Mesa was founded in January 1878 by Latter-day Saint (LDS or Mormon) pioneers and its population is still roughly one-tenth Mormon. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates one of its oldest temples in Mesa (the Mesa Arizona Temple).
After the disappearence of the Hohokam and before the arrival of the early settlers little is known, as explorers did not venture into this area. By the late 19th century near present-day Mesa, U.S. Army troops subdued the Apache opening the way for settlement.
Daniel Webster Jones led an expedition to found a Mormon settlement in Arizona. Leaving St. George, Utah in March of 1877, Jones and others arrived at Lehi, an area just north of present-day Mesa. Jones had been asked by LDS officials to direct a party of people in establishing a settlement in Arizona. This settlement was initially known as Jonesville and Fort Utah and did not receive the name of Lehi until 1883, when it was adopted on the suggestion of Brigham Young, Jr..
At the same time, another group dubbed the First Mesa Company arrived from Utah and Idaho. Their leaders were named Crismon, Pomeroy, Robson, and Sirrine. Rather than accepting an invitation to settle at Jones' Lehi settlement, they moved to the top of the mesa that serves as the city's namesake. They dug irrigation canals, some of which were over the original Hohokam canals, and by April 1878, water was flowing through them. The Second Mesa Company arrived in 1879 and settled to the east of where the First Mesa Company settled in 1880, due to lack of available farmland. This settlement was called Stringtown.
On July 17. 1878, Mesa City was registered as a 1-square-mile townsite. The first school was built in 1879. In 1883, Mesa City was incorporated with a population of 300 people. Dr. A. J. Chandler, who would later go on to found the City of Chandler, worked on widening the Mesa Canal in 1895 to allow for enough flow to build a power plant. In 1917, the City of Mesa purchased the utility company. The revenues from the company provided enough for capital expenditures until the 1960s. During the Great Depression, WPA funds provided paved streets, a new hospital, a new town hall and a library.
With the opening of Falcon Field and Williams Field in the early 1940s, more military personnel began to move into the Mesa area. With the advent of air conditioning and the rise of tourism, population growth exploded in Mesa as well as the rest of the Phoenix area. The 1950s and 1960s showed growth of commerce and industry, especially from early aerospace companies. As late as 1960, half of the residents of Mesa made a living with agriculture, but this has declined substantially as Mesa's suburban growth continued on track with the rest of the Phoenix metro area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 125.2 square miles (324.2 km²), of which, 125.0 square miles (323.7 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (0.16%) is water.
|Rec. high °F (°C)||89 (31.6)||95 (35)||99 (37.2)||106 (41.1)||118 (47.8)||116 (46.7)||119 (48.3)||115 (46.1)||113 (45)||107 (41.7)||97 (36.1)||86 (30)|
|Avg high °F (°C)||67 (19.4)||71 (21.7)||77 (25)||85 (29.4)||94 (34.4)||104 (40)||106 (41.1)||104 (40)||99 (37.2)||89 (31.6)||75 (23.9)||67 (19.4)|
|Avg low temperature °F (°C)||41 (5)||45 (7.2)||49 (9.4)||54 (12.2)||61 (16.1)||70 (21.1)||77 (25)||76 (24.4)||70 (21.1)||59 (15)||47 (8.3)||40 (4.4)|
|Rec. low °F (°C)||15 (-9.4)||19 (-7.2)||24 (-4.4)||30 (-1.1)||37 (2.7)||43 (6.1)||54 (12.2)||51 (10.5)||40 (4.4)||30 (-1.1)||22 (-5.6)||17 (-8.3)|
|Avg precipitation in. (mm)||1.01 (25.7)||0.99 (25.1)||1.19 (30.2)||0.33 (8.4)||0.17 (4.3)||0.06 (1.5)||0.89 (22.6)||1.14 (29)||0.89 (22.6)||0.81 (20.6)||0.77 (19.6)||0.98 (24.9)|
As of the census 2001 estimate, there were 442,445 people, 146,643 households, and 99,863 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,171.3 people per square mile (1,224.4/km²). There were 175,701 housing units at an average density of 1,405.7/sq mi (542.8/km²).
The racial make-up of the city was 81.6% White, 2.4% Black or African American, 2.2% Native American, 2.00% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 9.3% from other races, and 1.30% from two or more races. 24.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 146,643 households out of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 24.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.20.
The population was diversified with respect to age with 27.3% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,817, and the median income for a family was $49,232. Males had a median income of $35,960 versus $27,005 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,601. About 6.2% of families and 8.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over. Mesa's residents exhibit a great deal of economic diversity, with low-income areas constructed somewhat close to high-scale neighborhoods with expensive custom homes. The neighborhood "Marlborough Mesa", along with many other neighborhoods, have won a community award.
An older mall, Fiesta Mall, is located in west Mesa, and also owned by Westcor. The mall's anchors are Dillard's, Macy's, and Sears. It is located near several shopping centers, Mesa's Bank of America, and other retail stores, banks, and restaurants. An expansion of Fiesta Mall has been planned.
Mesa Riverview is a new outdoor destination retail center in the northwestern corner of the city, near Loop 202 and Dobson Road. At build-out the center will include of of retail space. The anchors include Bass Pro Shops, Cinemark Theatres, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot. Mesa Riverview also includes restaurants and specialty stores.
Several area freeways serve the Mesa area, such as U.S. Route 60, locally known as the Superstition Freeway, which runs between Apache Junction and Phoenix. It is also served by SR 87 and bypass loops Loop 101, which skirts the western city limits as the Price Freeway, and Loop 202, which bypasses the city on the north and east. Public transportation is provided by Valley Metro with buses running Monday through Saturday only; Mesa is the largest U.S. city with no public transit service on Sundays. Mesa is scheduled to be connected to the METRO Light Rail in December 2008 at Main and Sycamore, on the end of line section 5.
Air service in the city is provided by two airports. Falcon Field, located in the northeastern part of the city, was established as a training field for British RAF pilots during World War II and was transferred to the city at the end of the war. Boeing builds the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter at a facility adjoining Falcon Field. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is located in the far southeastern area of the city, and provides alternate but limited air service to Sky Harbor International Airport. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway was formerly Williams Gateway Airport, and before that, Williams Air Force Base, which closed in 1993. Williams Gateway was announced as a new Focus City for Allegiant Air. Service started October 25, 2007.
Mesa is also home to Mesa Community College, the largest of the Maricopa Community Colleges, which enrolls over 22,000 full and part time students. In addition, the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University lies in southeast Mesa. This satellite campus enrolls over 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students in scientific and engineering fields.