Religion and railroads played a prominent role in the settlement of Mesa. Mormons played a prominent role in settling multiple communities that grew together into Mesa, including the Lehi & Stringtown communities. The presence of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) Temple in downtown Mesa reflects this influence. As early as 1912, James W. LeSueur, a businessman and church leader spearheaded the effort for Mesa to have a Mormon Temple. Years of persistence paid off. In 1927, the imposing $800,000 Classical-style Temple was dedicated, surrounded by Citrus trees one of the agricultural products that sustained the region's economy. By 1957, the citrus trees surrounding Temple were replaced with more open landscaping and gardens, connecting the Temple to nearby Pioneer Park, which had been dedicated in the preceding year.

Pioneer Park opened to grand pomp in 1956 with monuments that reflected Mesa's history. These included the cornerstone Pioneer Monument that was conceived as "a mural in stone, symbolizing the accomplishments achieved by the pioneers in their development of this community.” White wanted his monument to convey the mountains and “desert wilderness conquered by (the pioneer’s) covered wagons.” The chimney and roof expressed homes and shelters. A window with permanent light represented the community’s cultural activities.

In 1958, a retired Southern Pacific steam locomotive was added to the park, symbolizing the importance of the railroad in Mesa's history. The rail depot provided transportation for agricultural and manufactured goods to and from Mesa. The first Mesa Depot on 3rd Avenue and Macdonald was completed in 1903 and it replaced the old depot on 3rd street and Sirrine. The station accommodated the agriculture boom following the completion of the Roosevelt Dam in 1911. This depot was eventually replaced by the Southern Pacific depot on 3rd Avenue and Robson.

Images

Phoenix & Eastern Railroad Depot
Phoenix & Eastern Railroad Depot Well-dressed ladies with their picnic baskets, on an excursion to Mesa from Phoenix, disembark the Phoenix & Eastern Railroad depot completed in 1903. It replaced the original depot near 3rd Street and Sirrine. The new station on the south edge of the rail loop encircling the original Mesa townsite was near the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Macdonald. In 1931, Mesa's second train station was replaced by the Spanish-Revival Southern Pacific depot, erected just west at 3rd Avenue at Robson. Source: Arizona Museum of Natural History Date: 1903
Temple Opening
Temple Opening An opening-day photo from the roof of the Mormon Temple looks west from its entrance down 1st Avenue. Only several homes have been built along the tree-lined promenade. In 2000, they became part of the Temple Historic District. As early as 1912, James W. LeSueur, a businessman and church leader was spearheading the effort for Mesa to have a Mormon Temple. Years of persistence paid off. Fifteen years later, on October 23, 1927, the imposing $800,000 ($8.5 million in 2015), Classical-style Temple was dedicated. Today the Temple with its exquisitely manicured grounds welcomes more than one million visitors each year. Source: Arizona Museum of Natural History Date: 1927
LDS Temple
LDS Temple Standing alone when it was completed in 1927, the Temple gained neighbors over the years. In 1957, a view corridor was opened to the new Pioneer Park with its similar landscaping. The citrus trees between the Temple and Main Street disappeared – replaced by a garden, walkways and a visitors’ center. Source: Mesa Preservation Foundation Date: ca. 1960s
Rail Dedication
Rail Dedication In April 1958, hundreds gathered to dedicate the installation of a Southern Pacific Engine in the two-year-old Pioneer Park. Source: Mesa Parks & Recreation Date: 1958
Mesa Train Depot
Mesa Train Depot Well-dressed ladies with their picnic baskets, on an excursion to Mesa from Phoenix, disembark the Phoenix & Eastern Railroad depot completed in 1903. It replaced the original depot near 3rd Street and Sirrine. The new station on the south edge of the rail loop encircling the original Mesa townsite was near the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Macdonald. In 1931, Mesa's second train station was replaced by the Spanish-Revival Southern Pacific depot, erected just west at 3rd Avenue at Robson. Source: Arizona Museum of Natural History Date: 1912

Location

Metadata

Mesa Preservation Foundation et al., “Mesa Drive Station,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/107.