Phoenix, city (1990 pop. 983,403), state capital and seat of Maricopa co., S Ariz., on the Salt River; inc. 1881. It is the largest city in Arizona, the hub of the rich agricultural region of the Salt River valley, and an important center for research and development, electronics, telecommunications, semiconductors, and the aerospace industry. Food processing and the production of aircraft parts, electrical appliances, agricultural chemicals, machinery, tools, plastic and wood products, cosmetics, and leather goods remains central to its manufacturing base. Greater Phoenix is a popular resort area, and tourism is also important to the economy.
The city was founded on the site of ancient Native American canals; hence its name, signifying a new town which had risen from the ruins of an old civilization. In 1868, pioneers developed what remained of the Native Americans' irrigation system; water was diverted from the Salt River, and farming began, supplemented by mining and ranching in the surrounding desert and mountains. The completion (1911) of the Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River brought power and abundant water to the community, and opened a new era of farming in the valley.
Phoenix grew as an important trade and distribution center. It boomed during World War II, when three airfields were opened. The phenomenal growth continued after the war; veterans who had been stationed in Phoenix returned to stay, and manufacturing concerns moved there to utilize the large labor supply. The expanding metropolitan area includes the suburbs of Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Chandler, and Peoria, all of which are among the fastest-growing cities in the United States.
Among the area's many outstanding parks are the Desert Botanical Gardens, Camelback Mountain, and the nearby South Mountain Park, which has an active gold mine. Also in the area are a number of Native American communities and reservations, national monuments, and state parks. Among its museums are the Heard Museum, with Native American art of the Southwest; the Phoenix Art Museum; the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, with pioneer relics; the Pueblo Grande Museum, containing excavations of Native American ruins c.800 years old; and the Arizona Capitol Museum. Other attractions are the Phoenix Zoo, the Arizona Science Center, and the Mystery Castle, built of native rock.
Phoenix is the seat of the Univ. of Phoenix, Arizona State Univ. West, Grand Canyon Univ., and Southwestern College. It has a symphony orchestra, as well as opera and ballet companies. The Phoenix Suns play in the National Basketball Association and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League (baseball). The Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League play in adjacent Glendale, as do the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League. Several major-league baseball teams have spring-training camps in the area.
See J. E. Buchanan, Phoenix: A Chronological and Documentary History, 1865–1976 (1978); G. W. Johnson Jr., Phoenix (1982); B. Luckingham, Phoenix: The History of a Southwestern Metropolis (1989).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.