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Petersen Park and the Petersen House are both named for one of Tempe’s true pioneers, Niels Petersen. 

Niels Petersen was born in a small farming village in southwestern Denmark. He was the sixth child of Peder Mikkelsen and Gunder Marie Nisdatter. When he was 16 years old, Petersen joined the German merchant marines and later the English merchant marines where his journeys took him to the United States. Eventually, in the summer of 1871 he came to Arizona and decided to settle in the Salt River Valley. Niels helped build the rock and brush diversion dams and the canals and ditches that were all part of the extensive Tempe irrigation system. He also worked for Charles Hayden, operating his general store when Hayden was away tending to his freighting business. But the greatest opportunity for Niels Petersen was the chance to stake a homestead claim in this valley which would soon prove to be one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. 

On July 1, 1874, Petersen filed Declaratory Statement No. 56, claiming 160 acres located in the southeast quarter of section 29. This is the area now roughly bound by Priest, Southern, Alameda, and Interstate-10. Petersen worked on clearing land and planting crops, and completed a two-room adobe house. He also continued working for the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company, and by 1875, he had earned two shares in the company. In the spring of 1878, Niels Petersen became a naturalized United States citizen and filed Homestead Entry No. 55, which was the next step in establishing his homestead. 

During this time, Niels met Isabel Dumphy, who was a teacher at the Tempe Grammar School. They were married about 1884, and Isabel resigned her teaching job and moved into the simple adobe house on the Petersen Ranch. After fourteen years of hard work he had established a very profitable ranching business. He claimed additional acreage to his homestead, as was allowed by subsequent changes in the law, and he bought out the land holdings of other early pioneer homesteaders who decided to leave Arizona. The Petersen Ranch grew to more than 1,000 acres, and Niels became one of the biggest producers of cattle, hay, and grain in the valley. Besides his personal success, Niels Petersen had also gained the respect and admiration of the people of Tempe. He was known as a well educated, hard working, generous, community minded gentleman. He was elected to a several posts in the 1880s, serving as a Trustee of the Tempe School District and a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. He also contributed to the commercial and social development of Tempe, playing a leading role in organizing the Tempe Methodist Episcopal Church, the Tempe Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Bank of Tempe. 

By 1892, Niels Petersen was undoubtedly one of the wealthiest men in the Salt River Valley. The time had finally come for him to build a new house that would reflect the prosperity and social standing that he had earned. He commissioned architect James Creighton to build an elegant two-story Victorian home at the Petersen Ranch. Creighton was a very well known architect, the designer of some of the most notable residential, commercial, and public building built in Arizona during the territorial period. He had designed the first building for the Territorial Normal School in 1885, the first Phoenix City Hall, the Andre Building in Tempe, the Dominion Hotel in Globe, the Adams Hotel in Phoenix, the Pinal County Courthouse, and Old Main at the University of Arizona. 

In August of 1892, while his new house was being built, Niels went on a trip to the East. When he returned to Tempe, his new Queen Anne Victorian style house was completed. Niels Petersen went on to accomplish many things. He became treasurer of the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company and president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank. He was elected to serve a term in the Territorial Legislature, 1895-96. In 1913 donated the land and two-thirds of the money needed to build a new Methodist church. Niels Petersen was always regarded as one of Tempe's leading citizens. When he died in 1923 at the age of 78, the town flag was flown at half mast and schools and businesses were closed for his funeral. Petersen was buried in the Double Butte Cemetery, a site he had donated to the Town of Tempe. He was later reburied on the Petersen House property. 

In 1968, the house was turned over to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, who cared for it until it was donated to the City of Tempe in 1979. The exterior of the house was stabilized and restored in 1982 with a grant from the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office. The interior was restored in 1989, and in that year, the project received the Governor's Award for Historic Preservation. The Petersen House is now operated as an historic house museum by the Tempe Historical Museum. 

Today the Petersen House and Park still stand in as a testament to the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit on Niels Petersen and his profound legacy on the City of Tempe. 

Park size is 5 acres.
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