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Tempe Begins Celebrating

Tempe Begins Celebrating Its 150thMilestone

This spring, plans are progressing for November's community birthday party! By Lawn Griffiths

Most people don't know what "sesquicentennial" means. But that's what the City of Tempe is celebrating this year. The city was founded 150 years ago -- in October 1871.

Planning for Tempe's sesquicentennial has been underway in the face of Covid-19, which has already put some limits on what kind of group activities will be safe.

Charles Trumbull Hayden

"A century and a half ago, after passing through the area a number of times, a Tucson freighter names Charles Trumbull Hayden concluded that this corner of the Salt River Valley would be an ideal place to grow crops, build a mill and start a new community," said Vic Linoff, president of Tempe History Society, which is actively involved in the observance.

"It is safe to say that this gentleman could never imagine how that tiny village would look 150 years later in this Sesquicentennial year," he said.

Hayden, a mercantile and freighting businessman, created a homestead near the banks of the flowing Salt River. He built his first structure there at the foot of what would be named Tempe Butte and later, Hayden Butte.The settlement would first be known as Hayden's Ferry.

Just to the east, Mexican settlers founded a town called San Pablo. Those two communities grew together as one as they developed.

Vale Of Tempe

In 1879, the settlement took the name "Tempe" after Englishman "Lord" Darrell Duppa declared the landscape reminded him of the Vale of Tempe in ancient Greece. Hayden would build a flour mill and store, and the community became a trading center for the south side of the Salt River. Farm settlers developed cash crops like dates and citrus. By 1885, the Arizona Legislature chose Tempe as the site for the Territorial Normal School that would eventually become Arizona State University.

Today, Tempe, spread across 40 square miles, has a projected population of 203,923, making it the eighth most populated city in the state and 117th nationally.

Party At Tempe Beach Park

"Throughout the year, the City of Tempe will bring together businesses and community organizations to showcase the city through special events and activities," said Mayor Corey Woods. "Additionally, the Tempe History Museum will unveil its new feature exhibit, 'Tempe 150.' It all leads up to a community celebration on Sunday, November 7 at Tempe Beach Park.

Woods noted that "from the time of a Hohokam village settlement in the 1450s to the city's founding in 1871 to today, Tempe has innovated, explored, grown and become more diverse." The mayor called it a "timeless commitment to community and positive change."

Linoff said one of the planned activities will be the Halloween Double Butte Cemetery tour where visitors will have the chance to "meet some of the folks who built this great city."

Noting Tempe's Ancient Past

Not to been overlooked, said Tempe Council member Lauren Kuby, is noting the city's ancient past, especially its culturally affiliation with the O'Odham, Pilpaash and other ancestors.

"While we celebrate our 'beginnings', we cannot forget that settlement patterns, advanced irrigation practice and other lifeways driven by a deep understanding of, and respect for, the landscape are directly attributable to the ancestors" of the community, she said.

For More Information

The seven members of the City Council have prepared a video about the celebration.


The museum, as well, has created a wide variety of commemorative items for sale to mark the milestone. https://tempehistory.org/product-category/tempe150/

Throughout the year, the web site will showcase 12 living and 12 deceased "Tempe Legends": https://tempehistory.org/stories/

History Society president Vic Linoff concludes, "After a year of great trial and challenge, Tempe residents need something uplifting. Our Sesquicentennial is just the medicine."

The Writer

Lawn Griffiths is a retired editor and columnist with the East Valley Tribune and sister newspapers. He was the Recipient of Tempe's Don Carlos Humanitarian Award - 1995 and is the author of 'Batting Rocks Over the Barn – An Iowa Farm Boy's Odyssey'.


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