I find the history of Tucson fascinating. It is much easier to get my mind around all that has happened here over the past many centuries when I can put it all into context. For me, the simplest and most effective context is a chronological timeline.
I’m happy to share this History of Tucson Timeline with you. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did putting it together. I believe there are lessons we can learn from history so that we don’t have to repeat the mistakes of the past. While doing the research for this Timeline, I learned a few lessons. Perhaps you will discover some too.
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- 12,000 YEARS AGO
- AD 450–1450
- AUGUST 20, 1775
- May 1, 1782
- 1912 VALENTINE’S DAY
- The Future of Tucson
12,000 YEARS AGO
Archeological sites prove American Indians lived in the Santa Cruz River Valley near Tucson for at least 12,000 years.
A complex agricultural society known as the Hohokam inhabits the area ranging from present-day Northern Mexico to Central Arizona. A substantial Hohokam community with extensive irrigated fields is located on land that will become the area between modern Downtown Tucson and “A” Mountain. You will find the remains of a Hohokam pit house within the reconstructed El Presidio del Tucson.
Why the Hohokam disappeared from the archeological record is unknown in detail, but undoubtedly it was somehow related to the inability to produce sufficient crops.
Many archeologists believe changes in weather patterns were primarily the cause of the collapse of the Hohokam culture. In the 12th & 13th centuries C.E., their homeland experienced long periods of drought combined with intermittent flooding that destroyed many of their irrigation canals.
They had a large population to feed and the desert Southwest does not naturally favor large, clustered populations of any type. Also, over many years, intensive agriculture may have stripped nutrients from the soil causing crop failures.
Coronado Expedition. Spanish explorers Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Fray Marcos de Niza, and Francisco Vásquez de Coronado visit what is now Arizona. As head of a 1,000-person expedition from Mexico City, Coronado is searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.
What he finds instead are Zuni mud pueblos. Disappointed, he divides his expedition. One branch ends up in present-day Kansas. The other goes west and “discovers” the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.
Jesuit missionary Father Eusebio Francisco Kino makes his initial visit to the area he calls Pimaria Alta (land of the Upper Pima) He finds Pima Indians living in a well-irrigated agrarian settlement they call T’Shuk-sohn: Place at the Base of Black Mountain (later known as Sentinel Peak and now “A” Mountain). Today, the re-constructed Mission Garden occupies the same site and grows heritage fruits, vegetables, and grains from the Fr. Kino era.
The foundation of Mission San Xavier del Bac, 9 miles upstream from present-day Tucson, is begun by Papago (now Tohono O’odham) laborers, under the direction of Father Kino. The original site was overrun by Apaches. Later, Spanish and Tohono O’odham natives constructed the Mission San Xavier you can visit today.
A year or so later, Father Kino establishes Mission San Cosme at the base of Sentinel Peak (aka “A” Mountain). It is adjacent to a Tohono O’odham village and has well-established irrigation canals with water from a spring that drains toward the nearby Santa Cruz River. San Cosme will eventually become Mission San Agustin.
On November 21, the northern Pima Indians (Tohono O’odham) revolted against the Spanish. The Spaniards are taking control of Indian lands and way of life. The Jesuit missionaries harshly punished Native Americans who did not convert to Catholicism and follow Spanish rules. Spanish soldiers put down the rebellion and imprisoned the leader. As a result of the rebellion, a new presidio will be established at Tubac in January, 1753. Following the Pima rebellion, Apaches raided the community at Tubac relentlessly. The Tubac presidio will eventually be moved to Tucson in 1775 and the Tubac community abandoned.
AUGUST 20, 1775
El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson is officially founded as a walled fort by Hugo O’Conor and consecrated by Fr. Garces. O’Conner is an Irishman working for the Spanish crown. At this time, the walls are comprised mainly of timbers and earth berms. Of necessity, that will change.
Juan Batista de Anza leads 240 settlers plus 60 facilitators (think blacksmiths, mule packers, priests, etc.) north from Tumacacori, through Tubac and Tucson to the Gila River, then west to the Colorado River and onto California. After 1210 miles, they established a presidio and a village overlooking a beautiful bay. They named it in honor of Saint Francis: San Francisco.
