(You'll find a map for this walk in the printed Moon Handbooks: Arizona)
The historical walking tour provides a look at the Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo legacies of Tucson. Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block—the biggest attraction on the walk—makes a convenient place to start. It doesn't open until 10 a.m. (noon on Sundays), so you may wish to visit at the end of your walk. You can park in the museum's lot west across Main Avenue (enter from Paseo Redondo), the underground lot south across Alameda Street, the multilevel lot just to the east, or the large outdoor lot two blocks north along Court Avenue.
You're sure to find many delightful pieces at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block (140 N. Main Ave., 520/624-2333, www.tucsonarts.com, noon-4 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Sat., $5 adults, $4 seniors 60+, $2 students 13+, and free for children 12 and under, free for everyone on Sun.). Exhibits of the Americas span the centuries from Pre-Columbian artifacts to Spanish colonial paintings and furnishings, to Latin American folk art, and to works by Western, modern, and contemporary artists. Special exhibitions appear frequently. Docents lead tours of the collections daily except Mondays.
The Plaza of the Pioneers and adjoining courtyards provide a space for fiestas, concerts, markets, or just relaxing. Cafe Ó la C'Art here serves creative sandwiches and salads for lunch Mon.-Friday. The research library (10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri.) is east of the main museum building. The Tucson Museum of Art School offers a variety of noncredit classes for children and adults on creating and appreciating art.
Just inside the main entranceway at 140 N. Main Avenue, turn left to enter the Stevens/Duffield House, part of which dates from 1856. It now houses the Art of Latin America with colorful exhibits of Pre-Columbian, Spanish Colonial, and folk art.
Next door, across the main entranceway from the Stevens/Duffield House, you can step into the Edward Nye Fish House, built by a rich businessman in 1868 with 15-foot ceilings and solid adobe walls more than 2.5 feet thick. The rooms display high-quality pieces of the Art of the American West, mostly from the Southwest. Edward Fish was a good friend of Hiram Sanford Stevens, and much of Tucson's early social life centered on their houses.
Head northeast across the Plaza of the Pioneers to see La Casa Cordova, built of adobe in about 1848 and one of the oldest houses in the area. Period rooms reflect life in the 1800s, and historic exhibits relate the story of the Tucson presidio. From mid-November to March you can enjoy El Nacimiento—more than 400 hand painted terra cotta figurines that form a tableau illustrating biblical scenes and traditional Mexican life. The Romero House north of La Casa Cordova dates from the 1860s and was modified many times. The Tucson Museum of Art School now uses it for ceramics classes.
The main museum building's spacious galleries host modern and contemporary art; a gently descending ramp takes you from the main floor down to additional exhibit spaces on the lower level. A large museum shop off the lobby sells creative art and crafts.
You can walk around to the street side of the Stevens/Duffield House and continue north to the Corbett House next door; you'll need to make an appointment or join a tour to see the beautiful Arts and Crafts furnishings inside. This restored Mission Revival bungalow represents a middle-class house of the early 1900s. J. Knox Corbett came to Arizona to recover from tuberculosis in 1880 and built this house in 1906-07. He became a successful businessman and served 23 years as the Tucson Postmaster.
Follow Main Avenue north to the corner with Washington Street, where a sign marks the site of the original presidio wall's northwest corner. Across Washington is the Sam Hughes House, now a series of garden apartments. Hughes came to Tucson for his health in 1858 and became an important businessman and developer in early Tucson. He moved into this house with his bride in 1864, expanding it considerably over the years to accommodate their 15 children. Hughes and his wife lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary here.
The Steinfeld House was built in 1900 of brick and stucco in a California Mission Revival style. Its residents enjoyed one of Tucson's first bathtubs with piped-in water. The mansion has been restored for use as offices.
Continue north across Franklin Street to #378 (the second house on your left) to see the 1902 Owl's Club Mansion, which, like the Steinfeld House, had been designed by noted local architect Henry Trost for use by the gentlemen of the Owl's Club. The exterior reflects an ornate Mission Revival style.
Built between 1889 and 1896, the Julius Kruttschnitt House blends the Mexican style of adobe construction and a zaguan (a central breezeway connecting the entrance on the street side with a patio in back) with an Anglo-American verandah and landscaped yards. It's now El Presidio Bed & Breakfast Inn.
If you walk two blocks east to Court Avenue, you'll find the house built by French stonemason Jules le Flein, now El Charro Cafe. Le Flein came to Tucson in the late 1800s to remodel the St. Augustine Cathedral. In 1900 he built this house for his family, using volcanic stone from Sentinel Peak. His daughter, Monica, founded the Mexican restaurant in 1922.
One block south is the Stork's Nest, so called because it served as Tucson's first maternity ward. It was first recorded after the fire of 1883 as an adobe dwelling with attached ramada. The building now houses offices.
You may wish to detour one block east on Washington Street to the site of the presidio's northeast corner; a new park will have a reconstruction of the wall, tower, and commandante's office.
