Museum History

1939 picture of adobe Museum building and southwest corner of platform moundPueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, a section of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department, Natural Resources Division, was donated to the city in 1924 and a museum was opened on the site in 1929.  At that same time, a Museum Director/City Archaeologist was hired; Phoenix was the first city in the nation to have a City Archaeologist.  The original museum building was completed in 1935 using adobe blocks manufactured on site and scavenged supplies.  At the height of the Great Depression, the City Archaeologist enjoyed telling visitors that the museum was built at the cost of $14.95, which was spent on a box of nails.  In 1974, 1995, 1999 and 2003 the museum underwent several additions to the campus adding collections storage, a meeting facility, long term exhibits and much more.  The museum has been in continuous operation for over 80 years, serving the citizens of Phoenix and their guests.

A visit today consists of a two-thirds of a mile interpretive trail which travels around the remains of the prehistoric Hohokam people’s ballcourt and platform mound. The trail also features a variety of native plants, walk-in replicated dwellings and an interpretive agricultural garden featuring cotton, corn, beans, squash and amaranth. Inside, view an award-winning introductory video on the Hohokam people. You can also visit our three galleries; the main gallery explores the Hohokam people and their relationship with the environment; the children’s hands-on gallery explains the process of archaeology; and our changing exhibit gallery features rotating exhibits on a wide-variety of fascinating topics.  Historic photo of excavations of the south half of the platform mound

The Hohokam settled at Pueblo Grande around AD 450 and lived in the area for over 1000 years until around AD 1450.  The site of Pueblo Grande supported a population of 1000 to 2500 people who cultivated cotton, corn, beans and squash on over 10000 acres of land.  The people supplemented their diet by hunting local small game such as rabbits and mule deer as well as fishing in rivers and canals.  

They traded cotton with other communities located in present day Arizona, New Mexico, California and the Mesoamerican cultures of Mexico.  Common trade items were shells, pottery, obsidian, turquoise, copper bells, and macaw birds.  Shells from the Pacific coast and the Gulf of Mexico were used to make jewelry, including intricate pendants, rings and bracelets.  The Hohokam also produced red-on-buff pottery featuring complex designs.

The Hohokam people are best known for their extensive canal system.  Pueblo Grande was the location of a major head-gate that controlled the flow of water for other smaller communities and field villages located down the canal system.  The Hohokam built the canals without modern engineering equipment and without beasts of burden.  Many of the canals were so well engineered that early settlers of current Phoenix used the canals for their own farming needs and helped to populate the young city.  In fact, many of the canals that Salt River Project (SRP – a local utility company) uses today were originally constructed by the Hohokam.  

The Hohokam people were an impressive, resourceful people who thrived in the Sonoran Desert.  The remnants of their life here are now surrounded by a major metropolitan city.  Come visit the museum and see what life would have been like here in Phoenix 1000 years ago!

Aerial view of Pueblo Grande circa 1929
In addition to the exhibits and trail system the museum has many special events and programs to offer throughout the year for adults, children and families.  
We look forward to having you as our guest!