Flagstaff, Arizona facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Flagstaff, Arizona
City
City of Flagstaff
Downtown Flagstaff in 2000
Downtown Flagstaff in 2000
Official seal of Flagstaff, Arizona
Seal
Nickname(s): City of Seven Wonders, Dark Sky City
Motto: "Service at a Higher Elevation"
Location in Coconino County and the state of Arizona
Location in Coconino County and the state of Arizona
U.S. Census
U.S. Census
Country  United States of America
State  Arizona
County  Coconino
Settled 1876
Incorporated 1928
Area
 • City 165.4 km2 (63.9 sq mi)
 • Land 165.1 km2 (63.9 sq mi)
 • Water 0.09 km2 (0.03 sq mi)
Elevation 2,106 m (6,910 ft)
Population (2010)
 • City 65,870
 • Estimate (2015) 70,320
 • Density 408.6/km2 (1,055.8/sq mi)
 • Metro 139,097 (US: 291st)
Demonym(s) Flagstonian or Flagstaffian
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) no DST/PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 86001-86005-86004, 86011
Area code(s) 928
FIPS code 04-23620
GNIS ID(s) 28749, 29046
Major airport Flagstaff Pulliam Airport
Website flagstaff.az.gov

Flagstaff is a city in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 70,320. Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. It is the county seat of Coconino County. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.

Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States. Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.

Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a center for medical device manufacturing, since Flagstaff is home to W. L. Gore and Associates.

History

Flagstaff, AZ ca. 1899
Flagstaff ca. 1899; view of Post Office and other buildings on Terrace Street

There exists several stories and legends regarding the origin of the city's name. Surveyors, prospectors, and investors had traveled through the area in the mid- to late-19th century, and the act of stripping a pine tree to fly an American flag has been attributed to several individuals over the course of a twenty-year span. It is said that, because of the flag that was raised, the area surrounding it became known as Flagstaff.

The first permanent settlement was in 1876, when Thomas F. McMillan built a cabin at the base of Mars Hill on the west side of town. During the 1880s, Flagstaff began to grow, opening its first post office and attracting the railroad industry. The early economy was based on timber, sheep, and cattle. By 1886, Flagstaff was the largest city on the railroad line between Albuquerque and the west coast of the United States. A circa 1900 diary entry by journalist Sharlot Hall described the houses in the city at the time as a "third rate mining camp", with unkempt air and high prices of available goods.

In 1894, Massachusetts astronomer Percival Lowell hired A. E. Douglass to scout an ideal site for a new observatory. Douglass, impressed by Flagstaff's elevation, named it as an ideal location for the now famous Lowell Observatory, saying: "other things being equal, the higher we can get the better". Two years later, the specially designed 24-inch (610 mm) Clark telescope that Lowell had ordered was installed. In 1930, Pluto was discovered using one of the observatory's telescopes. In 1955 the U.S. Naval Observatory joined the growing astronomical presence, and established the United States Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, where Pluto's satellite, Charon, was discovered in 1978.

During the Apollo program in the 1960s, the Clark Telescope was used to map the moon for the lunar expeditions, enabling the mission planners to choose a safe landing site for the lunar modules. In homage to the city's importance in the field of astronomy, asteroid 2118 Flagstaff is named for the city, and 6582 Flagsymphony for the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra.

NAU Old Main
Northern Arizona University's Old Main building

The Northern Arizona Normal School was established in 1899, renamed Northern Arizona University in 1966. Flagstaff's cultural history received a significant boost on April 11, 1899, when the Flagstaff Symphony made its concert debut at Babbitt's Opera House. The orchestra continues today as the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, with its primary venue at the Ardrey Auditorium on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

The city grew rapidly, primarily attributable to its location along the east–west transcontinental railroad line in the United States. In the 1880s, the railroads purchased land in the west from the federal government, which was then sold to individuals to help finance the railroad projects. By the 1890s, Flagstaff found itself located along one of the busiest railroad corridors in the U.S., with 80–100 trains travelling through the city every day, destined for Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

Old Coconino County Courthouse
Old Coconino County Courthouse from Birch Avenue, June 2005

Route 66 was completed in 1926 and ran through Flagstaff. Flagstaff was incorporated as a city in 1928, and in 1929, the city's first motel, the Motel Du Beau, was built at the intersection of Beaver Street and Phoenix Avenue. The Daily Sun described the motel as "a hotel with garages for the better class of motorists." The units originally rented for $2.60 to $5.00 each, with baths, toilets, double beds, carpets, and furniture. Flagstaff went on to become a popular tourist stop along Route 66, particularly due to its proximity to the Grand Canyon.

