Pioneer Museum

Esperanza’s World – Early Tucson Center

Esperanza’s World – Early Tucson Center




Activities / Teacher Resources

From “El Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón” to the City of Tucson

St. Augustine Cathedral (San Agustín)

St. Augustine Cathedral (San Agustín)

  • Tucson actually began in 1776 as a small Spanish presidio, or walled fortress, a 750 feet square area, housing approximately 2 – 3 officers and 75 soldiers and their families.
  • The square was surrounded by a 22 inch thick and 12 feet high protective wall.
  • The gate on the western wall was made of heavy mesquite timbers and reinforced with iron. The gate opened onto the El Camino de la Mision, a highway between the San Xavier and the San Agustín missions.
  • When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, Tucson hoisted the new flag of Mexico. By 1830, Tucson had grown into a Mexican village and had spread beyond the presidio walls.
  • Tucson was primarily composed of one-story, one-room adobe houses with dirt floors. Buildings with few windows or doors, and rectangular shapes resulted in an unadorned and bare street facade.
  • At the time, the Santa Cruz River provided a daily, abundant water resource and irrigated fields that were filled with squash, grain, beans, peas, chilies, pumpkins, watermelons, pears and pomegranates.
  • The Mormon Battalion captured the town in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, but did not remain and occupy it.  In fact, it wasn’t until 1856 that the Mexican soldiers withdrew.
  • The first Americans entered the area in 1854, (Gadsden purchase), but it was another decade before a significant Anglo population existed in Tucson, and American women didn’t arrive in the region until 1872.
  • The Butterfield Stage Line brought mail and passengers to Tucson in 1858; it was discontinued after two years.
  • When Arizona became a territory in 1863, Tucson continued to be the military headquarters of the territory.
  • From 1867 – 1877, Tucson served as the capital of the Arizona Territory; it had previously been in Prescott.
  • By 1877, Tucson was incorporated as a city. Few of the buildings were finished in plaster; the city had unpaved, unlit streets, no electricity, no sidewalks, and no public works, but all were soon to come.
  • The Pima County Board of Supervisors ordered a map made of the town and required the town to rename Spanish language (calles) streets to honor prominent citizens killed by Indians.
  • The town also enacted a homesteading plan; village lots were distributed for free if the homesteader spent $100 to improve the lot, and if they lived on the property for at least 6 months.
  • In 1879, Pima County Bank accepted its first deposits.
  • The year 1880s marked the beginning of a big change for this one-time Mexican village.
  • The Southern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1880, and the Indian wars were concluded with the capture of Geronimo.  New industrious immigrants arrived, bringing a willing labor force, new ideas and the latest American architectural style that competed with adobe as the main building material.
Tucson in 1880

Tucson in 1880

Modern Downtown Tucson

Modern Downtown Tucson