History of Peoria, Arizona

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A Brief Look at Peoria Through the Years

The City of Peoria's history goes back to the 1880’s. Some could challenge that our beginnings go back as far as the Native Americans who inhabited and traveled along the river now known as New River. As far back as humans have roamed this area, agriculture has been the reason for settlement.

These early settlers either built adobe homes or used large tents. One half of the tent contained a floor and served as the living quarters while the other half housed grain, hay, spare furniture and tools. Rattlesnakes, scorpions and desert rats often sought refuge under the floor from the hot desert sun. Life was even more difficult if floods washed out the canal diversion dam. When this happened, it was a six-mile trek to the Grand Canal for domestic and stock water. Once there, the settlers had to dip water from the canal into barrels. The water trips often occurred every other day and lasted for months to keep up with demands.

With the growth in production at Vulture Mine came an increase in traffic along this route, and so it was named Grand Avenue in 1887. By 1888, Peoria was really on the map with the establishment of a U.S. Post Office for its soaring population of 27. After the proposed town site had been surveyed and a well dug in the northwest corner of section 26 the center of Peoria was firmly set at Washington and Grand Avenue.

To accommodate the expanding community, Central School was built in 1906 and used continuously for the next 70 years. Today it is home to the Peoria Museum where tantalizing tidbits from the past await you.

Gradually our town was born as entrepreneurial businesses moved in to meet the needs of the growing community. The city was formally incorporated in 1954. By 1970 the town still only had about 2,500 people. However, it did have all of the shops of a small, self-sufficient and warm-hearted community. Today, with a population of more than 170,000, Peoria continues to grow and prosper.

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