Even though the journey was extremely dangerous, there was only one death. A woman died in childbirth the day after they left Tubac. The expedition’s success is a testament to de Anza’s extraordinary leadership. In fact, they ended the trek with 2 more than they started with when two women gave birth and survived.
May 1, 1782
Hundreds of Apaches attacked the Presidio and nearly wiped out the small Spanish garrison. Soon thereafter, the remaining palisades and earthen berms are replaced by 3-foot thick, 10 to 12-foot high adobe walls.
Construction begins on the very large adobe “Convento” at Mission San Agustin. This is a “visita” or sister mission to San Xavier, 9 miles upriver. The Convento is used as an administrative building, a school, and a dormitory. The mission gardens are surrounded by high walls to keep animals out. Today, Mission Garden is located on the same land as the original. Docents conduct tours on Saturday mornings.
The Convento will be abandoned by 1828 because of repeated Apache attacks.
Mexico won a decade-long fight for independence from Spain, and Tucson became a remote Mexican village in the state of Sonora. The population at the Presidio was 395, including soldiers, their wives, and children.
The Mexican-American War ends officially with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico gives up all or most of present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, and the northern portions of Arizona and New Mexico … 525,000 square miles in all.
Six years later, for $10 million, the United States will purchase what is today the portions of Arizona and New Mexico south of the Gila River from the Rio Grande to Rio Colorado and thereby add another 30,000 square miles. By comparison, President Thomas Jefferson consummated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 for $15 million and added 828,000 square miles, thus doubling the size of the United States. $15 million in today’s dollars would be about a half-billion, still one of the greatest bargains of all time.
Arizona Territory did not exist until the Civil War. So at this time, Tucson is a small town located in the Territory of New Mexico.
Tucson begins to see Anglo faces in large numbers. They are drawn westward by gold discoveries in California. Several prominent Tucson leaders of the 1870s (Fish, Hughes, Brown) earned serious money in California before making Tucson their home.
For $10 million, Tucson became a part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase which includes all of southern New Mexico and Arizona from the Rio Grande to Rio Colorado; about 30,000 square miles. That $10 million would be about $300 million in today’s dollars.
The first Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach reaches Tucson from St. Louis on its way to San Francisco. For most Tucsonans, this is a life-changing event. For passengers, however, the ride is utterly miserable. The Tucson Butterfield Stage station was about where Granada and Alameda intersect today.
Tucson is still a Mexican village. Ohioan Phocion Way passes through town on June 11th. He notes that the population is about 200, perhaps a dozen are Americans. With typical Anglo prejudice, he describes it as “a miserable place.” “There is a small creek running through the town. The water is alkaline and warm. The hogs wallow in the creek, the Mexicans water their asses and cattle and wash themselves and their clothes and drink water out of the same creek. The Americans have dug a well and procured tolerably good water …”
For a History of Tucson in the 18th and 19th centuries from the people who lived there, see our article on History of Tucson as Told by the People Who Lived It.
Butterfield Overland Mail ceased operation due to the Civil War. U.S. soldiers are needed back east to defeat the rebels. The stage no longer has protection from Apaches.
February 5th, Lt. Bascom meets with Cochise. The incident that followed is known as the “Bascom Affair”. This was the start of the Apache Wars that lasted for the next 25 years.
Freight haulers, farmers, and ranchers began making huge profits selling over-priced supplies to several Army forts scattered around Southern Arizona. For Tucson in general, war with the Indians is very good for business, except when Apaches raid an individual businessman’s wagon train, farm, or ranch. Thus, most Tucsonans are of two minds about the Apaches. On one hand, they want the Army to exterminate these raiders. On the other hand, they want to maintain lucrative government contracts to supply the forts with wheat, vegetables, beef, hay, lumber, pots & pans, stoves, and many other necessities. If the Indians are pacified on reservations, as is the intention of the Army, the soldiers will not be needed to protect the Anglo and Mexican civilians and Tucson’s economic engine will sputter to a halt. For more about the Apache Wars, Click HERE.
