Mesa is the third-largest city in Arizona and is located in the south-central portion of the state in Maricopa County. Sitting atop a plateau overlooking the Valley of the Sun, the city gets its name from the Spanish word for “tabletop.”
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area had been inhabited for centuries by native peoples, including the Hohokam and later the Pima. The Hohokam culture developed an extensive system of irrigation canals, some of which are still used today.
Controlled by Spain and then by Mexico, the area was ceded to the U.S. following the Mexican War (1846–1848). Mormon settlers arrived on the site in 1878 and used the old irrigation canals for farming in the Salt River valley. Mesa was incorporated as a town in 1883 and as a city in 1930.
Falcon Field Airport and Williams Air Force Base were built in 1941 to train fighter pilots during World War II. After the war, the city grew rapidly, as many military families decided to settle in Mesa permanently, and tourism also became a major force. Williams AFB closed in the early 1990s, but Falcon Field has become one of the ten largest U.S. airports in terms of based aircraft and supports more than 30 aviation-related businesses.
Currently Mesa is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, due to its excellent climate and strong local economy, which boasts some of the country's top manufacturers. Electronics, automotive testing, propulsion equipment, aerospace, and heavy machinery firms are among the most significant in the region.
With 313 days of sunshine a year, Mesa has been an ideal choice for several major-league baseball spring training camps.
See also Encyclopedia: Mesa.
Selected famous natives and residents: