If you want to understand Tucson's history & rich cultural heritage, you will find these downtown museums both educational & fascinating.
The Jewish History Museum
The Jewish History Museum is housed in an old synagogue built in 1910. It is not spacious, yet it offers serious exhibits related to the contributions of many Jews, such as the Drachman brothers, and the vitality of early Tucson. Did you know, for example, that Tucson has had 5 Jewish mayors?
Adjacent to the Jewish History Museum is the Holocaust History Center. Over two hundred and thirty Holocaust survivors from eighteen nations made Southern Arizona their home during the post-WWII era. The Holocaust History Center exhibits illuminate the history of Nazi persecution and its aftermath through the lives of those who were there.
Your understanding of Tucson history will be seriously incomplete if you are not aware of the Jewish community’s contribution to the development of our city.
Whenever the JHM is open, a docent is there to enlighten. The exhibits only tell a part of the story. The docents bring the exhibits to life.
564 South Stone, Tucson
Hours: Friday from Noon to 3 PM.
Saturday, and Sunday from 1 to 5 PM.
Admission: $7. Free to students and young children.
Tucson Museum Of Art & Historic Block
If you enjoy Southern Arizona and love art and history, you will surely appreciate our Tucson Museum of Art. The permanent exhibits in the main gallery are small, but worthwhile. However, on permanent display in the adjacent historic buildings are several treasures, including the Pavilion of Western Art in the Edward Nye Fish House, and Latin American, pre-Columbian, and Spanish Colonial era art in the Stevens/Duffield House.
The historic Romero House is where you will find students of all ages busy in the Museum's ceramics programs working their potter's wheels and firing their clay creations in the kilns. La Casa Cordova, one of the oldest buildings in Tucson, houses displays showing life in the Old Pueblo when it was still a small Mexican village.The J. Knox Corbett House, once home to a wealthy Tucson merchant, was built at the turn of the previous century and is filled with furnishing from that era. We have a video tour the Corbett House. To watch, click HERE.
Every few months, the Museum offers new shows from major traveling exhibits. These temporary exhibits are always visually stunning and are usually accompanied by compelling narratives, such as the recent Frida Kahlo exhibit and Scott Baxter's amazing portraits: 100 Years - 100 Ranchers.
Dining At The Museum of Art
Another delight at Tucson Museum of Art is Cafe' A La C'art, where you can get a fine breakfast; a fresh salad or generous sandwich for lunch (excellent burgers) or enjoy duck, scallops, lamb, or fish for dinner. They also have the best desserts.
The Museum is located on a full city block bounded by West Alameda, North Main Ave, West Washington, and North Meyer in the historic El Presidio Neighborhood located in the heart of downtown Tucson. The official street address is 140 North Main Avenue.
El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson
The Spanish built a fort, or presidio, in this remote northern region of New Spain at the same time a few British colonists on the Atlantic coast of America declared their independence from the English Crown, 1776.
Originally, "El Presidio San Agustin del Tucson" was only a few scattered buildings, some behind wooden palisades. It wasn't until 1783 that the thick adobe walls were completed, following a near-disastrous Apache attack. At it zenith, the presidio encompassed about 11 acres of what became Downtown Tucson.
This walled compound was constructed only a few city-blocks east of the Santa Cruz River on a Ho-ho-kam' village site that had been abandoned around 900 C.E. Their descendants, the Pima and Papago (now Tohono O'odham) Indians had lived here for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived. When the presidio was completed, the natives lived outside the walls.The presidio was still intact when the United States bought what is now the southern half of New Mexico and Arizona from Mexico in 1854. However, soon thereafter, the Americans began dismantling the massive walls to make way for their town. The last standing section of the presidio walls was destroyed in 1918.
Reconstruction of a portion of the old presidio began in 2006. Today, you can visit the presidio and its permanent exhibits & gift store, and occasional festivals, re-enactments, and official ceremonies.
To watch our interview with a 1776 Spanish soldier stationed at El Presidio San Agustin de Tucson, click HERE. To watch our video interview with a Spanish soldier's wife as she tells us about the terrifying Apache attack of 1782 and the one thing that saved them from annihilation, click HERE.
133 W. Washington Street
Arizona Historical Society Downtown Tucson
Here you will find the story of Tucson from the late 19th to the early 20th century. It is a most interesting story, particularly when you consider what locals had to endure without air conditioning.
Excellent exhibits depict early Tucson businesses, such as drug stores, barbershops, hotels & saloons, and introduce us to many of the growing community's prominent individuals.
Here too is the Dillinger exhibit about how, in 1934, Tucson police captured one of America's Most Wanted.
To see our brief video, click HERE.
The museum is located in the Wells Fargo Building at 150 N. Stone Ave. Be sure to call for hours. (520) 770-1473
Southern Arizona Transportation Museum
Having posted a video of the fall colors in the Huachucas, Jim and I decided to take a drive. After being mostly homebound for several months, our plan to circle the Huachucas seemed daunting. We decided to head to Carr House in Carr Canyon and assess the 6+ hour trip … Continue reading
Here is a video from Mike Foster’s collection showing off the fall colors of the Huachucas. Trails are open. If you decide to travel to the top of Carr Canyon, a high clearance vehicle is highly recommended. Ramsey Canyon, Brown Canyon, and Gardner Canyon are other choices offering different experiences. … Continue reading
How did Pennington Street in Downtown Tucson get its name? (a) Could Pennington Street be named for some 19th century politician and merchant like Estevan Ochoa, who established a successful business supplying Indian reservations and U.S. Army forts northeast of Tucson? He served as mayor (1875-76) and has a downtown … Continue reading
In this video, Mike Foster explains the migration of bats to the Huachuca Mountains in search of the nectar from the Century Plant. Mike Foster, San Pedro River Videos, is an ardent supporter of the Friends of the San Pedro River which serves to educate people about the value of … Continue reading
Does anyone recognize these peaks? Send your best guess to: [email protected] with the heading: Where is this? LAST WEEK’S WINNER Yes, this is… Besh-ba-gawah, site of the ancient Salado people near Globe, Arizona. The museum is currently but the grounds are accessible, Monday – Friday from 8 – 4pm. … Continue reading
Klondyke is a near-ghost town in western Graham County. In the second decade of the 21st century, the only roads out there are still unpaved. The Klondyke cemetery is just southeast of town. There you will find the graves of the Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Power and his family. Few know the sad story of these […]Continue reading
For all you bird watchers out there, spotting the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo is a real treat. This species is threatened in Arizona, endangered in California and disappearing in other parts of North America. In this lecture, a biologist from the Southern Sierra Research Station goes into great depth about this … Continue reading
Part III: William Oury – Epilogue This is part of a series on William Oury and the Camp Grant Massacre. If you have not read Part I and Part II on William Oury, start here at Part I. [Tucson 1930’s] Late in her long life, Atanacia Hughes (1850-1934), was interviewed … Continue reading
Arturo takes a hike to visit the grave of an old friend in a high mountain valley of the Borderlands. Music by Linda Ronstadt with permission.Continue reading
The origin of the town’s name is fairly well-known. Seems Ed was staying at Fort Huachuca and told some soldiers he was going prospecting in the hills around Goose Flats (present-day Tombstone). The soldiers laughed and told Ed, “All you will find over there is your own tombstone”. Both the … Continue reading
To learn about more worthwhile museums in Tucson, whether art or other, see our list of the Best Museums here.