Tucson formally secedes from the Union and is soon admitted to the Confederate States of America. In February, Tucson was occupied by about 120 Confederate troops from Texas. In April, they lost a skirmish to Union soldiers from California at Picacho Pass. In the face of overwhelming force, the Confederates retreated to the Rio Grande, and the California Column, 1800, occupied Tucson in May without a fight. Not including soldiers, Tucson’s population is about 1,000 souls. For more about how Tucson became the capitol of Confederate Arizona Territory, CLICK HERE.
President Lincoln signed a bill creating Arizona Territory, which was previously a part of New Mexico Territory.
In order to protect Tucson citizens from Apaches, a military post, Camp Lowell, is established at the present-day Armory Park area (including the present-day location of Tucson Electric Power) of Downtown. Broadway Boulevard was once named Camp Street because this narrow dirt road led from the business district to the soldiers’ camp.
Tucson is named the capital of Arizona Territory. In November, the Pima County Board of Supervisors established District No. 1, Tucson’s first public school district.
Charles O. Brown opened his Congress Hall saloon at the intersection of Calle de la Alegria (Happiness Street) and Meyer Avenue. The Territorial legislature meets here informally.
San Agustin Cathedral and Church Plaza (Plaza de la Mesilla) is open for services. Its two towers were added in 1881 and the ornate facade in 1883. The plaza will become the site of the annual Fiesta de San Agustin, a rowdy, mostly secular celebration. Abandoned by the diocese when they built the new Cathedral on Stone Avenue, this building became (a) a hotel, then (b) a brothel, then (c) an automobile garage.
The district’s lone schoolhouse is a rented saloon in downtown with 55 students. The first teacher leaves after four months because the district can not afford to pay him.
The first Pima County Courthouse is constructed of adobe at Ott Street and Court Avenue. (Ott Street no longer exists. It intersected with Main Avenue about where City Hall is today.)
German-born Alex Levin started producing beer at his Pioneer Brewery. Later this year he buys Wheat’s Saloon, redecorates the interior, and offers music and dancing. The entertainment is much welcomed by Tucsonans who seem to live life somewhere between hard, hot & dirty work, utter boredom, and stark terror.
Tucson’s 1870 census records 3,224 residents. The weekly newspaper, Arizona Citizen, begins publishing. John Wasson is the outspoken editor. His editorials vilify all Apaches and his false claims and hysterical exaggerations of Apache atrocities will lead to the Camp Grant Massacre. What is the solution to the Apache problem? Mr. Wasson opines, “… the slaying of every Apache man, woman, and child.”
Street vendors sell water for 5¢ per gallon. No one has indoor plumbing. All have a privy out back. Population about 3,000.
Alex Levin acquired the Hodges Hotel on Main Street (formerly Calle Real). The Grand Opening includes a “grand supper”, music and dancing.
Leopoldo Carrillo begins development on his 8-acre Carrillo Gardens on South Main Street where Carrillo Middle School is today. These gardens will eventually surpass Levin’s Park as the favorite place where Tucsonans can enjoy a stroll, picnic, and amusements along a small, tree-lined lake.
Calle de la Alegria is renamed Congress Street to honor Mr. C.O. Brown and his Congress Hall saloon where the Territorial legislature meets informally while Tucson is the capital of the territory (1867-1877). A meeting of prominent Tucsonans is held at this upscale saloon, during which the municipality of Tucson is organized and officers elected. Mr. Brown is chosen as one of the first councilmen.
The first military telegraph line reaches Tucson and, with permission, civilians can use it. For the first time, Tucsonans have almost instantaneous communications with the outside world.
Dawn, Sunday, April 30th: Camp Grant Massacre. Tucson’s most prominent citizens organize, supply and lead a mob 50 miles north of Tucson with the intent to wipe out the Aravaipa Apaches, even though they know these Indians have converted to farming and are under the protection of the U.S. Army. They slaughter more than 100 defenseless Apaches, mostly women, children and old men; all are scalped. Young Apache girls are raped and mutilated. The mob takes some 25 young children captive and sells them into slavery.
