Tolleson Community Information
It is impossible to think of the City of Tolleson without thinking of its sense of community. Tolleson has been fortunate in its ability to sustain community values, neighborhood character and livability throughout its history, in the midst of frenetic, overwhelming growth in its surrounding environs. Tolleson, the hub of the west end of the Salt River Valley, was founded in 1912 by Walter G. and Alethea H. Tolleson, and incorporated in 1929.
In 1908, due to the ill health of their eldest son, the Tolleson family migrated to Arizona from South Carolina, and in 1910 purchased a 160-acre ranch at the intersection of 91st Avenue and Van Buren Street for $16,000. The old “Ten Mile Store” on the southwest corner, having in the early days been the first stagecoach stop en route to Yuma, was re-opened by Mr. Tolleson, and formed the nucleus for the founding of the town.
Mr. Tolleson chartered a train from the Arizona Eastern Railway on the Buckeye Short Line, provided free transportation, free lunches for the prospective buyers, and gave away five dollar gold pieces to those holding the lucky numbers. An auctioneer conducting the lot sales sold 80 lots at an average price of $50.00 per lot that day. Later that year a general merchandise store, which included the first post office, was completed at Monroe Street and 91st Drive.
During the 1930’s, Tolleson, like other communities across the nation, struggled wearily through the Great Depression. Beginning with the ’40s, however, agriculture in the surrounding area began a dramatic recovery and was an economic boom to the city. By the 1950’s, Tolleson had become known as the “Vegetable Center of the World.”
The City nearly met its demise on April 19, 1948, when gasoline storage tanks belonging to Farmers Oil and Supply Company exploded. Located in the heart of downtown Tolleson, the “tank farm” conflagration, fueled by some 54,000 gallons of gasoline, destroyed an entire city business block, several residences, and injured more than 20 people. Firefighters from Army and Navy installations, Tolleson, Glendale and Phoenix battled the inferno for almost two days before it was brought under control.
The early 1960s brought a rapid decline of agri-dollars as more modern methods and machinery became available to area farmers. Hundreds of field hands were no longer required for cultivation and harvesting. The miles of packing sheds and associated employment rapidly disappeared as improved shipping methods and reduced vegetable acreage eliminated their need.
With its prime economic source dissipating, Tolleson slipped into a dormant state for several years. However, under the inspired leadership of progressive city leaders, and a spirited, active Chamber of Commerce, the community began a period of revitalization. The pinnacle of development during this era was the completion of a new library and City-County Complex in 1967.
The 1980’s marked the entry of Fry’s Food and Drug and Albertson’s Distribution Centers that generated spinoff industrial development to Tolleson by showcasing the community’s advantageous proximity to major shipping thoroughfares- a prerequisite for industrial businesses. Interstate 10, Union Pacific Railroad and State Route 85 (Buckeye Road) trisect Tolleson within a one mile radius creating a synergistic environment for such significant companies as PepsiCo, Bose, Nabisco, Weyerhauser, McKelvey Trucking.
Today, Tolleson is the west valley’s industrial employment center hosting over 20 Fortune 500 companies employing more than 20,000, compared to just over 7,000 residents resulting in one of the most impressive jobs-to-residents ratios in the nation.
Although small, Tolleson is in the middle of it all, with Phoenix International Raceway 10 minutes south and entertainment venues in Glendale, Peoria, Goodyear and Phoenix 10 minutes north and east. Our 6-square-mile city competes with communities throughout the country for economic development opportunities while remaining steadfast in commitment to our most fundamental values.