Flagstaff grew and prospered through the 1960s. During the 1970s and 1980s, however, many businesses started to move from the city center, and the downtown area entered an economic and social decline. Sears and J.C. Penney left the downtown area in 1979 to open up as anchor stores in the new Flagstaff Mall, joined in 1986 by Dillard's. By 1987, the Babbitt Brothers Trading Company, which had been a retail fixture in Flagstaff since 1891, had closed its doors at Aspen Avenue and San Francisco Street.

In 1987, the city drafted a new master plan, also known as the Growth Management Guide 2000, which would transform downtown Flagstaff from a shopping and trade center into a regional center for finance, office use, and government. The city built a new city hall, library, and the Coconino County Administrative Building in the downtown district, staking an investment by the local government for years to come. In 1992, the city hired a new manager, Dave Wilcox, who had previously worked at revitalizing the downtown areas of Beloit, Wisconsin and Missoula, Montana. During the 1990s, the downtown area underwent a revitalization, many of the city sidewalks were repaved with decorative brick facing, and a different mix of shops and restaurants opened up to take advantage of the area's historical appeal.

On October 24, 2001, Flagstaff was recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association as the world's first "International Dark-Sky City."

The Railroad Addition Historic District (Flagstaff, Arizona) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Geography

Flagstaff is located at 35°11′57″N 111°37′52″W / 35.19917°N 111.63111°W / 35.19917; -111.63111. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 63.9 square miles (165.5 km2), of which only 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) (0.08%) is water.

At 7,000 feet (2,130 m) elevation, located adjacent to the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in North America, Flagstaff is located on a mountain surrounded by volcanoes, in the heart of the Coconino national forest. Any type of desert climate can be found below its elevation 100 miles from Flagstaff. The city is situated on the Rio de Flag, and is about 130 miles (210 km) north of Phoenix.

Cityscape

Flagstaffazm
San Francisco Peaks from Flagstaff

Downtown Flagstaff lies immediately to the east of Mars Hill, the location of Lowell Observatory. Streets in the downtown area are laid out in a grid pattern, parallel to Route 66 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail Line, running east–west through the city. Milton Road branches off from Route 66 west of downtown, and travels south, adjacent to the Northern Arizona University campus, to the junction of Interstate 17 and Interstate 40. Milton Road becomes I-17. A road called Beulah Boulevard, which also runs south, becomes State Route 89A, and travels through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona. Traveling north from downtown, Fort Valley Road (U.S. 180) connects with the Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona Snowbowl, and Grand Canyon National Park. Traveling east from downtown, Route 66 and the railroad run in parallel toward East Flagstaff (and beyond), at the base of Mount Elden. Much of Flagstaff's industry is located east of downtown, adjacent to the railroad tracks, as well as in East Flagstaff.

Several towns are located close to Flagstaff along Interstates 40 and 17. Approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) south are the small urban areas of Kachina Village (west of I-17) and Mountainaire (east of I-17; 2 miles (3.2 km)). About 35 miles (56 km) to the west is Williams, 20 miles (32 km) to the south is Munds Park, and 30 miles (48 km) to the south on Arizona Highway 89A is Sedona. 15 miles (24 km) to the east of Flagstaff is the town of Winona, mentioned in the famous song, Route 66.

Climate

Flagstaff AZ from Mars Hill
View of Flagstaff from Mars Hill

Flagstaff has a rather dry semi-continental climate (Köppen Dsb/Csb). Flagstaff has five distinct seasons: a cold and snowy winter, with extended dry periods punctuated by deep snows about once every 3–4 weeks; a dry and windy spring with occasional snows; a very dry and hot early summer from May to early July; a wet and humid monsoon season from July to early September; and a dry and pleasant fall which lasts until the first snows in November.

The combination of high elevation and low humidity provide mild weather conditions throughout most of the year. The predominantly clear air and high elevation radiates daytime heating effectively resulting in overnight temperatures generally much lower than the daytime temperature. This means a 55 degree day in January can drop to 15 at night. Winter nights in fact can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) on 5 to 6 nights per year.

