Are you ready for some more fun Phoenix facts? Back by popular demand, we’ve compiled a new list of even more Phoenix-related trivia and history for the locals and their friends to read about, debate, and discuss.
Do you think you know more than the average Phoenician about Arizona’s Urban Heart? Read on and find out - and let us know how you do!
1. Where did Phoenix get its name?
Darrell Duppa & Jack Swilling
First of all, in order to be a bonafide Phoenix trivia buff, one must certainly know where the city got its name. After all, not every city is named after a mythical creature that rises from the ashes of its predecessor! To do this, we’ll need to get to know an intriguing individual from the past named Darrell Duppa.
Who was Darrell Duppa?
Darrell Duppa, also known as Lord Bryan Philip Darrell Duppa, was a French-born gentleman with English parents who migrated to Arizona around 1863. Having been well-educated at Cambridge University, Duppa was said to know several languages fluently and have a strong understanding of the classics. He was also known as an eccentric, claiming to have been the lone survivor of a shipwreck and been lost in South America, New Zealand, and Australia prior to his arrival in Prescott, Arizona.
Once there, he became acquainted with ex-Confederate Jack Swilling, long considered to be Phoenix’s founder, whose company went on to create the first modern canal system. Duppa also became one of the earliest civic leaders in the town. After observing the ruins of the former Hohokam civilization, Duppa shared his belief that a new civilization would eventually arise out of the ashes of Hohokam’s destruction, just like the legendary phoenix bird that does the same. Duppa stated, “A new city will spring phoenix-like upon the ruins of a former civilization.”
What else did Duppa do?
Duppa is also credited with naming the city of Tempe, Arizona, because the way the river, the butte, and the adjacent greenery looked reminded him of the Vale of Tempe in ancient Greece.
Additionally, Duppa is credited for building the oldest home in Phoenix in 1870, which still stands today at 115 West Sherman. Duppa is buried at Pioneer & Military Memorial Park in Phoenix at 1317 West Jefferson Street.
2. The Petroglyphs of Phoenix.
What are petroglyphs?
Petroglyphs are ancient rock carvings believed to have meaning to the individuals or tribes who originally created them. The context of each one, how it's placed within its surroundings, and its overall location may also have special meaning. The Hohokam people who lived in the Phoenix area for over 2,000 years from around A.D. 400-1450 left thousands of mysterious petroglyphs for later civilizations to decipher.
While there is disagreement about what the symbols portray, researchers believe each petroglyph served a purpose of some type. Some may memorialize an event that occurred, while others might mark a significant boundary, indicate the entrance to an important trail, or share the steps of a religious ritual. Each animal and bird carved into the rock is thought to have its own meaning or importance to different tribes as well.
How to get a peek at the petroglyphs
If you feel like going for a hike, some of the best trails in Phoenix for observing the petroglyphs are Holbert Trail on South Mountain, Telegraph Pass, and Kiwanis Trail. There’s also Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve and Museum for those who wish to delve further into the mystery.
Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve is located at 3711 W Deer Valley Rd, Phoenix, Arizona
The Preserve has over 1,600 petroglyphs carved on over 50 acres and a museum created to provide information and education about them. There are also special exhibits for children, as well as scheduled events like concerts.
3. The Mystery of Camelback Mountain.
Gather ‘round, mystery lovers: there’s a good one at Camelback Mountain.
Bearing the highest of the seven mountain summits in Phoenix, Camelback Mountain’s peak of 2,704 feet high offers the most breathtaking views in the region. Located in the Phoenix Valley, the mountain resembles the hump and head of a camel kneeling. What’s mysterious? Geologists can’t figure out how it got its composition.
Here’s the question:
Most of the mountain comprises red sandstone from around 25-30 million years ago. This includes the hump. Otherwise, the mountain, including the camel’s ‘head’, is made of granite from 1.5 billion years ago.
In geology, contact between rock formations from such long periods of time apart is referred to as an “unconformity”.
So how did it end up that way?
Let us know your theories next time you visit!
4. The Legendary Durant’s Steakhouse is a trivia game all in itself.
When you’ve served steak to the rich, famous, and everyone in between for over 70 years, you’re bound to accumulate some fun facts and trivia along the way -- and you can be sure that’s what has occurred at the widely adored Phoenix steakhouse located on Central Avenue, the legendary Durant’s.
Open since 1950, Durant’s is located at 2611 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, offering traditional steakhouse dining in a dimly lit, old Hollywood style. Make sure you enter through the back door for the full experience. Then you go through the kitchen and on through the swinging doors, and (if you drink) sit down and savor a martini at the bar before heading to your table. The guides say to never rush this process. (Of course, the front door works fine and there are many who prefer to eat at their table without stopping at the bar, but this is highly recommended!) You’re free to call Durant’s to verify current hours before venturing out. Their number is 602-264-5967.
