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  • Santa Cruz River Park History

    San Xavier del Bac - 11

    Mission San XavierYear Built/Established: 1797

    Baroque design constructed with desert materials

    Mission San Xavier del Bac has served the Tohono O’odham Nation since it was founded in 1700 by the Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino. The present church is the third, perhaps the fourth, 
    on the site. Since completion, it has served the Nation under many flags: imperial Spain, revolutionary Mexico, and the young and expanding United States. It continues to stand serene and untroubled against the timeless backdrop of the desert, a strange visitor from another world, completely at home in its alien environment, the most spectacularly lovely gift of colonial Spain to the United States.

    Water is Life - Hohokam and Historic Use of the Santa Cruz River - 12

    Photo to come
    Period of Significance:
    10000 B.C.-Today

    Representative of Tucson's use of riverine resources and the landscape

    It is said that you can never step into the same river twice. Archaeological and geological studies conducted here, 
    and throughout the reach of the Santa Cruz River, reveal a constantly evolving landscape. From the earliest farming practices in the United States engineered by indigenous peoples, to modern efforts returning stream flows in an urban landscape, this watercourse is an essential component of a community’s sense of place—providing a source of water critical to survival in a harsh environment and bringing meaning into our lives. Climate change and population growth challenges us to re-envision our relationship with our landscapes as we plan for a more informed and responsible future.

    Paseo de las Iglesias - Human Use of the Santa the Cruz River - 13

    Paseo de las Iglesias
    Year Built/Established: 350-Early 1900s

    For more than 4,000 years the Santa Cruz and its floodplain have been the heart of the social and economic landscape of the Tucson Basin, providing precious water in an arid desert region. 
    At the Paseo site, a farming village with at least 24 houses was uncovered, buried for over 1,000 years. Centuries later, the water in this stretch of the river was dammed and would serve many purposes –running a mill, making beer, for swimming, fishing, and irrigating crops.

    Julian Wash Archaeological Park - 14

    Julian Wash Arch. Park

    Year Built/Established: 800 B.C.-Early 1900s

    Architect/Style/Function: Village

    Description: Julian Wash Archaeological Park marks the location of past lifeways focused on engineering the Santa Cruz River to water ancient crops and sustain life over 4,000 years ago. It was also the site of St Luke's Orphanage. Today the park features interpretive signage to commemorate these events, walking and bike paths, and art installations. 

    Santa Cruz Catholic Church - 15 

    Photo to come
    Year Built/Established: 1916

    Henri Granjon / Spanish Colonial Revival

    Description: Santa Cruz Church is expressive of the broad pattern of our nation's history in being a product of the Hispanic tradition, which preceded Anglo-American presence in the southwest by 150 years. It is significant for its construction using unstabilized mud-adobe bricks. It is the largest (known and extant) mud-adobe building in Arizona, and the only surviving example of adobe used in the construction of a major public building. The church was designed by Tucson's Bishop, Henri Granjon.

    Armory Park Historic District - 16 

    Photo to come
    Acres: 178.88

    Listed on National Register: 7/5/1996

    Period of Significance: 1860s-1945

    Description: Armory Park was surveyed as a part of the 1872 town plan, however, this neighborhood’s architecture illustrates the transition in styles following the arrival of the Southern Pacific railroad in Tucson in 1880. From 1880 until approximately 1920, Armory Park’s residential area grew from the original Military Plaza to a progressive neighborhood, comprised mostly of railroad men. As time passed, Armory Park developed into a stable, cohesive neighborhood of multiple and single family detached houses with a mixture of architectural styles. It is the mixture of these styles as well as social-cultural cohesiveness that form the basis for the historic district.

    Historic Barrios - 17

    Historic barrios
    Year Built/Established:
    Mid 1800s-Mid 1900s

    Architect/Style/Function: Sonoran, Transitional Sonoran, and some Spanish Colonial Revival, Victorian, and Craftsman Bungalow

    Description: (Barrio Anita, El Hoyo, Libre, Santa Rosa, El Membrillo: While the barrios were historically working-class Mexican neighborhoods, a diversity of other ethnic backgrounds including Chinese, African American, Anglo, and Native Americans called the barrios home. The Sonoran style is characterized by thick-walled adobe brick buildings set flush to the street line, flat roofs, parapet walls, vigas, canales, and deeply recessed entries to name a few features.)

    Barrio Anita Historic District

    Acreage: 40.83
    Listed on National Register: 9/23/11
    Period of Significance: 1895-1940
    Description: Barrio Anita is recognized for its streetscapes and adobe dwellings that represent the survival of the Hispanic urban model and the traditional Hispanic vernacular building tradition (Sonoran Tradition) into the twentieth century, as well as the gradual transformation of these traditions, as Hispanics incorporated Anglo-American practices in spatial values, building materials, and construction techniques. The neighborhood contains mostly adobe residences and a community center that is a significant example of a Works Progress Administration project that was constructed of adobe in the regional tradition and continues to serve its purpose.

