Ms. Karen and I had visited the museums at Fort Lowell several years ago, long before the onset of the recent pandemic where it was closed by the Arizona Historical Society. Now, in mid-March 2023, the museums were still closed and their contents are in storage, awaiting eventual reopening.
But on this Saturday, the old Fort was hosting a living history day with old-time soldiers, mounted cavalry, and a military band to play some old standards from the 1800s. This event was sponsored by the Presidio Museum which is located in Downtown Tucson. The Presidio has recently taken over the project to restore Fort Lowell, a move we heartedly endorse.
The original Fort Lowell Museums were in the former officer’s quarters in two old adobe buildings just east of Craycroft. One contained U.S. Army artifacts, and the other told the story of the Apache Wars from the Native American perspective. Both were done well in telling the history of Southern Arizona. To view our video about our first visit to Fort Lowell, Click HERE.
None of this mattered to me, as I was going to hear Homer Thiel give a talk on the archaeology of this old fort. Homer is the one who uncovered the remains of so many ancient sites around Tucson, and is most knowledgeable about such things.
Homer spoke of the size of the original Fort Lowell, much larger than I was aware of. He gave his talk on the east side of Craycroft in some old adobe buildings. He said the flat, barren area to our north had been the original Parade Grounds. Just on the north side of the Parade Grounds is the old Adkins house, which he told us was built in the 1930s and originally had a windmill out back. That is all we know about this at the moment.
He showed us photographs of the archaeology digs and some of the artifacts discovered during the excavations. They included the bronze tip of a flagpole that he says would have been originally gilded with gold. He also mentioned that they found several pithouses, one with more than 20 posts, quite large for this type of dwelling. Apparently, it had been used for some sort of communal or ceremonial purpose.
Fort Lowell is located as part of a larger City Park, where there are tennis courts, picnic tables, ball fields and other activities of interest. You can find more information about this park on the City of Tucson Website.
This just in from a new press release.
PIMA COUNTY, March 22, 2023 – The Pima County Board of Supervisors March 21 voted unanimously to approve an Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Tucson related to the preservation of the historic Fort Lowell, located within Fort Lowell Park, 2900 N. Craycroft Road.
The U.S. Army built the post in 1873 and it remained in use until 1891. The park, which currently includes the historic buildings, has a mix of modern recreational facilities alongside archaeological deposits and remnants of buildings that date back to the original occupation. In 1978 the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“This is an exceptional opportunity to work with the City of Tucson again in helping to restore the historical presence of Fort Lowell,” said Linda Mayro, Director of the Office of Sustainability and Conservation. “This agreement will allow us to fulfill our joint vision of bringing history ‘back to life’ for the greater public’s benefit and enjoyment.”
“Thanks to the City of Tucson voters and the Arizona State Parks Board Heritage Fund, we have the funding available to restore many of the historic features and structures at this beloved park for the enjoyment of current and future generations,” said Lara Hamwey, Director of City of Tucson Parks and Recreation. “This is a great example of inter-jurisdictional cooperation to best serve our community thanks to the leadership of Mayor Romero, Ward 2 Councilmember Paul Cunningham, their colleagues on the Council, and the Pima County Board of Supervisors.”
In 2004, Pima County initiated the Fort Lowell Park Master Plan which was adopted by both the City and County in 2009. In 2018, Tucson voters approved another $3.15 million to fund additional improvements included in the original master plan. In addition to the voter approved funds, the City received a $300,000 Heritage Fund from the Arizona State Parks Board.
County Administrator Jan Lesher told the Board in March 14 memorandum that, while the ongoing preservation projects will be funded by the City, the County’s development of the Fort Lowell Master Plan and previous restoration efforts at the park made the County the logical choice to oversee the additional improvements using both city bond and grant funds.
The County’s oversight role will include the administration of design and construction contracts in addition to the verification of quality of worksmanship. Priorities for the project include the restoration of the Commissary complex and Donaldson House, as well as the construction of a new protective structure over Hospital Ruins.
We left Fort Lowell before the band played, something I wish we had not missed. I enjoy the old tunes played with original instruments. On the way home, we stopped at Zinburger on River Road for lunch. Ms. Karen had a Chopped Wedge Sala ($8.00). She said it was OK, but nothing to write home about.
I had their Samburger, Applewood Smoked Bacon, American Cheese, Lettuce & 1000 Island ($13.95). We shared an order of Loaded Fries, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Cheese Sauce, Sour Cream & Chives (8.00). My Burger was also just OK, but the loaded fries were to die for. Zinburger has, arguably some of the best burgers in town although Ms. Karen would say Harvest’s burgers on La Canada are the best.