Let’s take a walk down Tempe, Arizona’s Mill Avenue in 1899. We start from the outskirts of town, at about where University Avenue exists nowadays, and walk north.


Mill Ave, Tempe 1899

The two-story building that we see on the right is Laird and Dines Drug Store on 5th Street. This building will be “modernized” with stucco in the 1930s and then returned to its original condition in 2000.

At the end of Mill Avenue lives Charles Hayden’s Flour Mill, which went up in 1873. The original building will burn down and be rebuilt in 1918, and the grain silos will come along in 1951. Charles’ son Carl, who graduated from the Tempe Normal School (later it will become Arizona State University) in 1896, now goes to Stanford, in California, but he will eventually come back to Arizona to serve as Sheriff, and United States Senator.

If we want to cross the river, we will need to take Hayden’s Ferry, as the Ash Avenue Bridge won’t be built until 1913. Of course, the Papago Mountains are a lonely area and dangerous for travelers. It would actually be wiser to take the train to Phoenix. Speaking of which, do you remember what Phoenix looked like before the railroad arrived?

Did you ever notice that the mountain off in the distance looks like a camel lying down? See, its nose points to the west toward the Phoenix Mountains.

Thank you for walking with us. And if you want to explore more of Mill Avenue’s history after 1899, check out Tempe.gov’s “Walk Through History” website.

– Brad Hall, History Adventuring / Edited for Phoenix.org