Returning to Court Avenue and continuing south, you'll pass an adobe building on the left that will house a Presidio Museum. On the other side of Court Avenue, you may wish to drop in the arts and crafts shops of Old Town Artisans (520/623-6024 or 800/782-8072, www.oldtownartisans.com, daily except major holidays). The shops, in an 1800s adobe building with saguaro-rib ceilings, display lively sculptures, paintings, prints, and crafts by Southwestern and Mexican artists—worth a look even if you're not buying. Saguaro Artisans offers more handicrafts north across Washington Street. If you're ready for a break, La Cocina Restaurant (520/622-0351, daily for lunch) serves a variety of dishes along with soups, salads, and sandwiches on a patio or indoors at Old Town Artisans.
Turning left on Alameda and right on Church, you come to Pima County Courthouse, a colorful building constructed in 1928 in a mix of Southwest, Spanish, and Moorish architectural styles. A small exhibit open weekdays in the Assessor/Treasurer office (turn left from the courtyard) contains adobe bricks from the original presidio wall.
To experience more of the city's history, head east across Church and Stone Avenues, passing a sculpture courtyard beside the library, to the Arizona Historical Society Museum Downtown (140 N. Stone Ave., 520/770-1473, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri., $3 adult, $2 students 12-18 and seniors 60+, free for all on the first Fri. of the month) beside the Wells Fargo Bank. The permanent exhibit "History in the Heart of Tucson" begins with a large photo of the town taken from "A" Mountain in 1880, then illustrates the story of Tucson from its origins as a Spanish presidio to modern times. A theater screens videos. One gallery hosts changing exhibits. Wells Fargo Bank, next door at 150 N. Stone Avenue, is worth stepping inside to see the dramatic 122-foot mural, The Legend of the Seven Cities of Cibola by Jay Datus; ask a bank teller for a brochure about the mural. You can also see some Wells Fargo historical exhibits in the back; the bank is open weekdays. Free parking is available behind in the bank's parking garage off Alameda Street.
Strolling two blocks south on Church Avenue, you'll reach the small Twentieth of August Park, dominated by an equestrian statue of Gen. Francisco "Pancho" Villa, the Mexican revolutionary. Originally part of the Plaza de la Mesilla, the park's name commemorates the founding date of the Tucson presidio on August 20, 1775.
For a break or to obtain tourist information, you can turn into La Placita Village across Broadway Boulevard. Signs point the way between the brightly colored buildings to the Tucson Visitors Center, which faces a tree-shaded courtyard with cafes and the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon., Wed., and Fri.).
Head east on Broadway Boulevard for the Charles O. Brown House, now occupied by El Centro Cultural de Las Americas. Brown owned the Congress Hall Saloon, a popular watering hole and gambling spot for politicians of the day. The oldest part of the house, on Jackson St., dates from about 1858. Between 1868 and 1888 Brown built on Broadway (then Camp St.) and connected the two sections with an attractive patio and garden.
You may enjoy a side trip one block north on Stone to see Tucson's first skyscraper, an attractive 10-story tower of brick and stone with a handsome lobby. The structure now houses Bank One. Continuing two blocks south on Stone Avenue, you come to St. Augustine Cathedral, constructed in 1896. Its impressive sandstone facade, fashioned after the Cathedral of Queretaro in Mexico, was added in the late 1920s, as were the stained-glass windows. A bronze statue of St. Augustine stands watch above the doorway. Southwestern symbols mix with traditional elements on the facade.
The Tucson Police Department, in a large concrete building two blocks south on Stone Avenue, has police-related exhibits in its lobby; highlights include a collection of antique law-enforcement equipment and a submachine gun once owned by "public enemy number one," John Dillinger.
Turn right on Cushing Street to Montijo House, which preserves the name of the well-known Mexican ranching family that once owned it. The house was completed during the Civil War, then remodeled in the 1890s in an ornate Victorian style.
Cushing Street Bar & Grill features an attractive 1880s' decor with beautiful wood furnishings. Joseph Ferrin lived here and operated a general store about 100 years ago. Around the corner at 373 S. Meyer Avenue is America West Gallery (520/623-4091, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.-Fri.) with exotic antiques and primitive art gathered from many countries. The gallery is in a 19th-century adobe row house; enter from the back. Teatro Carmen across the street hosted many Spanish-language productions after its opening in 1915.
El Tiradito, or Wishing Shrine, commemorates a tragic love triangle. The story has many versions, but one account tells of a love affair between young Juan Olivera and his mother-in-law. Juan was caught and killed by his father-in-law on this spot in 1880. Because of his sins, the dead Juan could not be laid in consecrated ground, and so he was buried where he fell. The pious lit candles and prayed for his soul at the site. Later, parents came to pray for their errant daughters. The custom then developed that anyone could light a candle on the grave and make any kind of wish. If the candle burns to its base, the wish will be granted. The shrine is said to be the only one in North America dedicated to a sinner. If it's lunchtime, you may wish to drop into the attractive Mexican cafe, El Minuto just to the north.
