Friday Five: Updates to A Brief History of Midtown Phoenix

In this installment of The Friday Five, it’s time to dust off the slides and update A Brief History of Midtown Phoenix

Back in April 2019, I prepared and delivered my lecture, A Brief History of Midtown Phoenix. The lecture spanned the past 1,500 years of midtown Phoenix history and included a survey of Midtown’s buildings. The thesis of that lecture is that the abrupt end of World War II in August 1945 caught Phoenix and Arizona leaders by surprise, thus setting up developers to build a new city that fit what they wanted. That was the North Central Avenue corridor, which is what we now call midtown Phoenix.

In the two years since that lecture’s creation, there have already been a few things that need revising as Midtown’s changed or as recent scholarship has found new details. In that spirit of continuous improvement, and also because it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, here’s my Friday Five of revisions to A Brief History of Midtown Phoenix.

A quick content warning: One of the items contains news and subject matter that may be distressing to Native Americans. As a courtesy, the content of this point is after the jump.

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Steele Indian School Park

In light of our collective cultural conversations about public space, midtown Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park must be a part of it. Here’s why

When I prepared my midtown Phoenix history lecture last year, A Brief History of Midtown Phoenix, one of the things that I wanted to do was to learn more about the full history of the Phoenix Indian School, which most Phoenicians know only as a giant park in the middle of Phoenix with a dog park and where they launch fireworks on July 4. With a few exceptions, most contemporary history books of Phoenix and its urban history tend to gloss over the site.

I should mention that I don’t intend this to be the last word in scholarship on the site. There are many more people who have reported on the history of not only the Phoenix Indian School but the issues with Indian schools nationwide. The point of this essay is to contribute to a dialogue that should be had about the challenges that this site has, especially in the broader contexts of the urban Phoenix moment and the cultural conversations happening about how we memorialize our history and interact with public space. Continue reading “Steele Indian School Park”