Tucson incorporates. John Wasson, editor of the Weekly Arizonan, and surveyor-general of Arizona Territory formalizes the town’s property lines. Sidney Delong, well known for his role in the Camp Grant Massacre, and the only civic leader, late in life, to regret his involvement, becomes first elected mayor. Prior mayors were appointed.
Town lots go on sale for $5-$10 apiece. Many lots are distributed by lottery.
The First public school opened on land donated by Estevan Ochoa, a prominent local businessman.
General Howard and Cochise negotiate a peace accord. For all Tucsonans and people of Southern Arizona, this is a life-changing event. Cochise keeps the wagon road through Apache Pass and the water at Apache Springs safe for Americans.
U.S. Army stationed at Camp Lowell where Armory Park is today is moved 7 miles NE where the soldiers will have fewer temptations, such as the many saloons and ladies of Maiden Lane. The new, more permanent location is called Fort Lowell (1873-1891). It is located at the confluence of Tanque Verde and Pantano creeks at the point they form the Rillito River (now 2900 N. Craycroft).
Vincente Hernandez and his wife open a pawnshop on South Meyer Avenue (now in Barrio Viejo) with financial help from Tucson merchant William Zeckendorf. On the night of August 3rd, thieves enter their shop and brutally murder the couple. The town’s shock turns to anger. Twenty of the best trackers set out to find the culprits. The others form a Committee of Safety headed by Mr. Zeckendorf. Three men are caught and brought before the Committee. Upon being forced to look at the battered bodies of the victims, one confesses and implicates the other two. All three, plus a murderer in the jail awaiting execution, are hung in the Courthouse Plaza (near the present-day Mormon Battalion monument).
Hiram Stevens built the one-story Cosmopolitan Hotel at Pennington & Main Streets. The building incorporates the SW corner of the old Presidio adobe wall. For now, it is the only hotel in Tucson. For the true story about “How Pennington Street Got Its Name”, CLICK HERE.
Cochise dies. This is bad news for the Chiricahua Apaches. It is also bad news for the Anglo, Mexican, and Papago citizens of Tucson and the rest of Southern Arizona. Only Cochise had enough influence over the Chiricahua and other Apache groups to keep the young warriors from raiding north of the International Border.
Following the death of Cochise, probably of abdominal cancer, the U.S. government reneged on the Howard-Cochise peace accord. President Grant re-opens the huge Chiricahua Reservation to mining, ranching, and other American exploitation. Predictably, the Apache Wars resumed. No American or Mexican will be safe from Apache raids in Southern Arizona for the next decade.
Arizona Territorial capital is moved from Tucson to Prescott. Tucson businessmen are seriously unhappy campers. Being the capital was very good for many Tucson businesses.
Nevertheless, Tucson now has two hotels, a county courthouse; a bank; two breweries; two flour mills; four feed and livery stables; and ten saloons. Tucsonans had their priorities.
The first ice plant is completed. For the first time, Tucsonans can enjoy a cold beer in summer. Alex Levin opens his 3-acre park on the tree-lined grounds of his brewery on the east bank of Rio Santa Cruz. The park has a dance floor, bandstand, shooting gallery, and bowling alley. The Sixth Cavalry Band from Fort Lowell sometimes provides the music. The bullring is adjacent.
The Southern Pacific Railroad comes to Tucson bringing new building materials and improving the area’s economy. For most Tucsonans, this is a very positive event. But it also puts several once-prosperous enterprises, such as freight haulers Tully & Ochoa, out of business. The big, 20-mule team freight wagons are no longer necessary to carry supplies to Tucson from the West & East Coasts. Population: about 7,000.
Many Chinese railroad workers settled in Tucson and joined others who had been here since the 1860s. Most became farmers living in hovels in the shadow of Sentinel Peak (“A” Mountain), but some started laundry and restaurant businesses. They leased land from some of Tucson’s more prosperous citizens, such as Sam Hughes and Leopoldo Carrillo. Water feuds erupted over the use of limited water by the Chinese truck farmers and their landlords. But, truth be told, Tucson’s growing Anglo population would not have had enough to eat without the Chinese farmers who sold their produce every day on the streets of Tucson.