Aside from the menu of pricey, meticulously prepared steaks, crab cakes, Oysters Rockefeller, and side dishes, you’ll enjoy classic desserts like cheesecake, tiramisu, key lime pie, or strawberry shortcake in portions large enough to share -- so be sure to save room.
Now for a little trivia on Durant’s:
The most famous regulars of Durant’s included John Wayne, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe, and Clark Gable, but the celebrity clientele didn’t stop there. Guests also included Jane Russell, Minnie Pearl, Henry Winkler, Jim Nabors, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lucille Ball, Engelbert Humperdinck, Adam Sandler, Rob Snyder, Mohammed Ali, baseball player Dizzy Dean, and a countless number of politicians.
Jack Durant was married five times.
Durant once worked as a pit boss at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in the 1940s. His boss was famous mobster Bugsy Siegel. Rumors circulated that Durant later came to Arizona and opened the steakhouse as a front for the mob, but, of course, no one has ever proven so.
Having died unmarried with no heirs, Durant left a gift of $50,000 for his beloved bulldog, Humble, to be cared for. His will read, “To my dog, Humble, I Ieave my home, furniture, and cash in the sum of $50,000.” The will also provided for veterinary care and a caretaker to be hired to live in and care for Humble in Durant’s home -- which was not to be sold as long as Humble was alive. The money was used until Humble’s death one year after Durant’s.
The iconic red wallpaper on the restaurant’s walls has been replaced over the years, but has never changed from the original style chosen by Jack Durant himself. Additionally, the servers all wear tuxedo vests to this day, just as they did on opening night.
Can you eat a 48-ounce Porterhouse steak like Durant once did? If you can, you’ll get your name inscribed on a plaque on the wall, making you a permanent part of Durant’s Porterhouse Club.
This place and its mysterious founder were so popular, they even had a film made about them called Durant’s Never Closes, featuring Tom Sizemore as Jack. (You can also catch an episode of Plate & Pour featuring Durant’s here. During this episode, Durant’s business partner’s daughter shares stories of the restaurant over the decades of its being in business).
5. The song Carefree Highway by Gordon Lightfoot is about a stretch of Phoenix highway.
Known locally as Carefree Highway, a section of Arizona State Route 74, the song’s subject, runs from east to west (between Cave Creek and Wickenburg) in the northern part of Phoenix. The highway runs near the town of Carefree, Arizona.
A popular Canadian folk artist who had earned fame in the USA as well, Lightfoot reported to fans during a concert that he wrote down the name of the highway as he drove through Phoenix one night in the early 1970s because he thought it sounded like a good name for a song. He later admitted that the paper he wrote it down on stayed forgotten in his suitcase for eight months.
Thankfully he went back in to retrieve the paper eventually, as the song he wrote about it later became a hit on more than one chart. It reached #10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart of autumn 1974. It also reached several high points on charts in Canada too.
The song he wrote was about a long-lost love, wondering if she ever thinks of him, and wanting to “slip away on” the Carefree Highway.
Give it a listen – you may recognize it! Here’s Gordon playing it.
6. Phoenix’s South Mountain Park & Preserve is one of the largest city parks in the entire world.
Resting on close to 17,000 acres, Arizona’s South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the nation, and one of the largest urban parks in North America and the world. It has three mountain ranges, and over 50 miles of trails and popular roadways throughout. Additionally, it has been designated a Phoenix Point of Pride.
Originally called the Salt River Mountains, the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s created most of the early park’s infrastructure. The highest point in the park open to the public is Dobbins Lookout at 2,330 feet. You can get there by hiking or using Summit Road. There’s a place to sit and rest in the shade at the top, as well as an observation area where you can see all of downtown Phoenix, Camelback Mountain, and much more. You can hike, drive, or ride a horse along the trails and roadways. Find out where each is allowed/recommended, and where you may enter and park on the Parks and Recreation website.
This is a carrot-tailed chuckwalla, prevalent in South Mountain Park
Unusual flora and fauna can also be observed along the trails of South Mountain Park, like the carrot-tailed Chuckwalla, the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher, the Coachwhip snake, the Elephant tree, Black-tailed rattlesnake, and the Desert tortoise.
7. 97% of Phoenix homes are basement-free.
If you’ve lived in the midwest, northeast, and west north-central regions of the United States, you’ve probably had a basement in your home. But if you live in Phoenix, you’ll rarely find one, as only 3% of Phoenician homes have basements. Why no basements, you ask? It’s a question with 3 answers:
Caliche: The Phoenix Valley, like many parts of Arizona, has areas beneath the surface layer of soil called Caliche. Caliche is very difficult to penetrate, said to be “so hard you can actually see sparks fly off your shovel if you try to dig into it.” Used in many parts of the world as road pavement, caliche only develops in arid and semi-arid regions and can be up to 6 feet deep, requiring a jackhammer to permeate.
