Filed Under Post War 1950s, 60s

Old Town Scottsdale

The West's Most Western Town

Scottsdale's forward thinking chamber of commerce crafted a movie-worthy tourism hot spot.

Western names and stylized architecture are Old Town's lasting memorials to early Scottsdale's efforts to craft a unique identity for the town—one that would bring tourists in and set Scottsdale apart from other westward destinations. This foundation has resulted in a thriving Scottsdale tourism industry today. The tourism industry employs 39 percent of the city's workforce, and over 8 million visitors arrive every year to populate the 15,000 hotel and resort rooms. This kind of major cash flow was precisely what Scottsdale leaders envisioned when they formed the Chamber of Commerce in 1947, which gleefully promoted Scottsdale (incorporated in 1951) with the slogan "The West's Most Western Town,"

Scottsdale was an ideal location for the establishment of health camps and other resorts in the 1920s and 1930s. Here guests could convalesce or simply enjoy the outdoor pursuits afforded by the area's unusual climate, which boasted over 300 sunny days a year. WWII disrupted this early tourism as traveling for health and relaxation gave way to more urgent priorities. As the nation regained economic confidence after the war, Scottsdale's citizenry realized that tourism could become a potent source of growth and prosperity for the town. The chamber of commerce was established to guide Scottsdale as it attempted to capitalize on its potential and establish some sort of infrastructure for the yet-to-be incorporated town. But it also had to find a pitch for Scottsdale. It had to name, develop, and promote those things that would make Scottsdale special. A high-octane Western ambiance provided the answer. The chamber encouraged local businesses to adhere to a new Western architectural repertoire voluntarily. Undoubtedly, the still unpaved streets enhanced the movie set-like impression of the Wild West. A kind of cowboy glamour combined with a dash of resort high-life and virtuously sunny weather became the hallmark of the chamber's promotional rhetoric.

During the 1950s, the now-incorporated town found new ways to lure visitors. It featured cookouts in the desert, held the annual Parada del Sol and Arabian Horse Show, staged fashion shows on Fifth Avenue, and brought baseball spring training to the newly built stadium. These attractions helped Scottsdale script its identity as a vacationland of Western-themed fun. And this Hollywood version of Western chic is an identity that remains central to Scottsdale's success today.

Audio

Funtastic, Suntastic Scottsdale A fictional promoter of Scottsdale's wonders gleefully celebrates the town in the style of the 1950s Chamber of Commerce's own marketing rhetoric. Written by Megan Keough; narrated by Rick McGinley. Recorded at Scottsdale Channel 11; courtesy of the Papago Salado Association.

Images

Welcoming Cowboy
Welcoming Cowboy Commissioned in 1952 as part of the Chamber of Commerce's Western-themed marketing blitz and designed by local woodcrafter Dee Flag, this cowboy on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street welcomed visitors to Scottsdale and, with just a touch of cowboy bravado, proudly notified them of local events. It became a favorite spot for tourists to get their goofy vacation snapshots taken. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library Date: 1952
A Proud Greeter
A Proud Greeter The cowboy sign at Scottsdale Road and Main Street may be the most well known, but as this image shows it had brothers stationed at other points leading in to Scottsdale. In 1956, the local paper reported that agreements with advertisers had been signed for 15 cowboy siblings to be placed along highways on the way in to town. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Public Library Creator: Unknown Date: c. 1956
Porter's Western Theme
Porter's Western Theme Looking almost as if it could double as a set on Gunsmoke, Porter's exemplifies the Old West look that the Chamber of Commerce encouraged local businesses to adopt in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was all about setting the scene for the "West's Most Western town." Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Public Library Creator: Unknown Date: c. 1950
Saturday Night at the Pinnacle Peak Patio
Saturday Night at the Pinnacle Peak Patio Another iconic tourist spot, Pinnacle Peak Patio, opened in 1957 as a service station and convenient store for travelers on their way to Bartlett Lake. The owner began offering dinners on the weekends, and the cookouts turned into a Western-themed restaurant, which suggests how prominent Western-self-styling was even outside the bounds of Scottsdale. According to legend, when a businessman refused to take off his tie in adherence with the casual atmosphere, the owner took a butcher knife and removed the tie for him. It--and many more ties--are still prominently displayed. Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library. Source: Scottsdale Historical Society, Scottsdale Public Library Date: 1957

Location

Metadata

Amy Long and Megan Keough, “Old Town Scottsdale,” Salt River Stories, accessed March 3, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/31.