| Cottonwood, Arizona was founded in 1879 and was named for a circle of Cottonwood trees near the Verde River. Cottonwood began as a collection of farms and ranches which slowly blossomed into a township, while supplying the miners in the nearby town of Jerome with fresh meat and vegetables.
Cottonwood and Jerome’s relationship continued to grow, and several of the mining facilities were located in Cottonwood, though the majority were in the Town of Clarkdale. Several bones of these old building remain along HWY 89A, with a handful currently in use as retail space.
A large slag pile still remains in the heart of Cottonwood, a remnant of mining operations which ceased operation in the 50’s after the price of copper fell, and the mines were no longer profitable. A reclamation company is currently applying for the necessary permits to remove the pile and reclaim remnant minerals while recycling the waste into materials to be used in future roads and roofing shingles.
While Jerome became a literal ghost town in the late 1950’s, after the steep decline in the price of copper, residents of Cottonwood pursued a future for their town and incorporated in 1960. At this time, all business in town was conducted in Old Town Cottonwood, because that WAS town!
A developer named Ned Warren came through the area, later that decade and put Cottonwood and the Verde Valley on the map as a retirement and “investment” destination, with the development of Verde Village, and other area subdivisions. Ned Warren is also the fella that called national attention to Arizona, as Warren was “The King Of Land Fraud,” selling hundreds of parcels over and over again to the same individuals.
Today, Verde Village is a healthy, thriving neighborhood and Verde Village is where approximately half of Cottonwood’s “population” resides (Verde Village is unincorporated) , though new in-fill subdivisions are rapidly gaining new residents. Verde Village is about 95% built out.
Cottonwood is undoubtedly the commercial center of the Verde Valley, and acts as a central hub for all Verde Valley communities. All “Big Box” stores in the Verde Valley are located in the City of Cottonwood, such as Office Max, Sears, Super Walmart, JCPenney and Home Depot.
Most newcomers might be surprised to learn that about half of these stores were only built in the last 5 to 7 years. In fact, when I first moved to Cottonwood in 1997, it took six weeks just to get a phone line. I remember my inner New Yorker getting a little perturbed at the operator, when she finally just said,” Look Ma’am. You are just going to have to wait until somebody dies, or disconnects to get your line connected. There just ain’t any left!” Q-west has since come through and upgraded the capacity of the lines in the area and much of the community itself is following suit.
Recent grants have revamped the look and feel of Old Town. The addition of lighting, landscaping, outdoor seating and upgrades and improvements to sidewalks have revitalized this historic city center. Currently, Hwy 260 and 89A, two of Cottonwood’s major roadways are undergoing widening projects, which will also include a series of roundabouts along select sections of roadway.
Verde Valley Medical Center is located in the City of Cottonwood and serves the major medical needs of all Verde Valley residents. VVMC has also been busy expanding and upgrading, with the recent completion of a 40,000 sq ft facility and a 20,000 sq ft oncology wing. During this expansion, VVMC also upgraded essential equipment within existing facilities. VVMC is one of the Verde Valley’s major employers and has an insatiable appetite for qualified medical personnel.
Cottonwood and the entire Verde Valley are undergoing what a recent Wall Street Journal article called the “Gentrification of Rural America,” reporting on an increasing trend among affluent Americans leaving cities and suburbs in droves in search for a slower place, in calmer and aesthetically pleasing locations.
Evidence of this trend in Cottonwood in recent years includes the opening of Alcantara Vineyards, Cottonwood’s first winery and a small boom of new bistros, restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries. An explosion of high end and luxury homes has also occurred throughout the community in recent years.