History of Steele Indian School Park
In 1890, the Federal Government purchased 160 acres of farmland from a local landowner for $9,000. Federal officials opened the Phoenix Indian School one year later. At its peak in 1935, 900 students attended the school. Among its most popular features were its marching band, which was a frequent participant in local and statewide festivals, and athletic program. The federal government closed the boarding school in 1990.*
The city of Phoenix was able to obtain the land in 1996 through an intricate three-way land exchange involving the Baron Collier Company and the federal government.
The park is named after Horace C. Steele. He founded the Steele Foundation in 1980 to fund charitable, educational, and scientific programs; primarily in Arizona. The Steele foundation donated $2.5 million dollars to start development of the park and in 1997 the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board approved naming the Park for this successful businessman and philanthropist.
The park is designed in the spirit of the City Beautiful movement, a design theory that evolved at the end of the 19th century. Its basic premise is simple: city dwellers need passive, open green space in city centers to serve as a refuge from the physical confinement of urban living. The movement also held that open, public spaces are an essential element in nurturing civic pride and a sense of community. The park's design also pays homage to the site's Native American history. Many of the design elements, as outlined in the features section, reflect Native American concepts of life, earth and the universe.
The Park opened in November 2001.
* Sources of historical information:
“The Phoenix Indian School," 1988 by Robert Trennert, Jr.
"Phoenix Indian High School," 1990 by Dorothy R. Parker