Follow the sidewalk around the Exhibit Hall and Arena of the Tucson Convention Center. Back in the early 1900s, you would be walking along Gay Street past the adobe cribs of Tucson's red-light district! Follow signs to the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House Museum (151 S. Granada Ave., call 520/628-5774 for hours, $3 adult, $2 students 12-18 and seniors 60+) constructed in about 1880 by the Carrillo family on land purchased from the Sosas. The adobe building, saved in 1969 when surrounding houses were torn down, takes one of its names from the fifth territorial governor, John C. Fremont, who rented it in 1881. Inside the restored rooms, you can imagine the life of a wealthy Tucson family in the 1880s. A self-guided tour explains the architectural features of the house. Be sure to look up at the five different types of ceiling used: saguaro rib, ocotillo, cane, painted cloth (looks like plaster), and redwood. Changing exhibits appear in one room. A gift shop sells history books. Staff lead two-hour guided tours of El Presidio Historic District on Saturday mornings, Nov.-March for $10; call for reservations and times. If driving to the museum, you can park in front, free for museum visitors.
As you leave the Fremont House, turn right and walk up the steps alongside the Music Hall into an oasis of gardens, trees, and fountains. The small building ahead to the east is the Leo Rich Theatre. Turn left and walk through La Placita Village. Continue on to the Garces Footbridge across Congress Street, then the Allande Footbridge across Pennington Street to El Presidio Park. These modern bridges honor early Spaniards. Francisco Garces, an explorer and Franciscan priest, was the first missionary to visit the Akimel O'odham village at the base of Sentinel Peak. Pedro Allande, first resident commander of the Tucson presidio, once led a spirited defense against 600 warring Apache. Despite a severe leg wound, he continued to direct his 20 presidial soldiers, eventually saving the settlement.
At El Presidio Park, you'll be standing where Spanish soldiers drilled and held holiday fiestas at Plaza de las Armas in the original presidio 200 years ago. The park offers a quiet spot to rest and enjoy the sculptures and fountains. The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block is just a short walk away and marks the end of your journey.
Tucson Children's Museum
Full of things to do, this museum (200 S. Sixth Ave., 520/792-9985, www.childrensmuseumtucson.org/, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun., closed Mon. except some holidays, $6 children 1-18, $8 adults, $6 seniors) is in the historic 1901 Carnegie Library building between 12th and 13th Streets. The exhibits have been designed especially for kids, who must be with an adult at all times. Children have fun exploring the world, conducting scientific experiments, learning about different careers, discovering new cultures, and getting behind the wheel of a real fire truck. Wee World offers a play area for the four and under set. A gift shop sells souvenirs. Special activities take place on some days and you can rent a room for a birthday party.
The Bohemian heart of Tucson lies along this street located between downtown and the university. Ethnic cafes, restaurants, galleries, and thrift shops line both sides from University Boulevard south to 9th Street. Old Pueblo Trolley (520/792-1802, www.oldpueblotrolley.org) runs antique electric streetcars along 4th Avenue and University Boulevard on Friday evenings, Saturday afternoons and evenings, and Sunday afternoons. You can learn more about 4th Avenue, the March and December street fairs, and other activities at 520/624-5004, www.fourthavenue.org.
The Postal History Foundation
An ornate 100-year-old postal counter from Naco, Arizona, and rotating exhibits greet you upon entering the main building. A philatelic counter offers a large variety of current stamps along with other postal services (except money orders). Stamp enthusiasts can delve into the large research library just to the north, which also has Civil War exhibits. The foundation (just west of the university at 920 N. 1st Ave., 520/623-6652, www.postalhistoryfoundation.org, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., philatelic counter closes a half hour earlier, donations welcome) actively promotes postal research and education. Free parking is available in back.
Arizona History Museum
Imaginative exhibits take you through Arizona's Spanish, Mexican, Mountain Men, Territorial, and Early Statehood eras (just west of the University of Arizona at 949 E. 2nd St., 520/628-5774, www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Sat., $5 adults, $4 students 12-18 and seniors 60+). Period rooms, artifacts, and photos bring the state's history to life. Temporary exhibits and special programs interpret additional aspects of the past. In the early 1900s copper mine exhibit, a favorite of visitors, you walk through a realistic mine complete with sound effects, emerging at a giant stamp mill and other processing machinery. Panels tell of miners' social lives, work, and labor troubles. Brightly colored minerals on display show off the state's underground wealth and beauty. Also take a look at the museum's front: stonemason Jules le Flein created this sandstone fašade in 1883 for Arizona's first Roman Catholic cathedral, which was demolished in 1936. A museum shop provides a fine selection of books and crafts. Kids will enjoy exploring many of the exhibits and doing some projects designed just for them. You can delve into the Arizona Historical Society's extensive document and photo collection in the research library, which is open until 3 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 1 p.m. on Saturday. You can park for free at the Arizona Historical Society spaces in the parking garage one block west on 2nd Street; pick up a parking pass at the museum information desk.
On to University of Arizona