans into a train of open trailers pulled by a truck, with a single operator sitting in an air conditioned cab.
From its official incorporation in 1951 with a population of 2000, the town of Scottsdale has grown to a 2007 Census of 240,710. It is now the state's sixth-largest city. Scottsdale is commonly defined by its high quality of life, and in 1993 was named the "Most Livable City," in the United States by the United States Conference of Mayors. This title is notoriously lampooned across the state because of the high cost of living in Scottsdale. It is continually ranked as one of the premier golf and resort destinations in the world, with a sizable portion of tax revenue being derived from tourism.