The first public hospital, St. Mary’s, is receiving patients. Many are suffering from consumption (TB) and have come to the warm, dry climate of Tucson to regain their health. Many do. In the 1880’s many sanitariums were established in or near Tucson.
Tucson, Yuma, and Tombstone are connected with all points east and west by telegraph lines. In April, a small telephone exchange is operating. According to the Arizona Star, “the latest improvement in our growing city is the establishment of the telephone headquarters adjoining the post office, where our citizens and visitors can now communicate with all parts of the city, and by telegraph connections with the remotes parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa.”
The first gaslights replaced kerosene lamps. A private water company pipes water to some homes & businesses.
First fire hydrants were installed on primary streets; Congress, Main, and Meyer.
The Territorial legislature decided that The University of Arizona would be built in Tucson.
American Treachery. Geronimo and his band of renegade Apaches surrender for the 4th and final time. All Chiricahua Apaches, even those who had been loyal scouts for the U.S. Army, are exiled to Florida. They will remain prisoners of war for the next 26 years, never to return to their ancestral homeland, the Chiricahua and Dragoon Mountains in Southern Arizona.
It had taken 5,000 men – soldiers, militia, & scouts – to run Geronimo to the ground. Three men, in particular, were responsible: General George Crook; Captain Henry Lawton, and Lt. Charles Gatewood. But when the ceremony was held in Tucson to honor the victorious, the vainglorious General Nelson Miles, who had only recently replaced Crook, took all the credit for himself. Tucsonans didn’t care. They were finally rid of the Apache threat.
Presbyterians establish the Tucson Indian Training School and charge the Federal government $31.25 per student per quarter. Initially, the school is located in an adobe building on the outskirts of Downtown at Sixth & Congress Streets.
Due to severe economic depression, Tucson’s population is only about 5,000 … 2,000 less than 10 years earlier. U of A begins first classes with 6 faculty and 32 students. First electric lights replace gaslights. The City forces the “sporting district” on Maiden Lane to relocate to Sabino Alley, aka Gay Alley, a few blocks south of Broadway off of Ochoa Street.
Cockfights and bullfights are outlawed.
One of the most shocking incidents in Tucson history occurred on March 3rd. Hiram Stevens, former Tucson City Treasurer; member of the Pima County Board Of Supervisors; representative to the Arizona Territorial Legislature; Territorial delegate to the United States House of Representatives, and very successful Tucson businessman, puts a gun to the head of his sleeping wife and pulls the trigger. He then turns the gun on himself and commits suicide. His wife, Petra, survives.
Tucson’s population is about 7,500. City pipes deliver a new municipal water system piping clean drinking water to 625 residential and commercial customers. Previously, drinking water was delivered in barrels via mule, donkey or horse-drawn wagon. Bathing and clothes washing were mostly done in an irrigation ditch down by the river. Men could get a bath at a barbershop for $3.
Tucson begins to lay pipe for a municipal sewer system. Previously, all homes and businesses had outhouses (privies), many of which contaminated the groundwater. Wells, some powered by windmills, could reach groundwater at about 30 feet.
Two of Tucson’s most prominent professional men, lawyer Francis Heney and Dr. John Handy, meet on Church Street in the shadow of the Pima County Courthouse. The doctor and his wife are entangled in a nasty divorce. Dr. Handy has threatened to kill any lawyer who takes the case and represents his wife. Mr. Heney is not dissuaded. Handy is enraged and attacks the smaller man. While both are armed (as were most men of that time), only Heney gets a shot off. Dr. Handy, the man designated as the future chancellor of the future University of Arizona, is mortally wounded. (You can read about this incident in our Local History section. Tucson History: The Death Of Dr. Handy).
Tucson established its first speed limit at 7mph. More and more, Anglos buying up lots north of Congress along Main and Meyer Avenues, displace families of Mexican heritage to the barrios south of Congress Street. Anglo mansions sprout up on Main Avenue forming a neighborhood called “Snob Hollow”. Many of these large homes, including Albert Steinfeld’s, are still in use today as offices.