Winter weather patterns in Flagstaff are cyclonic and frontal in nature, originating in the eastern Pacific Ocean. These deliver periodic, widespread snowfall followed by extended periods of sunny weather. The area's generally stable weather pattern is broken by brief, but often intense, afternoon downpours and dramatic thunderstorms common during the monsoon of July and August. Summer temperatures are moderate and high temperatures average around 82 °F (27.8 °C). Extreme temperatures range from −30 °F (−34.4 °C) on January 22, 1937 up to 97 °F (36.1 °C) on July 5, 1973, respectively. The weather in Flagstaff is generally sunny, with much more sunshine than other snowy cities like New York City, Chicago, Boston and even Denver. Flagstaff is the only city in Arizona never to have reported temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C) or higher.

The annual snowfall averages 100.3 inches (254.76 cm), placing Flagstaff among the snowiest incorporated cities in the United States. Overall, the city features an average of 277 days without measurable precipitation each year. Despite snowstorms often being spread weeks apart, snow often covers the ground for weeks after major winter storms due to the low night temperatures refreezing the snowpack, even when daytime temperatures are above freezing. The maximum daily snow cover has been 83 inches (210.82 cm) on December 20, 1967, although the mean maximum for a full winter is only 20 inches (50.80 cm) and the lowest maximum only 6 inches (15.24 cm) in the dry winter of 1955–56. However, due to the infrequent and scattered nature of the snowstorms, persistent snow pack into spring is rare. One notable exception occurred during the severe winter of 1915–16, when successive Pacific storms buried the city under over 70 inches (177.80 cm) of snow, and some residents were snowbound in their homes for several days.


Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 964
1900 1,271 31.8%
1910 1,633 28.5%
1920 3,186 95.1%
1930 3,891 22.1%
1940 5,080 30.6%
1950 7,663 50.8%
1960 18,214 137.7%
1970 26,117 43.4%
1980 34,743 33.0%
1990 45,857 32.0%
2000 52,894 15.3%
2010 65,870 24.5%
Est. 2015 70,320 6.8%
Source:
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate

According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 65,870. The population density was 831.9 people per square mile (321.2/km²). There were 26,254 housing units at an average density of 336.5 per square mile (129.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 73.4% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 11.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 7.3% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. 18.4% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. The city's African American population is considerably lower than the U.S. average (1.9% versus 12.6%), while the Native American population is markedly higher (11.7% vs. 0.9%). This is primarily attributable to the city's proximity to several Native American reservations, including the Navajo, Hopi, Havasupai, and Yavapai. Flagstaff's Native American community is chiefly Navajo, and there are about 5,500 people of Navajo ancestry living in the city.

As of 2000, there were 19,306 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 23.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.13.

The age distribution was 24.3% under the age of 18, 21.7% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 5.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,146, and the median income for a family was $48,427. Males had a median income of $31,973 versus $24,591 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,637. About 10.6% of families and 17.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.6% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

As a college town, Flagstaff's population is considerably more educated than the U.S. average. 89.8% of the population has a high school diploma or higher, while the national average is 80.4%. 39.4% of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to the national average of 24.4%.

Arts and culture

OrpheumTheater Flagstaff
The Orpheum Theater in downtown Flagstaff features a wide variety of concerts and other performances.

Flagstaff has an active cultural scene. The city is home to the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, which plays concerts from September through April at Ardrey Auditorium on the NAU campus. The city also attracts folk and contemporary acoustic musicians, and offers several annual music festivals during the summer months, such as the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music Festival, the Flagstaff Music Festival, and Pickin' in the Pines, a three-day bluegrass and acoustic music festival held at the Pine Mountain Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill Fairgrounds. Popular bands play throughout the year at the Orpheum Theater, and free concerts are held during the summer months at Heritage Square.

