Theodore Roosevelt was a busy man when he arrived in Phoenix in 1911 to dedicate the dam named after him. He had championed the passage of a federal reclamation act in 1902, which spurred dam construction nationwide. Theodore Roosevelt Dam was the first federal reclamation project, and was built as a masonry structure. Cement was hauled to the dam site by R.C. Tanner in a horse-drawn wagon, a round trip which took five days. Roosevelt Dam, located on the Salt River just downstream of Tonto Creek, was a game-changer for Arizona because it provided a sustainable water and power source for the Valley.
On the day of dedication, a crowd of more than 1,000 people greeted the former president and cheered as he was given an 11-gun salute. After a speech, Roosevelt pressed a button that released water from the dam’s sluice gates for the first time.
Roosevelt presided over other ceremonies during his visit to Arizona, including the dedication of an infirmary that provided medical services for tuberculosis suffers. The clinic would eventually become St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix.
The boisterous Roosevelt relished all the attention he received in Arizona. His gravitation to the spotlight was not lost on his daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth. “My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening,” she said.