Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part timeline celebrating Arizona’s centennial. Look for the conclusion in the March 16 AFN ‘Tukee Talk.
Statehood day has come and gone, but our celebration of Arizona’s centennial takes a decidedly local turn in this look at milestones that helped to shape Ahwatukee Foothills. Exhausting but by no means exhaustive, this compilation concludes with the naming of the village in 1991.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln signs into law the Homestead Act, opening up the untamed west to settlement.
1888: Kyrene School District established at the corner of the eventual Warner and McClintock roads. Col. James McClintock teaches 17 children in the one-room schoolhouse; no signs of life west of the district’s 56th Street boundary.
1908: Samuel Warner arrives from Kansas and homesteads 160 acres near today’s southeast corner of Priest Drive and the road named after him.
1909: Homesteader Arthur Hunter lays claim to 160 acres near today’s 48th Street and Thistle Landing. Complaints of overcrowding begin.
1911: Hunter builds a farmhouse on Hunter Drive, a dirt lane which would eventually become 48th Street.
1913: Dedication of Roosevelt Dam 76 miles northwest Phoenix initiates a controlled water-delivery system to homesteading farmers via a series of irrigation canals.
1913: Dr. Alexander Chandler’s San Marcos Hotel opens with the first golf course in the state. Among its winter visitors are Midwesterners William Ames and Helen Brinton, builder and second owner, respectively, of the Ahwatukee Ranch.
1914: Californian Reginald Elliott homesteads 160 acres near today’s southeast corner of Priest Drive and — well, you know.
1916: Studebaker manufactures sedan purportedly owned by Al Capone and eventually purchased by Arthur Hunter. The bullet-riddled vehicle is rumored to have been disassembled and buried in the Ahwatukee desert by Hunter in the 1940s.
1917: Texan Bill Collier, founder of Lakewood predecessor the Collier-Evans Ranch, takes a job washing windows at Chandler’s San Marcos Resort.
1920: Kyrene School is moved to the northwest corner of Warner and Kyrene roads due to a high water table at the original school grounds. The few homesteaders’ children in the Kyrene Farming Community west of 56th Street attend.
1920: William Ames acquires eight sections of land adjacent South Mountain — each section equals a square mile — for $4 an acre, and begins constructing a grand winter residence.
1920: Prohibition begins. The ruins of The Lost Ranch, rumored to have been a speakeasy, remain today in the foothills near Chandler Boulevard and 17th Avenue.
1920s: Chandler’s Land Improvement Company acquires thousands of acres in today’s western Ahwatukee Foothills.
1921: William and Virginia Ames move into their 17-room, 12,000-square-foot Case de Suenos (House of Dreams) on Thanksgiving Day. William dies three months later, and Virginia continues to winter there until her death in 1933.
1922: Byron Slawson becomes caretaker of Casa de Suenos, residing on the property with his family until his death in 1976.
1924: City of Phoenix purchases 13,000 acres from the federal government for $17,000 and establishes South Mountain Park. The largest U.S. municipal park eventually grows to close to 17,000 acres, including a portion of donated Ames land.
1929: Frank Lloyd Wright was hired by Chandler to design the 300-room San Marcos in the desert resort on 600 acres near the western border of what would become Mountain Park Ranch. Wright establishes a base camp north of today’s Desert Vista High School, but the October stock market crash kills investment in the resort, which is never built.
1929: New Yorker William Belden acquires 300 acres of land near the future Ray Road and Sun Ray Park, with plans for a winter residence to rival Casa de Suenos. Belden dies the following year as do plans for the house. Belden’s widow and son spend winters in the three small Pima Ranch outbuildings constructed prior to Belden’s death, the only residents of the future Mountain Park Ranch for the next four decades.
1930s: Kyrene School gets its first school bus, furnished with a wooden bench and driven by a moonlighting schoolteacher.
1933: Virginia Ames dies, having previously donated part of her land to Phoenix’s South Mountain Park.
1934: San Marcos winter visitor Helen Brinton acquires Casa de Suenos. Botched translation into the Crow Indian language results in the house being renamed “Ahwatukee,” a word which does not exist in the native-American language.
1930s: Phoenix’s Lightning Transfer and Storage Company acquires 800 acres east of the Ahwatukee Ranch.
Late-1930s: For $40 an acre Bill Collier acquires, clears and begins farming the square-mile of land that would become the Collier-Evans Ranch. Operations continue into the mid-1980s, when the land is developed as Lakewood.
Late-1930s: With a plethora of Arizona roads sharing its name, Pima Road is renamed Ray Road in tribute to an early East Valley farming family.
1940: Kyrene Farming Community’s Tom Owens, Samuel Warner’s grandson, marries Hazel Elliott, Reginald Elliott’s daughter. Result is the original Warner-Elliot Loop.
1943: During World War II, Californian Randall Presley receives pilot training at Glendale’s Thunderbird Field. Sees Phoenix for the first time — but not the last.
1946: International Harvester Company leases 1,920 acres on a World War ll U.S. Army tank-testing facility west of the Collier-Evans Ranch, for use as a truck and heavy-equipment proving grounds. A few years later, the operation grows to more than 4,000 acres on the future Foothills and Club West.
Late-1940s: Rowd Sanders begins crop-dusting the Kyrene Farming Community from his airfield on 200 acres near today’s Wal-Mart on Elliot Road. Sanders plants hundreds of citrus trees, and Tempe’s Grove Parkway is carved through the property in 1985.
1949: Richard Evans marries Bill Collier’s daughter and joins his father-in-law farming the Collier-Evans Ranch.
Early-1950s: West Chandler Road is renamed Williams Field Road and paved for the primary benefit of International Harvester. Until development of Mountain Park Ranch in the early 1980s, the road ends at South 32nd Street.
1950s: Tempe resident Marian Vance sharecrops on Lightning Transfer’s 800 acres east of the Ahwatukee Ranch, where the Ahwatukee Country Club golf course will be built in the early 1970s. In deference to its owner, the property becomes known as The Lightning Ranch.
Late-1950s: Hunter Drive is renamed South 48th Street.
1960: Helen Brinton dies. The Ahwatukee Ranch and surrounding land is purchased by a syndicate headed by Arizona State University English professor and land investor John Ratliff.
1964-65: Grading begins on an extension of the Maricopa Freeway (Interstate 10) from Phoenix to Tucson, separating the remaining Kyrene Farming Community and future Ahwatukee Foothills from Tempe.
1967: Superstition Freeway construction begins with the Goldman Dairy in its path. Milt Goldman relocates his 800-cow operation onto land west of the Collier-Evans Ranch, west of today’s Desert Vista High School.
1968: Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson opens. The only local access ramps are at Williams Field Road, with empty desert in the view to the west.
1968: International Harvester Co. buys the future Foothills’ 4,140 acres for $1.6 million at a city of Phoenix auction.
1969: The Goldmans build their house on the hill, where it today overlooks the two Kyrene schools (Akimel A-al Middle School and Estrella Elementary) built on the southern portion of the dairy.
1969: Californian Randall Presley (see 1943) forms Presley Development Company of Arizona and begins development of two 80 and 100 acre-parcels in the West Valley.
For the conclusion, see Friday’s AFN.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Marty Gibson is the author of “Phoenix’s Ahwatukee Foothills.” Contact him at email@example.com.