Scottsdale Road

Scottsdale Road started out as a dusty corridor for travelling horse and wagon teams, cattle herds, and pedestrians; by World War II, it was Scottsdale's first and only fully paved road. This transition mirrored the slow but steady shift in transportation methods in American frontier towns during the first half of the twentieth century. The desert terrain, the persistence of farming and ranching activities, and the challenges of building new infrastructure ensured this uneven conversion to modernity, at least until city incorporation brought universal pavement to Scottsdale streets.

Originally called Paradise Road, Scottsdale Road formed a path along the north-south axis from the Salt River Basin to what became known as Paradise Valley. Life in the desert made the horse indispensible: nearly every early settler kept a horse. Stagecoaches and wagon trains filled with mail, goods, and people moved in and out of Scottsdale, children rode horses to school, and ranchers on horseback herded their cattle right down Scottsdale Road. Every good horse team needed a blacksmith, and Cavalliere's and Scotty's, two local blacksmith shops, provided their wares and services.

Automobiles appeared alongside horses and buggies after the turn of the century, and the Arizona Republican newspaper heralded the change. By 1907, graded dirt roads connecting Scottsdale to its neighbors accommodated riding, wheeling, and driving, and motorized tours and personal automobiles trekked across the desert along the buttes or by the orange groves lining Indian School Road. By 1919, trailblazing cotton farmers in Scottsdale saved time and money by hitching utility trailers to light automobiles and driving their crops to the local gins. In 1921, Scottsdale Road was slated for pavement as a part of the Maricopa County highway system, and by the mid-1920s, Mort Kimsey Service Company on Scottsdale Road catered to the growing number of gasoline-powered vehicles in town.

The introduction of vehicles and pavement to Scottsdale was not exactly a smooth ride. Dust was a perpetual issue, and drought conditions prevented a prompt completion of the Scottsdale Road pavement project. Parched and dusty dirt roads riddled with chuck holes several feet deep were difficult for county crews to work on. In the 1920s, cars and horses alike demanded space in downtown Scottsdale, resulting in parking regulations to allow smoother traffic flow near businesses. A newly-paved yet narrow Scottsdale Road hosted several accidents involving motorists and cotton pickers, school children, and others who walked along the road, and a 30 mph speed limit was established in 1922 to mitigate further risks.

By the end of World War II, a fully-paved Scottsdale Road extended from Curry Road to the air field on what is now Thunderbird Road, but many roads in Scottsdale were only partially paved if paved at all. Dirt roads far outnumbered paved roads in the Scottsdale area, and wagons were not mere ornaments on the farm quite yet. Resort seekers might find a horse and wagon team at the airport or train depot waiting to escort them to their destination, and the occasional cattle herd still came through town.



Sounds of Scottsdale
Scottsdale not only looked different decades ago - it sounded different too. Written by Megan Keough; narrated by Paul Messinger. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association.
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Scottsdale City
Scottsdale poet laureate Robert "Bob" Frost reads his poem "Old Scottsdale Town," about life in early Scottsdale. Written and narrated by Robert Frost. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of Papago Salado Association.
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