History Quest

I have mentioned before that I will put more emphasis on community history in these pages. At that time I didn’t realize what a challenge that would be. Nevertheless, I am pressing forward with the effort to find photos and narratives related to the early days of Armory Park and nearby areas. The broader your areas of research, the more likely you are to find plentiful useful material. When you focus on a small local area, the resources are limited and hard to find. What is available is more likely to be oriented to individuals rather than places or buildings. Famous buildings are more promising for searching but there are few such in Armory Park. Still, with all of the interest in genealogy, people centered material can be useful if you have names to key into your search.

So, my current efforts center on learning how to do local history research and to find helpful resources. I am becoming familiar with local libraries, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, old insurance maps and genealogy websites. The LDS church not only has such a site, it also has two research centers in Tucson. I haven’t gone there yet but will soon.

I expect that there are others in the neighborhood with an interest in local history. If you have a house about whose history you would like to learn more, perhaps we can IMG_2450bcollaborate. If you have names of early day residents, that would be most helpful. I have already learned that my house existed in 1901 and was not built in 1905 as I previously thought. Others have lived in Armory Park for many years and maybe for generations. If you are one of these people, please share your stories with me and the community.

Another thing I have already learned is that local history research requires time and patience. Both of these were lacking in my earlier days but now I am fortunately well supplied with both. I’ll try to put those qualities to good use.

Focus Changed

I have been giving serious thought to what direction I should take with this site. Community circumstances and my focus have changed somewhat. In the former category, Bill Duffy has taken over the APNA website so you can find most neighborhood news there. Reporting those items here would be redundant though I will still write commentaries on community events when my views might add something to the discussion.

Also, the process of historic preservation has become a larger part of my community activities. The new leadership of  our historic board (APHZAB) has been working hard to improve the visibility and administration of the historic review process. Chair Martha McClements and Secretary Michael Means have made significant improvements in both of these areas. Digital presentation of project packages has made meetings go more smoothly and has given board members better information on which to base their often difficult decisions. I have been providing information technology support to the board.

The key decisions on board recommendations for projects can be found on the city website at https://www.tucsonaz.gov/clerks/boards?board=9. The Legal Action Reports (LARs) are the official records of the board’s decisions and are available in the week of the meeting. For me to report on these decisions would be redundant and might introduce an error from my interpretation. When the decisions or other APHZAB happenings merit further community discussion, I may make my views known in a commentary. To be clear, I am not a member of the board so my views are those of an Armory Park resident and property owner. Though I attend board meetings, I don’t offer comments during a review. My role is merely to support the board and its officers in their important work.

I also manage a website (HistoricTucson.org) dedicated to historic preservation in Tucson’s five Historic Preservation Zones. I hope it will evolve over time to support all HPZs but right now only Armory Park is specifically covered. You can find information there to help you though the historic review process. If you have a project in mind, go the the My Project page on that site.

I do hope to find more material for articles on the history of Armory Park and the surrounding areas. Early Latino residents and later railroad people laid down the foundation of the neighborhood us latecomers now enjoy. If any of you have historic material or research leads, please share them with me. A better understanding of our history will make this a stronger community. Also, I will appreciate any suggestions for interesting subjects.

Thanks for your patience as my focus and this blog evolve.

Many Years of AP Home Tours

I’ve been browsing through the Arizona Daily Star archives trying to learn more of the early history of Armory Park. Since we are about to have another home tour, that is a subject I decided to research.

The oldest tour I found was in May of 1975. The Star Article had this to say, “Armory Park began its flourishing career in the 1880s with the arrival of the railroad. It is “a showplace” for the evolution of architect styles of that era, according to Robert Giebner University of Arizona associate professor of architecture.” Continue reading “Many Years of AP Home Tours”

Our Historic Streetscape

Our neighborhood is a historic gem and our homes are not the only important part of maintaining our historic character. The streetscape (everything outside of  our property lines) is an essential element of our historic neighborhood. Over the years, many significant features have been lost, often because of city government actions. A first step to keeping our streetscape is to document what is here today. Here is a way you can help. Steve Grede sent me this flyer: Continue reading “Our Historic Streetscape”

The Lee-Cutler House

Lee-Cutler House, 620 South Third Street

620 S 3RDa
Photo by Ken Taylor

This is the sixth and last in the series of articles about homes highlighted in the armory park:74 ff study which formed the basis for creation of the Armory Park Historic Preservation Zone. I will be doing more pieces on Armory Park history and historic homes as I can gather information from the study and other sources. Continue reading “The Lee-Cutler House”

The McGinty-Laos House

McGinty-Laos House, 647 South 4th Avenue

This is the fifth in the series of articles extracted from the armory park:74 ff study which647 S 4TH formed the basis for creation of the Armory Park Historic Preservation Zone. I am particularly fond of this house since I see it every day and its restoration was the work of Annie Laos and her family. I did a previous piece in the People & Places category with less of an architectural emphasis. You can fine that article here: Historic Gem on S. 4th.

