Do you know how the city of Scottsdale, Arizona got its name? Do you wonder what it was like to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse? Can you imagine yourself living 100 years ago in a Scottsdale that had no telephones, no televisions and no cars? When you visit the Scottsdale Historical Museum at 7333 East Scottsdale Mall in the Old Town section of the city, all of your questions will be answered.
Scottsdale was named after its founding father, U.S. Army Chaplain Winfield Scott. Toward the end of his military service, the Chaplain took a trip to Arizona and found a large parcel of land in the Salt River Valley that would be ideal for farming. He purchased the undeveloped 640 acres at a bargain price in 1888. Together, with his brother, the two Scotts grew a variety of crops, including an orchard full of orange trees. He and his brother became the first residents of a new town called Orangedale (after the oranges they grew). A few years later, in 1894, Orangedale was renamed Scottsdale (after Scott and the valley, or dale, where the town was situated).
The Scottsdale Historical Museum is not very large, but it contains a surprising amount of historical artifacts dating back to the late 19th century. Some of the artifacts, documents and photographs have been donated by the Scott family. The museum takes you from the very beginning of Scottsdale, through the war years, and all the way up to the 21st century. The volunteer docents are very knowledgeable and very friendly. They love when you ask questions and allow them to share some of their favorite stories about Scottsdale.
The One-Room Schoolhouse
As part of the permanent exhibition, the museum has recreated an authentic one-room schoolhouse that would be typical in newly settled areas of the West in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. While schools in cities like Philadelphia, Boston and New York were well-established, that was not the case in the sparsely populated areas west of the Mississippi. A single schoolroom had one teacher who taught all grades to children of all ages. Don’t forget to ring the school bell.
The Scottsdale Historical Museum is located inside a 1910 building that once was a two-room schoolhouse. Over the years, the brick building was used as a grocery store, City Hall, a public library, and for other purposes. Since 1991, the building has been home to the Scottsdale Historical Society and Museum.
A Tribute to Winfield Scott
You could not tell the story of Scottsdale without having a special exhibition dedicated to the city’s founding father. The Winfield Scott Exhibition traces the life of Scott from his birth in 1837 to his death in 1910. During his life, he exemplified all of the qualities in an individual that we admire. He served God, his country and his fellow man. He built churches, became an educator, was actively involved in politics, and, of course, gave Scottsdale its start.
The Scottsdale Historical Museum is free to visit, but donations help keep the doors open. Hours are from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM on Wednesday through Saturday and from noon to 4:00 PM on Sundays. If your in the Old Town area, stop in for an interesting glimpse at the history of Scottsdale.