20 Cities in 20 Days: Small city, big history in Litchfield Park

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The city of Litchfield Park may be small but the 5,700 people who live there are big in pride, especially when it comes to how this town got its start. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The city of Litchfield Park may be small but the 5,700 people who live there are big in pride, especially when it comes to how this town got its start. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
It all started back in 1916 when Goodyear Tire and Rubber executive Paul Litchfield came out West looking for farmers to grow long staple cotton, a necessary component in tires and one that was in short supply thanks to World War I. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) It all started back in 1916 when Goodyear Tire and Rubber executive Paul Litchfield came out West looking for farmers to grow long staple cotton, a necessary component in tires and one that was in short supply thanks to World War I. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Determined to grow cotton here, Litchfield went back to Akron, Ohio and suggested Goodyear buy its own land and grow its own cotton. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Determined to grow cotton here, Litchfield went back to Akron, Ohio and suggested Goodyear buy its own land and grow its own cotton. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The bosses bought the idea and ended up with more than 16,000 acres in the West Valley. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The bosses bought the idea and ended up with more than 16,000 acres in the West Valley. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The City of Litchfield Park may be small but the 5,700 people who live there are big in pride, especially when it comes to how this town got its start.

It all started back in 1916 when Goodyear Tire and Rubber executive Paul Litchfield came out West looking for farmers to grow long staple cotton, a necessary component in tires and one that was in short supply thanks to World War I.

“There were only two places in the world to get it, one was Egypt and you couldn't get to Egypt because this was the middle of World War I and the German U-boats were patrolling the Mediterranean and up the West Coast of Europe," said Judy Cook of the Litchfield Park Historical Society, "And the other place was along the East Coast of our country and all of that was infected with boll weevil.”  

[SLIDESHOW: Small city, big history in Litchfield Park]

Cook explained that farmers here thought the idea of changing their fields was crazy and they turned down the offer from Goodyear. Determined to grow cotton here, Litchfield went back to Akron, Ohio and suggested Goodyear buy its own land and grow its own cotton.

The bosses bought the idea and ended up with more than 16,000 acres in the West Valley.

“They cleared the land, they built the canals, they dug the wells, they planted the cotton and by fall of 1917 they had their first crop,” said Cook.

Before long, Goodyear Tire owned three farms here in the Valley; one in Chandler, another in Sun City, and the biggest one, what is now Litchfield Park.

Thousands of workers moved in with their families and before you knew it, a city was born and so was a resort. Goodyear executives wanting to check on the process would come out and visit the farms but needed a place to stay.

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“So they build a building called the organization house and when the company elite came out here to take a look at the farm, they had a place to stay and a place to eat,” said Cook. 

Nearly 100 years later some of that "organization house" still stands. The original fireplace inside the Wigwam resort is untouched from its original structure. It’s just part of the history you’ll find at the resort, which also has windows covered in a pattern matching Goodyear Tire treads from the 1920s.

When technology changed and cotton was no longer needed for tires, the Litchfield Ranch became an experimental farm testing everything from green feeding of cattle to tires used on farm tractors.

For more information on the history of Litchfield Park, consider a visit to the Historical Museum on Camelback and Litchfield roads.

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