647 S 4th 3a
Photo by Stephen Sinex

The McGinty-Laos House (1897)-can be referred to as being in the Anglo-Territorial style as it dates from the territorial period and exhibits definite Anglo influences. Verandas and porches face the south and west fronts and the east rear, tying the irregular plan into a unified massing. All this is capped with a dominant pyramidal roof form having additional gables projecting over plan projections on the south and west. There are many Queen Anne characteristics, such as the bay window of the living room. The wood porch displays simple Doric-like

647 S 4th 3b
Photo by Stephen Sinex

turned posts and no railing. Window openings have segmental arched heads while the doors are flat headed. The house was one of the first in Tucson to be mechanically equipped with a central cooling system. The interior exhibits a wealth of elaboration in Victorian wood detailing and appropriate furnishing. Today the residence is well maintained and displays all the charm, as well as the accumulation of nostalgia, characteristic of the Victorian era.

©1974 College of Architecture, University of Arizona


647 S 4th floor plan
Original floor plan by Gary Carlough

Old Armory Park Adobe

Velasco House, 471 South Stone Avenue (475 S Stone today)

475 S STONE, small
Photo by Ken Taylor

This is the fourth in the series of articles extracted from the armory park:74 ff study which formed the basis for creation of the Armory Park Historic Preservation Zone. Apparently the rehabilitation referred to in this article has been completed. The exterior is in excellent condition today in contrast to the photo in the study document.

This building was apparently built sometime in the 1860’s, in a man­ner typical of

475 S Stone floor plan, small
Plan by Gary Carlough

construction in Sonora and southern Arizona during the early territorial period. It has a central ZAGUAN or entry hall with flanking rooms and additions extending to the rear defining an interior court. The original plan was L-shaped, with other rooms added as necessary.

Of adobe construction, with walls 18″-24″ thick, the original portions of the house have ceilings 14 ‘ —15 ‘ high. Fireplaces were located in all rooms except the ZAGUAN. Although the structure borders on the Armory Park area, and does represent a building tradition which preceded the major development of the area, it is a common building form and is reflected in some of the later houses in the district.

The extremely thick walls, built over stone foundations, were both an environmental response to the heat of summer and a product of technological limitations. The thick walls

475 S Stone old photo
Photo by Larry Lauser

served as a ‘heat sink’ providing moderation of temperature differential over a twenty-four hour period. The pattern, size and placement of windows and doors are characteristic of buildings of this tradition. Doors are set deep within the walls while windows are placed at the exterior surface.

The house was purchased by Don Carlos Ygnacio Velasco in 1878, at the time he founded the Spanish-language newspaper, EL FRONTERIZO, which was published continuously until Velasco’s death in 1914. The newspaper was an important contribution to what was at the time a predominantly Mexican community. Velasco’s printing office occupied this building while he resided in a smaller house at the rear of the lot.

The Velasco House is currently in the process of being rehabilitated. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the only Armory Park district structure to be so listed. This house is one of only three seen on the east side of the present Stone Avenue in an 1882, photograph taken from Sentinel Peak.

©1974 College of Architecture, University of Arizona

Neighbors History Comments

I found these notes buried in the “Old Articles” section of the APNA website (ArmoryParkTucson.org) in a November 2014 article. They deserve to be republished for those of us trying to learn more about our community. Thanks to our neighbors for their contributions. 

Railroad executives built homes, many of which are on each side of Railroad Street, and were built in the style of the East (Queen Anne, brick) to remind them of home, I suppose. They typically have two front doors, one for the family and the other for an office or for other executives who visited. My house has a dirt basement opening from the outside with ledges built in for the railroad workers to sleep where they would be cooler, if not very comfortable. –Nancy Myers Continue reading “Neighbors History Comments”

Galloway House, 630 South 3rd Avenue

This is the third in the series of articles extracted from the armory park:74 ff study which formed the basis for creation of the Armory Park Historic Preservation Zone.

When viewing the Galloway House from the exterior, it has characteristics of a modified bungalow, due primarily to its painted brick surfaces, upon closer examination, this

630 S 3RD a
Ken Taylor Photo, 2017

house, dating from about 1900, has very definite Queen Anne characteristics. The irregularity of the rooms is brought into accord on the exterior and covered with a single hip roof. The living room bay window as well as that of the dining room, and the box window of the main bedroom, all project from the brick wall surface. The entrance hall, living room, and dining room all interlock and repeat diagonal walls with corner fire­places. An overall diagonal patterning is evident within these principal rooms. A fifteen foot module is employed as a common Continue reading “Galloway House, 630 South 3rd Avenue”