South Mountain Community College Historic Walking Tour – Stop 7

Palm Trees

Historical Period: Arizona at War, 1914-1950s


If you look to the western border of our campus, you should see some geographical features that originate before our campus was here. Any guesses what they might be?


When do think palm trees were popularized and by who?

Immediately following statehood, the economy of this area resembled the sharecropping South, with poorer people of color renting parcels of land from wealthy landowners, and then attempting to pay off their debts through crop production. Mexican and Mexican-American farmers were particularly vulnerable in these scenarios, and many lost their lands to repossession during the World War I and the Great Depression. Dwight Heard, the famed rancher, newspaper man, and politician made considerable land purchases in this area at that time and created landmarks like the column of palm trees you see behind you.

Question: What do think were some of the other features present in the past?

Later, after World War II, South Phoenix became an unexpected home to dozens of Japanese-Americans who had been interned here in Arizona as a result of national xenophobia and fear following Pearl Harbor. Many had no homes to return to, and instead took up farming in South Phoenix after the war. Within a couple of decades, seven Japanese-American families established an agricultural empire known as the “Japanese Flower Gardens,” which stretched for acres along Baseline Road to the south. They were a tourist destination and sold to markets on either coast.

In 1978, the Heard Corporation sold this land we are standing on to the Maricopa Community College District to build a campus. The only thing left from those days are the palm trees behind us and the canal to the south.

Tour Map

Click the image to see the tour map.