What led to the selection of Arizona’s capital city?

Travel Destinations

By Felicity Long

Arizona’s Capital City

Arizona’s capital city is Phoenix, a bustling metropolitan area with a population of over 1.7 million people. But how was Phoenix chosen as the capital city of Arizona? The answer lies in a complex process that took place during the state’s early years, involving politics, geography, and economics. In this article, we will explore the factors that led to the selection of Phoenix as the capital city of Arizona.

A Brief History of Arizona’s Statehood

Arizona became a state on February 14, 1912, as the 48th state of the United States. Prior to that, it was part of the Territory of Arizona, which was established in 1863. During the territorial era, the capital of Arizona was located in several cities, including Prescott, Tucson, and Phoenix. However, when Arizona gained statehood, a permanent capital city had to be selected.

The Search for a Capital City

In 1910, Arizona held a constitutional convention to draft a state constitution and determine the location of the capital city. The convention delegates were tasked with choosing a location that was centrally located, easily accessible, and had a good water supply. They also had to consider the economic and political implications of their decision.

The Role of the Constitutional Convention

The constitutional convention lasted several months and was marked by intense political battles between the delegates. Some wanted the capital to be located in the northern part of the state, while others preferred the southern region. Ultimately, the convention delegates decided to leave the decision to a popular vote.

How Phoenix Became a Contender

Phoenix was not initially considered a serious contender for the capital city, as it was a small farming community with a population of only 11,000 people. However, it had a few advantages that made it an attractive option. First, it was centrally located, making it easily accessible from all parts of the state. Second, it had good rail connections, which would facilitate transportation and trade. Finally, it had a reliable water supply, thanks to the Salt River.

The Influence of Railroads on the Decision

At the time, railroads were a vital component of Arizona’s economy, and many delegates believed that a capital city located near a major railroad hub would be beneficial. Phoenix was located on the transcontinental Southern Pacific Railroad, which connected it to other major cities in the West. This gave Phoenix an edge over other cities that were not as well connected.

The Importance of Water Resources

Another factor that influenced the decision was the availability of water. Arizona is a desert state, and water is a precious resource. Phoenix had a reliable source of water, thanks to the Salt River. This made it a more attractive option than other cities that struggled to provide water for their residents.

The Final Vote: Phoenix versus Prescott

In November 1910, the people of Arizona voted on the location of the capital city. The two main contenders were Phoenix and Prescott. In the end, Phoenix won by a narrow margin, receiving 16,411 votes to Prescott’s 15,390 votes. This decision was a significant victory for Phoenix, as it put the city on the map and set it on a path of rapid growth and development.

Phoenix’s Rise as the Capital City

After Phoenix was designated as the capital, it underwent a period of rapid transformation. The city’s population grew rapidly, and new buildings were constructed to accommodate the state’s government. The capitol building, which was completed in 1901, was expanded and renovated to house the state’s legislative and executive branches. Over time, Phoenix became a major political and economic center, attracting businesses and industries from all over the country.

The Evolution of Phoenix’s Government

Since becoming the capital city, Phoenix has undergone several changes to its government structure. Initially, it had a mayor-council form of government, but in 1948, a charter was adopted that established a council-manager system. This system remains in place today, with a mayor and eight council members overseeing the city’s operations. Phoenix is also home to many state government agencies, including the Arizona State Capitol Museum, the Arizona State Library, and the Arizona State Archives.

Conclusion: Arizona’s Capital City Today

Today, Phoenix is a thriving metropolitan area with a diverse economy and a rich cultural heritage. It is home to many major corporations, including Intel, American Express, and Honeywell. The city also hosts several major sporting events, including the Fiesta Bowl and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Despite its rapid growth, Phoenix has managed to maintain its unique character and identity, making it a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.

References and Further Reading

  • Arizona State Capitol Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://azlibrary.gov/azcm
  • City of Phoenix. (n.d.). Our History. Retrieved from https://www.phoenix.gov/PHXTV/phxtv-media-library/our-story-videos/our-history
  • Huffington Post. (2012). Arizona Statehood: 100 Years Later, How Phoenix Became the Capital. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/arizona-statehood-100-years-later-how-phoenix-became_b_1272247?guccounter=1
  • Planphx. (n.d.). Our History. Retrieved from https://www.planphx.org/our-history/
  • The Arizona Republic. (2017). Arizona’s Constitution: How Phoenix became the capital. Retrieved from https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix-history/2017/02/14/arizonas-constitution-how-phoenix-became-capital/97759304/
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Felicity Long

Felicity Long, a seasoned travel journalist with 15+ years of experience, specializes in exploring Europe, family travel, and skiing, as evident in her book "Great Escapes: New England" (The Countryman Press). She edits the Europe eNewsletter and contributes significantly to TravelAsker's destinations sections. Felicity has received esteemed awards, including the Cacique and Yo Leonardo Awards, in recognition of her outstanding international travel writing accomplishments.

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