Of all the areas that became part of today's 516-square-mile Phoenix, Sunnyslope had the best chance of being its own separate town.
At the foot of North Mountain, Sunnyslope was very different from Phoenix proper (the name came from the Sunny Slope subdivision laid out by William Norton in 1911). It was a desert town, north of the Arizona Canal which marked the beginning of the oasis.
It was higher than the historic Phoenix townsite, something you still can see today if you drive south from Hatcher on Central Avenue, and framed by rugged terrain. My grandmother sold real estate in Sunnyslope and any time I, an oasis kid, would go with her, it seemed very exotic. And unlike Phoenix, its history was not based on agriculture.
Instead, Sunnyslope attracted "health seekers" and usually poor ones. In the Great Depression, it hosted a Hooverville. And Phoenix leaders not only looked down on it, they didn't want it to be part of the city. It received virtually none of the massive New Deal aid that saved Phoenix in the 1930s.
Sunnyslope did attract a patron in John C. Lincoln, the founder of Lincoln Electric in Euclid, Ohio. Like several local eminences, Lincoln came to the Salt River Valley because of its dry, clean air — his wife Helen was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1931.
The Lincolns gave money to the Desert Mission, a small clinic established in 1927 by Elizabeth Beatty and Marguerite Colley (the "Angels of the Desert") that served a tent village. This stewardship would eventually lead to the establishment of John C. Lincoln Hospital (and in one of the many might-have-beens, we can wonder what might have happened had Lincoln relocated his company to Phoenix).
After World War II, Sunnyslope began growing and attracting builders of middle-class houses. It developed a business district including an A.J. Bayless grocery and movie theater along Dunlap, as well as more retail along Seventh Street. Schools were established, including Sunnyslope High in 1953. I will leave it to others to tell of Dr. Kenneth Hall, the "King of Sunnyslope." No longer an outlier, the settlement had citizens who began agitating for it to incorporate as a town or city. But a familiar dynamic emerged: Many residents didn't want to pay more taxes for being a city. Nor did they want Phoenix's more rigorous building codes. Being under county jurisdiction was fine by them. At least three elections were held and each time the referendum to incorporate failed.
By the mid-1950s, Phoenix was beginning an aggressive annexation campaign. City leaders didn't want to be hemmed in and see their tax base eroded, as was happening in cities back east.
Phoenix leaders were torn, unsure if they wanted to accept the costs of Sunnyslope, which was not connected to the city water or sewage system. They also took note of the hostility of the incorporation referendums and didn't look forward to a fight in the court or legislature, as happened with several annexations. Finally, in 1959 Phoenix annexed Sunnyslope as part of a much larger acquisition of land.
Although the city has surrounded it and moved on, Sunnyslope retains much of its distinctive character, including the five-point intersection at Dunlap-Seventh Street-Cave Creek Road, seen in the 1950s and 1970s:
And don't forget S Mountain:
The past isn't dead in Phoenix — it isn't even past, as you will see from Rogue's Phoenix history archive.