City of Chandler celebrates centennial of its incorporation throughout February

Feb. 5, 2020
Downtown Chandler (looking north) in the early 1920s

Throughout the month of February, the City of Chandler is commemorating the legal incorporation of the town, which was approved by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 16, 1920. Incorporation gave the City certain legal powers and its residents the authority to elect a town council and empower them to make decisions for the community.

Nearly 200 area residents had signed a petition for annexation and submitted it to the Board of Supervisors. With incorporation approved, the original town limits were established as approximately a square mile bordered by Hartford Street to the west, Hamilton Street to the east, Galveston Street to the north and Denver Street (today’s Frye Road) to the south.

The day after incorporation approval a front page article in the Chandler Arizonan newspaper reported, “Quietly and without ostentation Chandler passed from the control of Maricopa County into a city of its own, with an organization and a duly appointed set of officials.”  Fittingly, those new officials included the father of the town, Dr. A.J. Chandler, who was chosen as the president of the Council and the town’s first mayor.

Incorporation came nearly eight years after the official founding of the town on May 16, 1912, the day Dr. A.J. Chandler opened a land sale office for his new master planned community built on land subdivided from his 18,000 acre ranch.

In the years prior to incorporation, the townsfolk of Chandler had seen the growth of a business district around the downtown square, the opening of the elegant Hotel San Marcos, the founding of the Chandler Arizonan newspaper, the opening of Chandler High School, the establishment of a volunteer fire department and an influx of hundreds of new residents. National and international events also affected this oasis in the desert, such as World War I, the Spanish Flu pandemic, passage of the federal suffrage amendment and the start of Prohibition. 

But it was Chandler’s incorporation on Feb. 16, 1920, that sent a strong message to the rest of Arizona that this community on the edge of the Salt River Valley was growing up and solidifying its reputation as a community of innovation, and home to resilient and hardworking people. They shared a common vision to build a great place to raise a family, run a business and enjoy a leisurely vacation playing golf or basking in the Arizona sun.

February events and programs commemorating Chandler’s incorporation include:

  • Historic Marker Installation
    A historic marker will be installed in late February on the northwest corner of Arizona Avenue and Chicago Street. This was the location of the original site of City Hall that was dedicated in 1923. It was a small building that housed a courtroom, offices for the Mayor and City Clerk and the City’s new jail, which was purchased second-hand. City operations grew, and moved out of the original structure in 1970. The City’s current City Hall stands just to the northeast of the original site, across Arizona Avenue. The marker will be located adjacent to New Square — a mixed-use development that will have a hotel, retail and office space. The site is currently under construction with plans to open this spring. 

  • Breezeway Mural Debut
    A new colorful mural titled Monuments to Chandler, has been installed in the breezeway between Saba’s Western Wear and Original ChopShop in Downtown Chandler. The artists, Cam DeCaussin and Joey Salamon, are friends from college. The mural depicts the history of Chandler featuring imagery showing the city’s transformation from a sleepy desert town to a hub of technology and innovation. The breezeway connects the historic square with the New Square development that will be opening soon.

  • Self-Guided Downtown Walking Tour
    Take a walk through time with a self-guided Downtown Walking Tour available online at Downtown Walking Tour. As you stroll through the historic square bounded by San Marcos Place, Arizona Place, Boston and Buffalo streets, try to picture what it might have been like 100 years ago. Just prior to incorporation, these original Chandler roadways were paved, setting the path for all future development. An important landmark is the Hotel San Marcos, which lives on today as the Crowne Plaza Phoenix-Chandler Golf Resort. But you might not know that its golf course was originally located across the street and was the first grass golf course in Arizona. And while the names have changed, many of the original structures still stand. As you turn the clock back, you’ll learn about some of the original occupants like the Bank of Chandler, Arrow Pharmacy, Suhwaro Hotel and the Rowena Theater.

  • History Bites
    Chandler Museum will expand its History Bites: Lunchtime Talks during the month of February with free presentations every Thursday at noon. Take a step back in time to learn more about Chandler’s history and historical figures. Each week this month, museum curators or guest speakers will give a 30-minute talk profiling one of the pioneer families of the community. On Feb. 6, the Chandler family will be featured, followed by the Saba family Feb. 13, Ryan family Feb. 20 and Bogle family Feb. 27. The Chandler Museum is located at 300 S. Chandler Village Drive.