    Barrio El Hoyo Historic District

    Listed on National Register: 8/13/08
    Period of Significance: 1908-1950
    Description: Barrio El Hoyo, together with the National Register-listed Barrio Libre Historic District, comprise the locally designated Barrio Historico Historic District; distinct and different neighborhoods within Tucson originally formed by marginalized communities. Barrio El Hoyo combines the density of urban settlement with a feeling of a rural village through the combination of narrow street widths, building spacing and many zero lot line setbacks, topographic variation, and desert vegetation. Barrio El Hoyo represents an early twentieth century neighborhood built as a continuation of the Sonoran architectural tradition of rowhoused streetscapes, with influences from Anglo-American architectural movements and revivals called "Transitional”.

    Barrio El Membrillo Historic District

    Acreage: 3.19
    Listed on National Register: 8/5/09
    Period of Significance: 1920-1950
    Description: From 1920 to 1950, Barrio El Membrillo was nearly entirely built out, representing the last of the distinctive Hispanic vernacular building tradition (Sonoran Tradition) found in Tucson’s barrios. El Membrillo represents the confluence of different concepts of public and private space—the Hispanic urban and rural models and the Anglo-American suburban model. In Tucson, barrios like El Membrillo developed as a response to the increasing social, economic, and political marginalization of Hispanics from the urban core of nineteenth century Tucson. In this respect, barrios functioned as support systems for marginalized groups.

    Barrio Libre Historic District

    Acreage: 68.22
    Listed on National Register: 10/18/78
    Period of Significance: 1875-1924
    Description: Barrio Libre has played an important role in the development of Tucson as the city's major Spanish-speaking neighborhood and remains a significant area whose architecture is largely unchanged from its Territorial-period appearance. Traditional Sonoran adobe rowhouses are described as being built “cheek-to-jowl” as they line the streets, with later Transitional and Victorian styles interspersed. The original Spanish-speaking culture of this multi-heritage district has prevailed to the present day. The Anglo-Saxons, Russian and German Jews, Italians, and later Chinese who settled in the Barrio adopted Spanish as the language for both trade and social purposes.

    Barrio Santa Rosa Historic District

    Acreage: 29.60
    Listed on National Register: 9/23/11
    Period of Significance: 1895-1955
    Description: Barrio Santa Rosa developed within a formal city grid of wide streets and it lacks the closeness that typifies barrios like Anita or El Hoyo, with their much narrower streets. However, it does have the characteristic barrio house types and housescapes as over half of Barrio Santa Rosa’s homes represent the survival of the Sonoran Tradition into the twentieth century. In this way, it shares the same feeling as Tucson's other barrios. The others are examples of Tucson’s popular Anglo-American styles such as Queen Anne, Craftsman Bungalow, and Mission Revival; many of these are also constructed of adobe. 

    Birthplace of Tucson/Mission Garden - 18 

    Mission Garden
    Description: The current function of the Mission Garden helps to tell Tucson’s origin story and about our Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and American Territorial past and traditions that remain a part of this region’s vitality. Erected above an ancestral Native American site that holds the remains of North America's first known cultivated corn, this area has been continuously occupied for thousands of years. The diverse crop beds that modernly exist here, fed using historic farming techniques including a reconstructed, functional acequia (canal), express Tucson's living history. Heritage events at the Mission Garden accompany certain harvests and are open to the public.

    Sentinel Peak - 19  

    Sentinel Peak
    Description: The “Birthplace of Tucson” is the site of Tucson’s origins, located at the base of Sentinel Peak and west of the Santa Cruz River.  Here, people have lived for more than 4,000 years where some of the earliest agriculture in North America has been documented.  It is also the site of the O’odham village of “Stjuckshon” that was encountered by Fr. Kino in the 1690s, who named it “San Cosme del Tucson,” giving our modern city its name.  During the 18th century, Mission San Agustin del Tucson was established here and grew to include a chapel, Convento building, cemeteries and outbuildings including a large granary, the walled Mission Garden, and an extensive system of agricultural fields irrigated by acequias from the Santa Cruz River.

    Tumamoc Hill/Desert Laboratory - 20 

    Tumamoc Hill

    Description: Tumamoc Hill or Chemamagi Do’ag, a Tohono O'odham place name meaning Hill of the Horned Lizard, has attracted humans for over two thousand years. Since the early 1900s, this area has been recognized for its value related to science, art and invention. In 1903 the Desert Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution opened on Tumamoc Hill, focusing research on arid-land plants. Research at the hill continues today and the road leading to the laboratory buildings near the peak, serves hikers and wildlife. Mined volcanic rock from the hill was used to construct the laboratory buildings and some residences in nearby historic neighborhoods. Partial acquisition was done with Open Space Bonds.