Flagstaff is home to an active theater scene, featuring several groups. Northern Arizona University Department of Theatre is an active and successful theatre program that produces quality productions for the community as well as the campus. The department has won many prestigious awards including multiple invitations to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. NAU Theatre performs in two facilities including the Clifford E. White Theatre (named for long-time Theatre professor Clifford E. White) and the Studio Theatre. Both facilities are housed in the Fine and Performing Arts Building on campus. The season includes 4 mainstage and numerous second stage productions and a summer collaboration with Theatrikos Theatre Company. Theatrikos Theatre Company, the community theater company, was founded in 1972 in the basement of the Weatherford Hotel, and today puts on five major productions per year. The group recently moved into a new venue in 2002, the Doris-Harper White Community Playhouse, a downtown building which was built in 1923 as an Elks Lodge and later became the Flagstaff library. Since 1995, the Flagstaff Light Opera Company has performed a variety of musical theatre and light opera productions throughout the year at the Sinagua High School auditorium. There are several dance companies in Flagstaff, including Coconino Community College Dance Program, Northern Arizona Preparatory Company and Canyon Movement, which present periodic concerts and collaborate with the Flagstaff Symphony for free concerts during the summer and holiday seasons.

A variety of weekend festivals occur throughout the year. The annual Northern Arizona Book Festival, held in the spring, brings together nationally known authors to read and display their works. The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival is held every October, and features a variety of independent films and documentaries focusing on extreme sports, environmental issues, and global topics. The festival is four days long and consists of several sessions of films. The screenings are held at the Orpheum Theater in the historic downtown area. The summer months feature several festivals, including Hopi and Navajo Festivals of Arts and Crafts, the Arizona Highland Celtic Festival, Pride in the Pines, and the Made in the Shade Beer Tasting Festival. For more than 20 years Flagstaff has hosted the 10-day Flagstaff Festival of Science in September. It is a family event which features open houses, lectures, informal talks, and hands-on activities at area museums, observatories, other scientific facilities, and the university. In-school programs also are an important part of the festival. The festival begins with the annual Eugene Shoemaker keynote address. Guest speakers have included famous astronauts, arctic explorers, storm chasers, and scientists from many disciplines. The Coconino County Fair is held every September at the Fort Tuthill County Fairgrounds, featuring a demolition derby, livestock auction, carnival rides, and other activities.

On New Year's Eve, people gather around the Weatherford Hotel as a 70-pound, 6-foot (1.8 m) tall, metallic pine cone is dropped from the roof at midnight. The tradition originated in 1999, when Henry Taylor and Sam Green (owners of the Weatherford Hotel), decorated a garbage can with paint, lights, and pine cones, and dropped it from the roof of their building to mark the new millennium. By 2003 the event had become tradition, and the current metallic pine cone was designed and built by Frank Mayorga of Mayorga Welding in Flagstaff.

The Museum of Northern Arizona includes displays of the biology, archeology, photography, anthropology, and native art of the Colorado Plateau. The Arboretum at Flagstaff is a 200-acre (81 ha) arboretum featuring 2,500 species of drought-tolerant native plants representative of the high-desert region.

Route 66, which originally ran between Chicago and Los Angeles, greatly increased the accessibility to the area, and enhanced the culture and tourism in Flagstaff. Route 66 remains a historic route, passing through the city between Barstow, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. In early September, the city hosts an annual event, Route 66 Days, to highlight its connection to the famous highway.

Parks and outdoor recreation

Oak Creek Canyon, AZ
Scenic Oak Creek Canyon is a short drive from Flagstaff, on the road to Sedona.
Humphreys Peak AZ
Humphreys Peak, north of Flagstaff

Flagstaff has acquired a reputation as a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, and the region's varied terrain, high elevation, and amenable weather attract campers, backpackers, climbers, recreation and elite runners, and mountain bikers from throughout the southwestern United States. There are 679.2 acres (274.9 ha) of city parks in Flagstaff, the largest of which are Thorpe Park and Buffalo Park. Wheeler Park, located adjacent to city hall, is the location of summer concerts and other events. The city maintains an extensive network of trails, the Flagstaff Urban Trails System, or "FUTS" includes more than 50 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking, running, and cycling. The trail network extends throughout the city and is widely used for both recreation and transportation.

The area is a recreational hub for road cycling and mountain biking clubs, organized triathlon events, and annual cross country ski races. Several major river running operators are headquartered in Flagstaff, and the city serves as a base for Grand Canyon and Colorado River expeditions.

Flagstaff's proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, about 75 miles (121 km) north of the city, has made it a popular tourist destination since the mid-19th century. Other nearby outdoor attractions include Walnut Canyon National Monument, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, and Barringer Crater. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell are both about 135 mi (217 km) north along U.S. Route 89.

Sister cities

Flagstaff has five sister cities:

Images for kids


Flagstaff, Arizona Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.