Tempe Homes Guide

Tempe Real Estate

Ship Shaper Building

Now a burgeoning city, Tempe, Arizona has a humble beginning rooted in agriculture. Named for it rich valley on the banks of a wide river, settlers thought it bore resemblance to ancient Greece.

Tempe grew in popularity after the establishment of Fort McDowell on the eastern edge of central Arizona's Salt River Valley in 1865. Farmers moved into the area and dug irrigation canals left by the prehistoric Hohokam people to carry Salt River water to their fields.

Valley farms soon supplied food to Arizona's military posts and outlining mining towns. The first settlers were Hispanic.

In 1872, some of these Mexican settlers founded a town called San Pablo near Tempe Butte, another small colony nearby. Within a few years the settlement was home to stores and a flour mill, warehouses, blacksmith shops and a ferry, and soon the community became the trade center for the south side of the Salt River Valley.


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Both settlements grew quickly and soon formed one and it was named Tempe in 1879, inspired by the river and the nearby expanse of green fields; it was named for the Vale of Tempe in ancient Greece.

Soon the city was known for alfalfa and grains for feeding livestock, the network of canals carrying water to more than 20,000 acres of prime farmland. Crops of wheat, barley and oats ensured a steady business for the emerging economy. The flour was hauled to forts and other settlements throughout the territory. By the 1890s, some farmers started growing new cash crops such as dates and citrus fruits.

In 1885, the Arizona legislature selected Tempe as the site for the Territorial Normal School, which trained teachers for Arizona's schools. Other changes in Tempe promoted the development of the small farming community and the Maricopa and Phoenix Railroad, built in 1887, crossed the Salt River at Tempe, linking the town to the rest of the country and bringing their cash crops with them. The city quickly became one of the most important business and shipping centers in the area.

In 1911, the completion of Roosevelt Dam guaranteed enough water to meet the growing needs of Valley farmers. A year later, the territory became the 48th state and the future population center for the Southwest.

After World War II, the small farms died out as the city grew with the influx of veterans, and Arizona State University took over for the teacher's college.