Tempe Celebrates 150 Years!

Welcome to 2021, a very special year for the city of Tempe. It is our Sesquicentennial!

In 1869, a former teacher, probate judge, merchant, and freighter on a journey from Tucson to Prescott, took advantage of a delay caused by high water in the Salt River to scale a butte on its shore, and survey the surrounding countryside.

From his elevated position, Charles Trumbull Hayden envisioned the farming potential the irrigable land offered. He soon began planning to relocate from Tucson to oversee the construction of a mill to process grains grown in the vicinity.

By 1871, Hayden was working to bring water to his prospective mill at the west base of rise he had climbed earlier, as well constructing a store and living quarters…thereby establishing the second settlement in the Salt River Valley.

One-hundred-and-fifty years have passed since the modest beginning when a handful of hardy souls took a chance on building a new community. With all the challenges they immediately faced, none could have imagined far in to the future what their efforts would ultimately lead to.

Now, in our Sesquicentennial year, the once tiny village of farmers and ranchers has grown into a thriving metropolis knocking on the door of 200,000 – making us the 8th largest city in Arizona. Tempe’s original 1.8 square miles has ballooned to just over forty.

This momentous year gives time to pause and reflect just how far we have come. Longtime resident, or newcomer, this is the moment to let the world know our love for and pride in Tempe.

Over the course of the year, the museum will feature exhibitions and activities telling the Tempe story. A year-long, wide variety of celebratory activities will punctuate our Sesquicentennial, culminating in November with a festival in Tempe Beach Park, on the footstep of where it all started 150 years ago. Keep up with all the happenings through the Museum’s and Society’s Facebook and website pages.

No Sesquicentennial year would be complete without memorabilia commemorating the celebration. Visit our online shop and continue to come back as items will be added, in limited quantities, as they are developed. All proceeds from the sale of these items will go to the Society to support the Sesquicentennial activities.

Happy 150 Tempe!

What Part Of Tempe History Do You Belong To?

Are you a member of a family whose Tempe roots go back as far as the community’s beginnings in the 1870s – or earlier? There were, after all, quite a few families around here even before the area became part of a new Territorial addition to the United States of America. One could say you “inherited” Tempe history – and have helped build upon it, generation after generation after generation.

Perhaps you are part of that intrepid group of “newcomers” who began swarming into Tempe in the post-World War II era (some of you may have used the G.I. Bill to attend Arizona State College). Your generation started an overwhelming population growth that tripled the town’s population in a decade, then more than double it again over the next 10 years.  Now you’ve been here long enough to not only consider yourself a Tempe oldtimer but to have added kids, grandkids and great-grandkids to the mix. You have taken your place as a major part of a change in the course of Tempe history, from a small rural agricultural town to a manufacturing/big business/university city.

Then, again, maybe you are fairly new to Tempe – coming here from somewhere else, but have already decided this is where you want to stay (and maybe raise another generation or two of Tempeans!). You are adding the new “chapters” to Tempe’s history and we will see what your contributions will bring to this city by the Salt River banks.

No matter which of the groups you belong to, Tempe History Society recognizes you as a key element to the essence of what is Tempe. You and your family will continue to add to the ever-changing chapters of Tempe’s history. And you can preserve and share those chapters by becoming a Tempe History Society new or continuing member. By doing so, you will become a partner in efforts to preserve, celebrate and educate present and future generations about Tempe’s amazing history and the people who made it.

Upcoming Events


April 23, 20217:00 pm

Moonlight Magic

Moonlight Magic consists of some longtime mainstays on the Phoenix music scene: Jaime Paul Lamb (composer/guitarist), Andrew Jemsek (organ/accordion/composer), Ruth Wilson (electric and upright bass), Eddy Detroit (percussion) and Steve Asetta (saxophone/percussion). Moonlight Magic formed out of a mutual love of all things lounge, exotica, and bossa nova. They are all huge fans of composers such as Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Burt Bacharach & Antonio Carlos Jobim. Moonlight magic plays all their own material, exclusively. The band’s sound is about the hippest representation of 60’s lounge culture one is likely to find here in the Valley. Meet the band in a ...




The Harters of Tempe left an endurable mark in art and historic preservation.    Tom Harter taught art for 38 years at Arizona State University while producing a remarkable body of work as a painter.  His wife, Helen Harter, a member of a Tempe pioneer family, was an accomplished artist, who taught art for decades in Valley public schools. Their …


Pen Johnson has devoted his life to hospitality and civic involvement. Most identified with his 35 years in the hotel lodging industry, Pen has been a major force in establishing Tempe’s tourism footprint. From 1970 to 2000, he was owner-operator and general manager of the iconic Holiday Inn of Tempe at the southeast corner of Rural Road and Apache Boulevard.  …