Prior to becoming a popular watering hole and part of the set-dressing of Scottsdale’s self-conscious efforts to become “the West’s most Western town,” the building now housing the Rusty Spur Saloon was the Farmers State Bank of Scottsdale. The opening of the bank on January 22, 1921 signaled the promise of the burgeoning community.
Scottsdale was growing slowly but steadily as the power of the Salt River had been harnessed by the Roosevelt Dam. Scottsdale functioned as a market town for the numerous families engaged in cotton growing and citrus farming, which paved the way for the town’s eventual prosperity. Then, as now, uncertainty was a fact of life for those whose livelihood depended on agricultural production, but residents of the area had confidence in the town’s potential. This confidence was undoubtedly bolstered by the recently built a cotton gin, used to process the cotton grown nearby, and the arrival of electricity in Scottsdale.
The bank provided more than just a symbol of this confidence; it provided a vital service to local farmers and businessmen. The Farmers State Bank of Scottsdale allowed them to avoid the time-consuming trek to Phoenix to take care of their banking—a journey made onerous by the lack of paved roads—and enabled them to access local capital. And while E.O. Brown’s General Store next door remained the “see and be seen” hot spot, the bank was also an important community center, housing the first chamber of commerce and the lending library.
It represented the growth of the young community; but its fall in 1933 to the financial woes of the Great Depression indicates how the development of Scottsdale is tied to a larger American story of alternating prosperity and hardship. After the bank closed its doors, the community felt the pinch of its absence as residents struggled to find new ways to conduct their banking business during the lean years of the 1930s. Though it now holds liquor instead of money, they old bank vault persists as a vestige of early Scottsdale’s evolution.