The first bathtub connected to City water pipes was installed in the mansion of Albert Steinfeld. The magnificent 5-story, 200-room Santa Rita Hotel opens on Broadway where present-day TEP offices are located.
Prostitution is outlawed.
The last mule-drawn streetcar is retired, as electric cars begin operation over a three-mile loop between the downtown area and the U of A.
New Southern Pacific Depot completed. Fire destroyed the old one. What could they expect with the close proximity of fire-breathing locomotives and a depot with a shingle roof?
The first speeding ticket was issued to Albert Steinfeld’s chauffeur.
Tucson’s population is about 13,000. Fishing in the Santa Cruz River, for all practical purposes, ceases. Because of groundwater pumping and diversions for irrigation, the once perennially flowing river at Tucson no longer flows above ground, except after a heavy rain.
1912 VALENTINE’S DAY
Arizona becomes the 48th state. The Citizen notes that the event is on the 50th anniversary of Arizona’s admission to the Confederate States of America.
Woman’s Suffrage. Arizona women can now vote.
Gasoline is sold at Martin’s Drug Store at Congress and Church Streets for 12¢ a quart.
Tucson begins paving its primary thoroughfares, Congress Street and Main Avenue.
Prohibition. Statewide prohibition becomes law. Making, serving, and consuming alcoholic beverages is now illegal.
U of A adopts the nickname: Wildcats. The first golf course opens. Fifteen years later, grass will be added.
Students construct “A” on Sentinel Peak to celebrate the U of A’s second football victory over Pomona College.
Poncho Villa and his troops invaded the United States at Columbus, New Mexico, and killed American citizens. This event scares the bejeebers out of locals who fear it could happen to Tucson.
The Second City Hall building was completed. Replaced in 1972 by the current unimaginative structure.
Spanish influenza, a global pandemic, caused the University of Arizona to go into quarantine. World War I is almost over.
The first municipally owned airport in the U.S. opened where present-day rodeo grounds are located. The Hotel Congress opened across the street from the Southern Pacific train depot.
Tucson’s first regularly scheduled airline begins operation. The first guest ranches open on the outskirts of Tucson. Tucson’s population is about 20,000.
Tucson acquires 1,280 acres from the state for a military airfield that will become Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Tucson gets its first traffic light.
Consolidated Bank Building, Tucson’s first skyscraper (11 stories), is dedicated. Followed shortly by the Pioneer Hotel (12 stories; 250 rooms; 22 suites, all with private baths and circulating ice water). Nightly rates begin at $3. Both are owned by Albert Steinfeld. Mr. Steinfeld owns the hugely successful Steinfeld Department Store at Stone & Pennington. He is also president of the Consolidated Bank (later Valley National Bank).
The Fox Theater (our favorite) opens with a huge party along Congress Street. It is the first commercial building in Tucson to have modern air conditioning.
The Arizona Inn is built and operated by Isabella Greenway, Arizona’s first Congresswoman and a lifelong friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. The Inn is immediately popular with the rich and famous. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Gasoline-powered buses replace electric trolleys.
January 22nd. Hotel Congress fire. The third (top) floor where some of the Dillinger Gang are staying incognito is destroyed. Tucson police capture the entire gang, including Public Enemy #1, John Dillinger, without firing a shot. This event is re-enacted every January at the Hotel Congress.
West of town, Columbia Pictures built Old Tucson Studios to replicate 1860’s Tucson in the western movie Arizona, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. The list of movies made here is illustrious and long.
World War II brought great change to Tucson, temporarily tripling the city’s population as thousands of troops were deployed to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the bases at Ryan Field, Marana, and Fort Huachuca.
The 25-mile road to Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon is, after decades of work, finally open. Overheated Tucsonans can now enjoy cool summer breezes at 8-9,000’ elevation. This is particularly important for the vast majority of desert dwellers who cannot afford modern air conditioning.
The state legislature repealed the school segregation law, and Tucson District Number 1 became the first in the state to desegregate. Tucson’s population is about 55,000.
