Prior to the area’s development into the community it is known today, the name “Ahwatukee” referred, at times, to a since-demolished house that sits in an area near Sequoia Trails and Appaloosa Drive, west of the Warner-Elliot Loop.
At least two major thoroughfares in today’s Ahwatukee are named after people who claimed lands in the area, in the decades following the signing of the Homestead Act in 1862. Warner Road was named after Samuel Warner of Kansas, while Elliot Road was named after Reginald Elliott of California. Both claimed lands in an area now known as Tempe. A third man, Arthur Hunter, claimed land within an area now known as Ahwatukee. The street known today as 48th Street was, for a time, named Hunter Drive, after Arthur Hunter. Hunter is rumored to have, in the 1940s, disassembled and buried in the Ahwatukee desert a Studebaker car purported owned by Al Capone.
Development of Ahwatukee began in 1970, when Presley Development Company, led by Randall Presley, bought 2,080 acres (840 ha) of land. The land included Ahwatukee Ranch, by then owned by a land syndicate led by an Arizona State UniversityEnglish professor, as well as land owned by a local moving and storage firm. Presley originally planned for the area to be a retirement community, but later devised a mix of retirement living, family living, and light commercial zoning for the area.
Presley Development was noted to have a role in Ahwatukee eventually becoming a part of Phoenix, instead of neighboring Chandler or Tempe, through a handshake deal Maricopa County Supervisor Bob Stark, who was also an attorney with Presley Development, made with Mayor of Phoenix John D. Driggs. However, Chandler and Tempe officials were noted to have refused offers of annexing Ahwatukee.