About the Town of Gilbert
Gilbert is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States, located southeast of Phoenix, within the Phoenix metropolitan area. Once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World”, Gilbert is currently the most populous incorporated town in the United States. Gilbert encompasses 76 square miles and has made a rapid transformation from an agriculture-based community to an economically diverse suburban center located in the southeast valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area. In the last three decades, Gilbert has grown at an extremely high rate, increasing in population from 5,717 in 1980 to 208,453 as of the 2010 census.
Gilbert owes its beginnings to William “Bobby” Gilbert who provided land to the Arizona Eastern Railway in 1902 to construct a rail line between Phoenix and Florence, Arizona. Ayer’s Grocery Store, the first store in Gilbert, opened in 1910 and became the location of the first post office in 1912. The location of the town post office moved several times before settling on the east side of Gilbert Road in downtown, where it still stands today. In 1912, many Mormons who had fled the Mormon colonies in Mexico due to the actions of the forces of Pancho Villa settled in Gilbert. By 1915, they began holding church meetings at the Gilbert Elementary School. In 1918, they were organized into the Gilbert Ward.
Incorporated in July 1920, Gilbert was primarily a farming community fueled by the rail line and construction of the Roosevelt Dam and the Eastern and Consolidated Canals. It remained an agricultural town for many years and was known as the “Hay Capital of the World” from 1911 until the late 1920s.
Gilbert was recognized in 2010 as the “36th Best Place to Live in the nation”, as well as among the nation’s “top places to live and learn” by GreatSchools.org. Washington, DC-based CQ Press rated Gilbert the “safest municipality in Arizona, and 25th safest in the nation”
Gilbert is served by two area freeways—the Santan Freeway portion of Loop 202 and US-60. Several regional arterials also serve the area, including Williams Field Road, Chandler Boulevard, and Gilbert Road. The town enjoys relative closeness to Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport, which is located in east Mesa, and is a twenty-five minute drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Recently, a park-and-ride facility was constructed in downtown Gilbert for bus service and future commuter rail service. Although the facility borders the Union Pacific (formerly Southern Pacific) tracks and has provisions for commuter rail service, there is currently no such service. However, buses operate to downtown Phoenix, and future commuter rail service to Gilbert will require little modification since most of the facilities are already built. Most people get around by cars or bikes.