Tucson’s most popular attraction, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, opens.
Arizona wins US Supreme Court decision in a long contest over its share of Colorado River water, reviving hopes for the Central Arizona Project.
The City, with voter approval, bulldozes 29 city blocks, home to some 1,100 poor and working-class residents, to make room for the new Tucson Convention Center, Music Hall, Leo Rich Theater, and a lot of parking space. The City’s old central square, the site of so many happy fiestas, Plaza de la Mesilla, becomes La Placita, Tucson’s most colorful, failed commercial complex.
Fire breaks out in the Pioneer Hotel. The cause is judged to be arson. Twenty-eight people died, including Albert Seinfeld’s son and daughter-in-law, who were residing in the penthouse. Sixteen-year-old Lewis Taylor is convicted of starting the fire and is sentenced to life in prison. 43 years later, Mr. Taylor is set free because modern forensic experts now claim that the evidence of arson was flawed.
The Downtown business district had been slowly dying as people moved in mass to the suburbs. Of course, businesses, including Steinfeld’s Department Store, J.C, Penny, Montgomery Ward, and so many others, followed their customers. Because of urban blight, few people will venture into Downtown Tucson for another 40 years.
Pima County population reaches 450,000.
Greater Metropolitan Tucson’s population is 531,000, unimaginable only 30 years earlier.
Amid considerable controversy, Mexico gave Tucson a 7-ton bronze statue of Poncho Villa. The statue is located in Veinte de Agosto Park, between West Broadway and West Congress Street Downtown where they cross Church Street. The park owes its name to Tucson’s official birthday, Aug. 20, 1775. Mayor Lew Murphy refuses to attend the dedication, but 1,000 Tucsonans not only attend but applaud. This is also the location of the first Cathedral de San Agustin.
“Save the Temple” group succeeds in saving the historic Temple of Music & Art from demolition; restoration begins.
Mission San Xavier del Bac undergoes extensive cleaning and restoration by local artisans and European experts who also worked on the Sistine Chapel.
Central Arizona Project water arrives in Southern Arizona from the Colorado River. Growth surges.
Downtown’s Fox Tucson Theater reopens on New Year’s Eve after 26 years in which it was a porno theater, then a derelict building occupied by vagrants. If ever the term “resurrection” was applicable to a building, the Fox should be the poster child.
With a cost of $168 million, Tucson gets a Modern Streetcar, the first since December 31, 1930. The 4-mile route connects the University Medical Center in the east to the Mercado in the west with many stops along the newly revitalized Downtown, including Main Gate Square, 4th Avenue, and Congress Street.
The Future of Tucson
Metro Tucson’s population is about 1 million and still growing. But what of Tucson’s future? Water is our Achilles heel. Always has been. If the scientific models are reasonably accurate, the American Southwest is in for a very long period of drought … 100 years; 1,000 years … 10,000 years … more? No one knows. But it is hard to imagine Tucson’s population ever reaching 2 million without additional major sources of potable water.
Without the Central Arizona Project (CAP)
When the Rocky Mountains no longer have a significant annual snowpack, there will be no Colorado River worthy of the name. When that happens, and it is already happening, Tucson will not have enough water to support a population of more than a few hundred souls. The real estate value of every Tucson property owner will be worthless. Nearly all businesses will fail. Tucson residents will leave in droves to find gainful employment in communities with plenty of fresh, clean water.
In 2015, the Colorado River Preparedness Conference offered a short-term assessment. “After years of drought, Lake Mead’s level is dropping toward the point that the U.S. Department of Interior would declare a shortage triggering a first phase of cuts to deliveries in Arizona. The CAP has said there’s a strong possibility of a shortage being declared on the Colorado River, which supplies roughly 40 percent of the state’s water needs.”
Given the consequences of the long-term drought again encompassing the American Southwest, will expensive desalination of water from the Gulf of California be the only viable economic alternative? Or “Brown Water” from our wastewater plants? So far, few believe that our fate will be similar to that of the Hohokam 600 years ago. The odd thing about humanity is that we seldom learn the lessons of history.