242 Tempe, AZ: House by a Road


Tempe was named for a city believed to be at the foot of the mythical Mount Olympus, an earthly paradise and the home of the gods. The Ho-Ho-Kam had been the original inhabitants of the Salt River Valley, including what is now Tempe. They were here for 1,400 years before suddenly disappearing: "Ho-ho-kam" means "the vanished ones."

As the city's main drag, Mill Avenue, implies, there is a mill house by this road: The Hayden Flour Mill had been continuously in operation since 1874. Charles T. Hayden came here in the late 1860s and laid the foundations for Tempe. School had been held in the town's saloon until Hayden donated land on which an adobe schoolhouse was built. That became a teachers college of thirty-three students that grew into to today's Arizona State University, which enrolls more than fifty thousand. The town had also grown from one and a half square miles to forty. Tempe ballooned in the 1950s through 1980s with GI bill students, retirees, and hippies. Between 1964 and 1967, its population nearly doubled.

The town was once alongside a river, so it was settled for agriculture. Eventually, farm and housing development dried up the river. So now it's on a lake. After gulping up the river, the town voted to dam the dry riverbed and fill it with water to create Tempe Town Lake. As you could have guessed, they have trouble keeping the lake's water level up because it evaporates so quickly in the desert setting.

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