Tempe Butte is composed of volcanic rock, desert vegetation and history.
Through centuries, the geographic feature also known as Hayden Butte has held significance among three communities: Tempe residents, Arizona State University and local American Indians.
This is why, city officials believe, Tempe Butte belongs on the Tempe Historic Property Register.
Following the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission's unanimous vote supporting the designation on Thursday night, there are only a few more steps to go before the butte is placed at No. 34 on the register. The City Council will have the final say at its Aug. 7 meeting
Such a designation, city preservation officials take pains to note, will not change how the butte is used. People can still hike or bike the trail to the top, Christmas decorations will be erected every winter and ASU students can still paint the giant "A" - as long as they have the proper permit.
In 1961, the City Council changed the mountain's name to Hayden Butte, honoring Tempe's founder and his son, former U.S. Sen. Carl Hayden. However, the city never takes up the change with the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to the two names.
Actually, not all of Tempe Butte will be placed on the register; ASU owns the eastern half, with the divider being a chain-link fence that roughly follows College Avenue north. Because the state owns that land, the city cannot apply on its behalf.
The first citizens of Tempe Butte were the Hohokam, who lived on the mountain while tending their crops which were irrigated by canals stemming from the adjacent Salt River. Even today, hikers can see the ancient people's petroglyphs carved into the rocks.
The Hohokam vanished, but their descendents now comprise the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. In the recent past, the Salt River community has helped pay for archaeological research on the mountain.
In the 1870s, city founder Charles Trumbull Hayden thought the butte was a fine place to open a flour mill and blacksmith shop. Soon, Hayden's Ferry was one of the Valley's preeminent crossing points on the Salt River.
In the following years, the milestones piled up:
1887 - Quarries open on the butte's north and south sides. Much of the rock is used to build railroad beds throughout the region, but some stone is made into the trim of ASU's Old Main building.
1902 - Tempe starts up its first waterworks with a storage reservoir on the mountain.
1918 - ASU's predecessor, Tempe Normal School, places a giant "N" on the rocks. Twelve years later, the letter is changed to "T" for Tempe State Teachers College. The "A" comes in 1938 to recognize Arizona State Teacher's College.
1958 - ASU's Sun Devil Stadium is constructed in the butte's saddle.
Tempe Butte rises 346 feet above the desert floor, with its peak elevation just short of 1,500 feet above sea level.