Settlers first arrived in the city that is now Gilbert in 1891, with homesteaders buying land from the government for as little as fifty cents an acre, and sometimes getting the land for free with the agreement that they would stay on it for a minimum of five years.
The farming town of Gilbert was incorporated in 1920 with a population of 865. Gilbert would be known as the "Hay Capital of the World" through the end of the decade.It was one of those homesteaders, William "Bobby" Gilbert, who sold his land to the Eastern Pacific Railroad in 1902 so they could construct a railroad line covering the 65 miles between Phoenix and Florence that started the ball rolling in establishing Gilbert as an actual community, according to information from the Gilbert Historical Museum. By 1915, a combination schoolhouse and church had been established, and the town was growing.
Gilbert's population has been growing steadily and the town — located in the southeast valley of the Phoenix Metro Area — is today considered to be the fourth-fastest growing municipality in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the period between 1990 and 2003, Gilbert actually held the number one spot. Gilbert had an estimated 29,188 residents in 1990, and 109,697 by the year 2000. That number nearly doubled to 208,453 in 2010. Gilbert also grew in geography from 40 square miles to 76 square miles due to a planned annexation of a surrounding area.
Residential construction in Gilbert has kept up with the growth, with numerous upscale gated communities popping up. One such community, The Islands, offers residents luxurious houses, a relaxed lifestyle and cool sanctuary in the Arizona desert. Gilbert has the highest household median income level in Arizona cities with population over 50,000, with $86,077 being the median household income in the year 2009. The town is home to several life-science companiesand medical treatment and research centersthat provide high-paying jobs, as well as technology companies, clean and renewableproduct firms, and many regional and corporate offices.
Shopping and DiningGilbert is a modern community with all of the amenities one might expect to find in a city of it's size. There are several shopping centers and malls and a mix of both national and local shops make up the town's shopping scene. One popular spot to shop and eat is the Gilbert Town Square, where residents can do their banking, shopping, dining — and even take in a show at the Gilbert Hollywood Theaters.
Another center, The Shoppes at Gilbert Commons, includes a supermarket, Sports Authority, Old Navy, Dress Barn, Petco, Staples and more. Macy's, Dillard's, Best Buy and another movie theater are all at the San Tan Village Mall. San Tan Village is also home to some of the better restaurants in town. Hungry shoppers can pick from a variety of cuisines including Italian at the Brio Tuscan Grille. The Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurantoffers everything from steaks and seafood and salad to Italian pizza flatbread dishes, and of course, a wide selection of beers. Those in the mood for an authentic and modern Mexican dish need only sidle over to Cantina Laredo. And finally, located at San Tan is Blue Wasabi Sushi & Martini Bar— one of Gilbert's most popular eateries.
There is also plenty of great dining fare away from the malls. Tutti Santi Ristorante Italianois a neighborhood Italian restaurant that promises diners the chance to "experience Italy without leaving Arizona".
Parks and RecreationLife in Gilbert promises an abundance of places to go and things to do, whether taking part in any of Parks and Recreation'sorganized activities or outdoors exploring some of the area's natural habitat on your own.
Gilbert is fortunate in that there year-round events and classes at a variety of locations, tailored for youth, adult, seniors and people with special needs. Gilbert has five parks, four recreation centers, and five swimming poolsopen six days a week for public use. Youth Sports activitiesinclude everything from softball and football to wrestling, track and field. Organized Adult Sportsinclude softball leagues and tournaments, basketball and volleyball leagues. Adults over age 55 can also partake in the Senior Programswhich range from Bingo to Yoga and Tai Chi. Activities for people with Special Needsinclude dances, bowling, karaoke and cheerleading.
Parks and Rec also sponsors community activities through the year. Two popular events are Concerts in the Park several times a year, and the annual Fall Music and Halloween Festival, both taking place in Freestone Park. The festive, family-friendly Halloween event includes music and entertainment, games, face-painting, food and beverages.
Those that favor the natural environment have plenty to do in and around Gilbert. The Riparian Instituteis a Wildlife Preservewith trails that connect to the Gilbert Trail System, and that is accessible by horses, bikes, and pedestrians. Well-leashed dogs are also allowed. The Riparian Institute is also home to the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, a state-of-the-art, 16-inch diameter computer-guided telescope. The telescope is owned by the Town of Gilbert and East Valley Astronomy Clubmanages the observatory, which is open to the public very Friday and Saturday evening at nightfall.
LivingThe town of Gilbert has received its share of accolades in recent years, including the designation of being one of the "Best Places to Live and Learn" and the number 36 position in the "Best Places to Live in America". Both designations came in 2010 from GreatSchools.org, a public and private schools advocacy group based in San Francisco. CQ Press, which tracks trends in states around the country, dubbed Gilbert the "Safest Municipality" in Arizona, and the 24th Safest Municipality in the entire United States. Gilbert is considered a "bicycle-friendly community"by the League of American Bicyclistsand a "tree-friendly city"by the Arbor Day Foundation.
One might also call Gilbert a Dog Friendly City given that it has an amenity that isn't found in every city. The Cosmo Dog Parkis a park for canines that made Dog Fancy Magazine's list of top parks twice since opening in 2006, and was actually named Dog Fancy's "Dog Park of the Year" in 2007.
There there are no fewer than four professional sport teams a mere 22 miles away in Phoenix, so residents can easily take advantage of great seats at professional sporting events. The Arizona Cardinalsfootball team and the Arizona Diamondbacksprofessional baseball team are draws to the local stadiums, as well as the Phoenix Sunsprofessional basketball franchise, and the Phoenix Mercuryprofessional basketball franchise – featuring all women players. The National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotescall the Jobing.comArena in nearby Glendale their home.
SchoolsThere are three school districts for students in Gilbert. Gilbert Public School Districtserves nearly 40,000 children in elementary, junior high and high school class settings. The district operates 26 grammar K-6 elementary schools, six junior high schools, and five high schools. The school district also has two academiesaimed at advanced placement students, an online academyfor students for distance learners from anywhere in Arizona, and an onsite alternative school for students that fit outside of the box of the traditional public school setting.
The Higley Unified School Districtoperates eight elementary schools and three high schools, with a focus on providing continuity from pre-school through high school. Academic areas include music, arts, languages, athletics, physical education, technology, and character education.
School-age students from Gilbert sometimes take classes at schools in the Chandler Unified School District, which also offers a college preparatory program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.
HealthGilbert residents are fortunate to have an array of practicing medical specialists, as well as hospitals and urgent care centers for the true emergencies and surgeries. The Mercy Gilbert Medical Centeris a 212-bed, acute care, not-for-profit hospital facility. A Comprehensive Women's Healthcarecenter is also in Gilbert with four doctors and three nurse practitioners on staff.
TransportationGilbert is well-connected through Valley Metrowith destinations that include the Riparian Preserve, the Gilbert Heritage District, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, downtown Chandler and downtown Mesa. There are five local bus routes going through town, one of which one links Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa to the system's light rail. Commuters have a choice of eight morning trips and seven return trips to and from Phoenix.
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Updated: 23rd August, 2019 6:29 AM.