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