    Menlo Park Historic District - 21

    Photo to come
    Acreage: 225.29

    Listed on National Register: 4/23/10

    Period of Significance: 1877-1964

    Description: The Menlo Park Historic District, built at the base of the mountain slopes below Tumamoc Hill and Sentinel Peak, is located atop the oldest continuously settled area in Tucson; an ancestral Native American village where corn was first cultivated. Thousands of years later, the area developed as a Euro-American enclave in the early-twentieth century and many new residents were of Mexican descent.  Architectural styles—in Tucson’s first west side subdivision—include Spanish Colonial Revival, Bungalow, post-World War II Ranch, and Modern, among others. Some homes have rock work from nearby quarries on Tumamoc Hill. 

    Paul Laurence Dunbar School / John Spring Neighborhood Historic District - 46 

    Dunbar dance class

    Acreage: 58.44

    Listed on National Register: 5/11/89

    Description: The John Spring Neighborhood Historic District—visually unified by a street grid—is characterized by three regions, the: (a) original settlement (c. 1900) with zero lot-line Sonoran adobe rowhouses, Queen Anne buildings, and two Gothic Revival churches; (b) church-and-school square (1913 and 1918) with a Mission Revival church and namesake school on a plaza-like block; and (c) bungalow development (c. 1920) of several intact blocks of small Spanish-inspired revival homes and stylistically diverse bungalows.  In recent years, several buildings have seen rehabilitation and adaptive re-use including the school that served African American children prior to integration.  Tamarisk, chinaberry, and palms comprise the prevailing landscaping.

    Pascua Cultural Plaza - 47

    Photo to come
    Since 1921, when Pascua Village was officially established on what was then the northern outskirts of Tucson, the plaza, capilla, fiesta ramada, and kitchen have together been the focus of Yoeme traditional religious, cultural, and social events. The plaza is significant for its association with the traditional cultural practices of the Yoeme (Yaqui) people. The dances, processions, and other ceremonial activities that occur there are a critical part of Yoeme life and tradition. They are very significant in keeping Yoeme heritage alive; they serve to teach young tribal members of their unique past and their traditional way of life. In addition, they enrich the lives of all who view the ceremonies and in so doing learn about Yoeme culture.

    USDA Tucson Plant Materials Center - 48 

    Photo to come
    Year Built/Established:

    Architect/Style/Site Function: CCC-constructed / Pueblo Revival

    Description: Following environmental devastation known as the Dust Bowl which stemmed from overgrazing and unsustainable farming techniques, the mission of the TPMC was to collect quantities of propagation materials (i.e. seeds, cutting, plants) to use on the Gila, Rio Grande,  and Navajo regional re-vegetation projects, restoring biological health to the Sonoran desert environs.

    Prehistoric Residential - Life on the Floodplain - 49 

    Photo to come
    Hohokam communities of the Tucson Basin were ancestors of contemporary southern desert populations, such as the O’odham, as well as Pueblo populations and perhaps other populations in northern Mexico. Early Hohokam settlements consist of clusters of shallow pithouses. Archaeologists find these dwellings in sets of three or four around small courtyards. Between about 800 and 1100 A.D., many villages also had large earthen constructions that archaeologists identify as ballcourts. People probably used these for gatherings and for a ball game that was probably similar to those played among Mesoamerican societies. Later in time, after about 1150 or 1200 A.D., people in the Hohokam region began building their houses as aboveground compounds within a walled courtyard. Larger villages then had a different kind of central construction: large platform mounds, often with structures on top, that appear to have been the place for religious and political activities.

    Early Agricultural Period - Archaic Farmers near Tres Rios and Las Capas - 50 

    Photo to come
    The site of Las Capas, dating back to 1250-750 B.C. is  located at the confluence of the Santa Cruz and Rillito rivers, and Canyon del Oro wash.  It comprises several layers of deeply buried archaeological remains, of which, the most significant archaeological findings were the irrigation canals dating back to possible 1200 B.C.  Excavations at the site revealed layer upon layer of farming plots, irrigation canals, pit houses, over 468 cultural features, 107, 129 cultural artifacts, and proof of over 3,000 years of continuous habitation from radiocarbon dating performed on 46 samples of maize.  Las Capas is a unique borderlands site based on the (a) duration and continuity of occupation; (b) thickness of midden deposits, artifacts, and feature densities; (c) intensity of flaked stone reduction; and, (d) high degrees of wear, maintenance, and recycling of ground stone tools.  The canal sequences show an increase in length, use, labor requirements, efficiency, water control, and irrigated area, which corresponds with sustaining a larger population than before.

    Los Morteros Conservation Park - 51  

    Los Morteros
    Description: Named for its bedrock mortars, where mesquite was once milled by the ancestors of present-day Native American Tribes, Los Morteros was settled near reliable water over 1,000 years ago. Villagers were artisans and farmers who built a communal plaza, irrigation system and an oval ball court, interacting with neighboring villages and trading as far south as the California Gulf. Acquisition was done with Open Space Bonds. Los Morteros again became an important place in historic times. Juan Bautista de Anza’s 1775 Spanish expedition had 240 travelers and 1,000 animals camp here. A century later came the 1858 “Point of Mountain” stagecoach station and a Pascua Yaqui village.

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