New Maricopa Museum & Visitor Center

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The Maricopa Museum and Visitor Center, operated by the Maricopa Historical Society, opened in October at 44240 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway housed in a building that in the 1940s was part of Williams Field, an Air Force installation in Chandler where pilots were trained for World War II.

Initially, the building was the city library and then it became a veterans’ center. Now, it is loaded with information and memorabilia, including a big dose of John Wanye’s presence, that tells Maricopa’s journeys of a few miles from Maricopa Wells to Maricopaville to Maricopa Junction – the place now known as Maricopa. Paul Shirk, President of the Maricopa Historical Society, explains more about the museum.

The settlement developed as a base for mail lines.

“The Overland Mail service started there. We have an interesting article that one of the proudest things was there mail was always one time. And so it not only again was that community feeling, but a sense of responsibility,” Shirk said.

Stage coaches were a very interesting thing, Shirk said.

“We’ve tried with the museum to give old newspaper articles that talk about that, but when we have a drawing or an illustration, it will recreate that same scene in a diorama, and that way people, older kids and younger kids could see those things and it makes it a little more engaging,” Shirk said.

The building moved to Maricopaville because of the Southern Pacific Railway.

“Now the rail came into predominance instead of the stage coach and mule wagons. And they finally made a line that connected from San Francisco down through California, across to Yuma, and then to Maricopaville. Maricopaville at that time was seen as the terminus. And there was actually an expedition and a special excursion train that went from St. Louis to Maricopa and they sold lots,” Shirk said.

Paul Shirk/President, Maricopa Historical Society

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