This is an excerpt from our Downtown History and Dining Tour which we no longer give but we do have some books in both print and PDF format.
Before it was bulldozed in 1902 to widen Congress Street, this was the site of The Wedge. Looking at this old photo, Mr. Drachman’s Cigar Stand was about where the Bruegger’s Bagels sign is today. To the left was the narrow Congress Street. To the right was narrow Maiden Lane.
And yes, Mr. Hand visited the ladies on Maiden Lane. From my reading of his diary, I believe Big Carmel was his favorite.
In the 1890s, Tucson had an early version of rapid transit … well, perhaps not all that “rapid”. The mule-drawn streetcars were public transportation before electric streetcars caught on in the early years of the 20th century.
From 1910 to 1930, Tucson’s streetcars were electric. The last electric streetcar ceased operation on New Year’s Eve, 1930. The City had converted to an all-bus public transportation system. Tucson had no streetcar until the Modern Streetcar began operating in July 2014.
Street of the Sad Indian Girl
Maiden Lane was originally called Calle de la India Triste or “Street of the Sad Indian Girl”. The street name was bestowed during Tucson’s Mexican period (1821-1854) and referred to an unmarried Indian girl who lived with a Mexican officer at El Presidio. After his death, she was shunned by both her family and the family of the officer.
In the 1870s, the street name was changed to Maiden Lane and became the home of Tucson’s “sporting district.” That district was later moved to Sabino Alley in the barrio that was eventually replaced by Tucson Convention Center. It was also known as “Gay Alley”.
Prostitution was outlawed in 1905. But as long as the practice was conducted in the barrio, City officials tended to look the other way.