Gilbert Road Station

Farming East Mesa

Three canals still intersecting Main Street highway were the lifeblood of the farms and ranches that once spanned tens of thousands of acres in east Mesa. The Consolidated, cutting across Main Street just east of Gilbert Road, was built by Dr. A. J. Chandler in 1891. About two miles east of the Consolidated is the Eastern Canal, reaching Gilbert, completed in 1908. In 1920, a group of landowners formed the Roosevelt Water Conservation District (RWCD). Through a contract with the Salt River Valley Water Users (today's SRP) they built the Roosevelt roughly two miles east of the Eastern. It reached Higley.

Large portions of east Mesa farmland were once known as the frost-less or frost-free citrus belt. A combination of factors, including elevation and airflow, made this area more resistant to freezing than most other areas in the Salt River Valley. Tremendous citrus production, along with date palms groves and other crops generated numerous roadside stands that sold fresh produce to passing motorists traveling along Main Street. Although beginning to fragment, significant farmland remained until the 1970s when development began reducing citrus groves and alfalfa fields. By the late 1980s most of the Main Street corridor’s once-thriving farming industry had disappeared.

One of Main Street’s most unusual attractions opened in the early 1950s when Jack Adam invited tourists to his “Jack Adam's Alligator Farm” on Main Street and Lindsay – next door to the Starlite Motel (home of the Diving Lady). Adam raised alligators along with a variety of other reptiles like boa constrictors and rattlesnakes. He wrestled alligators, put on feeding-frenzy displays with dead chickens. And in 1955 stumped the “What’s My Line” panel. When the park closed in 1963 some Mesa High School students “liberated” a number of small gators. A few wound up in canals, inspiring a continuing local legend.

Beginning in 1958 with Dreamland Villa, a new type of residential development geared towards 55+ adults emerged along Main Street. In 1962, Velda Rose debuted north of Main Street just northwest of the Buckhorn Baths – stretching north beyond University Drive. The new, retirement concept was not just simple ranch homes. It also included diverse commercial ventures like Dave Morgan’s Velda Rose Motel and Mineral Baths at 5700 East Main established to compete with the nearby Buckhorn, golf course, shopping center, Velda Rose United Methodist Church and Velda Rose Drive-In movie theater at the SE corner of Recker and Main.

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