It's pronounced "tem-pee," accent on the "pee," much to the consternation of visitors whose sensibilities are offended by a city with such a syllable in its name.  It's Greek, not Spanish, and has no logical connection to the valley other than the location reminded Darrel Duppa of "the lovely vale in Thessaly, celebrated by the classical poets."  Mr. Duppa had apparently exhausted his creative energies in coming up with the more appropriate and pleasant sounding "Phoenix."2

When a community which is not much more than possible site for a ferry crossing of the raging Salt River is given a highfalutin Greek name, one might expect the community to be a bit uppity.  One might be right.

Montis La Casa Vieja Restaurant is in "the old house" where Hayden's Ferry crossed the turbulent Salt River.  4-02.
Meals are now served in the old adobe house where Senator Carl Hayden was born in 1877.  Behind the camera, a portion of the wallboard has been removed so guests can see the adobe wall.  4-02.
Tempe City Hall.  11-00

Tempe's Upside-Down City Hall at 31 East 5th Street has to be the most distinctive municipal building in the state, if not the nation. The pyramid is 3 stories tall containing 17,650 square feet of municipal offices, including offices for the Mayor, City Council, and City Manager on the third floor. The 45� slope of the walls results in the floors on that level to measure 100 feet on each side, but the ceiling to measure 126 feet on each side.

The majority of the office space in this 50,000 square foot complex is in perimeter offices around the sunken 2.5 acre plaza and below the plaza itself.  Access to the pyramid is through bridges over the plaza area to the entrance at the ground floor of the pyramid, while the plaza offices can be reached by adjacent exterior stairways to plaza.  A 3 story concrete structure to the east of the pyramid provides emergency fire exits.

Construction, started in 1969, was completed in 1971, at a cost of $52,500,000.

While the Tempe City Hall is unique among city halls, the inverted pyramid is not unique to architecture.  Other inverted pyramids are The Pier, St.  Petersburg, FL; the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo 67, the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal Canada


William C. Weinaug, Building Description Report on the Tempe Municipal Building, Pennsylvania State University, October 13, 1980.

Victor A. Talther, Jr., "Steel, Glass Building erected in Southwest," American Institute of Steel Construction, Los Angeles, California

The Ocotillo Power Plant of Arizona Public Service Company, just east of the Arizona State University campus was built in 1960.  At that time it had twin 15 story towers for the two natural gas and oil boilers.  In the 1970's, two combustion turbines were added bringing its capacity to 340 megawatts.  This is about 9% of the capacity of the Palo Verde nuclear facility.  Pinnacle West Energy. 2-01

Quoting the Will C. Barnes, Arizona Place Names entry for Tempe:

On Salt River, 9 miles east of Phoenix. Hinton says:

"In 1870, Jack Swilling who a few years before had built the first irrigating canal in the valley at the present Phoenix, seeking new fields to conquer, went up the river and took out another canal near the black butte on the south side of the river.

"Darrel Duppa, who suggested the name of Phoenix, again came to the front with the name Tempe, because, as he explained 'its beautiful location reminded him of the lovely vale in Thessaly, celebrated by the classical poets.' And so it was christened by this somewhat exotic name.

"Just as the new name was finding its way into use, Charles T. Hayden, father of Senator Carl Hayden, happened along looking for a location.

"'Don Carlos,' as he was called by old timers, was a trader and promoter, not a farmer.  It looked like a good point for a store, so he opened one.  Likewise he started a blacksmith and wagon shop; also a grist mill with water power from the canal.  The river was often unfordable, and so Hayden operated a ferry with a long rope.  Soon the place was known as 'Hayden's Ferry,' and so showed on many early maps.  But the name 'Tempe' prevailed and the theme of a Greek poet found a place in the Arizona desert."  Hinton.

Hinton always wrote this name "La Tempe," but as McClintock remarks, "the word is not Spanish and should be pronounced as spelled: Tempee."

McClintock and Farish both discuss at length these names and their interesting sponsors.  P. O. established May 5, 1879.

Barnes, Arizona Place Names, p. 439.

Sources cited by Barnes:

Farish, Thomas E., History of Arizona, 1916.
Hinton, R. J., Handbook of Arizona, 1878.
McClintock, James H., History of Arizona, 1916.  Mormon Settlement, 1921.

City of Tempe web site.


1. "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000--Arizona," American FactFinder, U.S. Census Bureau. Back to text

2. Will C. Barnes, Arizona Place Names, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1988, p. 439. Back to text