Requirements: In other parts of the country, namely the midwest and along the east coast, building foundations are required to be at least 48 inches but up to 72 inches below the surface so that freezing and thawing temperatures in the winter and spring don’t cause cracking. Since builders are already digging that deep, it’s often considered worth their while to go ahead and completely dig out a basement. This is not a requirement in the hot Phoenix area, of course, so the basements don’t follow. In Phoenix, only 18 inches are required to be dug before builders can begin pouring concrete for the main foundation of a house.
Expenses: In Arizona, quicker, low-cost construction is preferred. Since basements are hard to predict cost-wise, they’re generally viewed as too risky to bother adding.
8. Why doesn’t Arizona spring forward or fall backward?
Unlike just about everywhere else in the country, Phoenix does not observe Daylight Saving Time. In fact, most of the state of Arizona doesn’t observe it, choosing to remain in Mountain Standard Time (MST) all year. This is due primarily to the climate.
As we all know, the point of Daylight Saving Time is to make the best use of daylight year round. Essentially, we move an hour of summer daylight from morning to evening in the spring. In Phoenix, however, people face a greater number of sunny, hot days than the rest of us, so DST is considered unnecessary. Extending more scorching hot daylight hours into the evening would prevent Phoenicians from enjoying highly sought-after cooler evening temperatures, in which locals prefer to finish up their daily activities.
(The exception to this is the Navajo Nation, which does observe DST. The Navajo Nation is located in the northeastern corner of Arizona, as well as southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.)
9. Rosy-faced lovebirds are feral in greater Phoenix.
Normally found in southwestern Africa, the highly adaptable rosy-faced lovebird is bred widely in captivity. Their ease of breeding and popularity as pets are considered the likeliest reasons for the feral lovebird population of the greater Phoenix region. This population is said to be the only thriving feral population of rosy-faced lovebirds in the entire United States.
Rosy-faced lovebirds, previously known as peach-faced lovebirds, are small, colorful parrots that are popular cagebirds throughout the world. First observed in 1987 as a small group of likely escaped or abandoned pets, the group had grown to over 950 birds by 2010.
The population has been most noticeably observed over 100 square miles of northwest Phoenix, northern Scottsdale, as well as parts of other nearby towns in the mid-1990s. Surveyors noted that most lovebirds were found living in older, more established neighborhoods with their preferred living quarters being tall shade trees, palms, exotic shrubs, mesquite, palo verde, and saguaro. They are noted to especially enjoy nesting underneath dead, untrimmed palm tree fronds.
Don’t be surprised to see their adorable faces peeking at you from city parks, backyards, or elsewhere as you travel through the city of Phoenix!
10. The first ever McDonald’s franchise opened in 1953 Phoenix.
At the McDonalds in Phoenix in 1954, Central Avenue and Indian School Road.
The very first McDonald’s franchise was sold by the McDonald brothers to Neil Fox, an entrepreneur in Phoenix, in 1953. Fox paid $1,000 for the franchise license (equivalent to equivalent to $9,700 today), which gave him the right to create an establishment based on the premise of the McDonald brothers’ restaurant. This occurred two years before the famous Ray Kroc purchased McDonald’s and opened his first franchise in Chicago.
Being a gasoline businessman with General Petroleum Corporation (some sources say he worked for Occidental Petroleum), Fox had no experience in the restaurant business. He decided to train with his two colleagues, Roger Williams and Bud Landon, in the San Bernardino McDonald’s for a few weeks prior to opening their franchise. In May of 1953, the trio was ready and opened their restaurant at the corner of Central Avenue and Indian School Road in Phoenix.
This franchise was the first one to have giant “golden arches” on the building, which turned out to be twice the building’s height, and are now internationally recognized. The arches were designed by architect Stanley Clark Meston of Southern California and his assistant Charles Fish. Fox’s colleagues assumed he was going to call the restaurant “Fox’s” and were surprised when he named it after McDonald’s. It turned out Fox’s decision was a popular one, however, as all subsequent franchises were called McDonald’s.
The building was later moved around ½ block south of the original site to the east side of Central. Two more McDonald’s restaurants later opened on Central, as well as over 80 more in the greater Phoenix region. *Extra credit: Arizona was the site of another fast-food first, too: the drive-thru window. The first drive-thru window in the nation was featured on the McDonald’s franchise in Sierra Vista, Arizona in 1975. This was done to bring in higher numbers of soldiers who were stationed at the neighboring army base, Fort Huachuca. The soldiers were forbidden from wearing their military fatigues into non-military facilities, so they would have to go home and change in order to come into the restaurant and order food. The restaurant wanted to make sure they could come order food anytime, so the drive-thru window was born.
Well, there you have it -- our most recent installment of fun/strange/wacky Phoenix/Arizona facts and trivia. Did you know about all of them already or were there some surprises for you? Let us know what your favorite Phoenix-related fun facts or trivia are next time you visit.
If you know of a really interesting, verifiable Phoenix or Arizona fun fact and it’s something we haven’t named yet, come tell us about it at your next visit or send an email! We just might use it in our next trivia blog -- with your name by it with credit for sharing it with us!
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