…that by 1940, Phoenix was considered the “air-conditioned capital of the world”, not only in use, but also in manufacturing. In 1900 Willis Carrier developed the first known “air-conditioner” that actually cools the air down. . . who would’ve thought that was possible?! Well, send wealthy Americans to Phoenix and there you go!
The first hotel in Phoenix to get A/C was the Westward Ho (1929), which then, mainly catered to the wealthier vacationers. Now it’s been converted (since 1980) into a subsidized housing complex for the elderly and mobility impaired. In 1935 Phoenicians were taking out FHA loans to buy new A/C window units, and by 1936 the Central Arizona Power and Light Company recorded that there were around 5,000 units in Phoenix (it’s around this time that the roof-mounted units were being discovered developed).
This industry in Phoenix, by 1940, saw the birth of more than 30 manufacturers who employed over 200 workers, not including all the other jobs that were created outside of the A/C business because of this new coolant industry. But more important to that in Phoenix, was the rise of creativity and ingenuity that this new industry created. Men who were car mechanics, sheet metal workers, and the like, who contributed their minds to the industry that has blessed us 21st century urban desert dwellers! This new industry eventually funded the development of many other metalworking and machine shops which were needed to keep up with the demand to manufacture more A/C’s to chill the air in this desert climate.
Who would’ve thought that such an economic thrust could come out of a bunch of creative wimps who couldn’t stand the heat like the Hohokam did years before us. I for one am thankful for those wimps, and am encouraged and reminded that necessity (with some amount of resources) can help create new things that help people, and change the face of a city for good. I wonder what the next city changing idea will be birthed out of a comfort necessity in our city?
(City of Phoenix facts were taken from Philip VanderMeer’s book Desert Visions and the Making of Phoenix: 1860-2009, 84-85)