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Hayden Flour Mill paved the way for Valley cities to flourish

Tempe mill.jpg
Posted at 11:00 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 09:03:48-04

TEMPE — One of the oldest buildings in Tempe tells the story of how Tempe became the city it is today and also paved the way for other industries and opportunities to thrive in the Valley.

If you’re standing at Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, look in any direction and you’ll see plenty that’s new.

If you ask historian John Southard, he’ll tell you, you don’t get Tempe if you don’t first have the Hayden Flour Mill.

Legend has it, that in the 1870s, Connecticut businessman Charles Hayden came up from Tucson on his way to Prescott. He climbed to the top of a butte, looked down at what is now the area of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway, and said, “What an opportunity here.”

By 1874, Hayden faced the challenge of having parts shipped in to build the first mill to provide a much-needed service for local farmers in the area - milling their grain into flour.

“This is something that really helped demonstrate the economic potential of the Salt River Valley. This is something that tells the story of Tempe,” he said

When Charles Hayden passed in 1900, he left the mill to his son Carl Hayden.

Then in 1917, Carl sought to rebuild the mill with poured concrete to make the mill as fire-resistant as possible.

”Mills and silos are prone to fires and explosions... that’s precisely what happened. Builders wanted to make sure that didn’t happen and here we are 100 years later and it is standing,” said Southard.

Carl Hayden went on to have a long tenure in Congress as he is known as Arizona’s first senator. He served until 1969.

He helped start the Central Arizona Project which provides most of the state’s water.

“A great deal of the water we drink today is thanks to the efforts of Senator Hayden,” he said

Charles Hayden’s wife, Sallie, fought for women’s equality as a suffragist.

Next time you drive by the still-standing silos along the Salt River, know this flour mill stands for much more than an old building that predates much of the new development around it.

“From prehistoric times to the present, this was a place for commerce,” said Southard.

What’s next for the Hayden Flour Mill isn’t quite clear, but in February of this year, Tempe started negotiations with builders to redevelop the site.