[page 1]

Tucson's Barrio historico

"once it's gone, it's gone forever"

The remaining portion of Tucson's "Barrio Historico" stands as the sole reminder of a Tucson that existed a century ago. It has survived, however, not because it has been cherished by successive generations of Tucsonans who have maintained the buildings and streets through an awareness of historic preservation, but, rather, it exists because it has long been forgotten and neglected by the city as a whole. Situated adjacent to the central business district, it was just far enough away to guarantee its exclusion from high density business and commercial development. (Fig. 1.1) As a center for Tucson's Mexican/Spanish community, its residents have established strong cultural and ethnic ties within the area; but the area has steadily declined due to the difficulty of maintaining its adobe structures which are characteristic of another period, the uncertainty of it's future, and the desertion of the central city by Tucsonans over the decades in search of open lands on the eastside. The Barrio is important as a district because it expresses the continuity of Tucson's urban development from its Spanish/Mexican era. The area has long been neglected; while looking to the eastside, we have almost forgotten the Barrio. This is not a new phenomenon; the Barrio has always been overlooked. It has no recorded history. Up to now historians have shown themselves to be more concerned with the history of the Anglo in Tucson than of the Mexican American.

Today, in order to accomodate the transportation patterns of the eastside residents, the final portion of the historic Barrio may be destroyed to establish a freeway corridor. It is ironic that this year of 1971 also finds the City of Tucson simultaneously working to create a historic zoning ordinance which would protect what remains of the city's rich architectural heritage.

This research study was undertaken as a class project at the University of Arizona, College of Architecture, by a group of 21 students enrolled in a 4th and 5th year studio course entitled, "Urban Rehabilitation." The intent of the course was to look at the preservation and reuse of historic architecture as an alternative to total destruction and rebuilding. The decision to select the Barrio as the course's chief area of concern was made when it became clear that the area was under immediate threat of

[page 2]

demolition for the Butterfield Expressway. The area is of unique value and should be preserved as a functional part of the City of Tucson. With this in mind, the purpose of this report is to record the Barrio's historical and architectural qualities and values. It is the first step toward eventual designation of the entire area as a historic district. Other work will need to follow to build upon the foundation established by the present study.

The report is divided into two sections. The first is a study of the existing conditions in the area; the second contains projections for its future. Part One covers the historical development of the Barrio and its relation to the city's overall development, including a record of the physical character of the buildings within the district, as well as the residents' images of the Barrio. Part One also includes a profile of the Barrio's people and their culture, as well as some conclusions concerning the economics of the area, past and present.

Part Two presents projections for the future of the area and proposals for its continued use as a functional part of the city, based on the conclusions reached in Part One. Historic district designation and its alternatives are discussed. A suggested Master Plan for development is included, based upon the Barrio's past, present and future as a historic district in the city. The foundations and methodologies for achieving a workable program for the safeguarding of the historic district are outlined in the chapter on implementation. It provides a handbook for preservation and a directory of federal, state and local legislation and programs. The objectives and programs of cities in the United States which have made historic preservation successful are presented and discussed.

While the Barrio originally constituted a large portion of the city's near southside, new urban development, such as the Tucson Community Center, has destroyed much of it. The remaining area of the Barrio, lying just south of the Community Center,was selected for study in this report. An initial boundary was set at 14th Street on the north, Stone Avenue on the east, 18th Street on the south, and I-10 on the west. Much of the development east of Stone and south of 18th dates from a later historical period. As the study proceeded, it became apparent that more than one neighborhood was being analyzed, and that eachneighborhood has a different architectural character. That portion west of Main Street known as "El Hoyo" (The Hole) consists primarily of detached houses; whereas the area to the east of Main Street, more commonly referred to as the "Barrio" ("Barrio Libre" or "Barrio Historico"), consists primarily of contiguous, flush-fronted adobe structures.

This study must not stop with the publication of a report. If the Barrio is to be preserved other than on the written page, further work is necessary. Words and pictures are weak substitutes for the space and forms of the Barrio itself. A full architectural inventory (beyond the scope of this three-month study) must be made; a historic zoning ordinance with

[page 3]

Location of the Barrio historico within greater

Fig. 1.1 - City Map.

[page 4]

The designation of the Barrio as one of the top priority historic districts must be established to assure its orderly future development.

The class owes a great deal of appreciation to the following for their cooperation in the completion of this report:


© Arizona Board of Regents