Rendering of Barrio church.
Too often we find ourselves speeding toward the future, leaving the past behind to crumble and to die in the endlessness of time. A community needs a past on which to grow, a past not only remembered by old-timers, but a living past providing inspiration for generations to come. Tucson has just such a past, echoed now only be a few remaining structures in the Barrio and the spaces between them. Many of these buildings have already crumbled; others have been ruined and obscured by "cheap" progress. There is still barely enough, however, to echo Tucson's great heritage of the nineteenth century. Tucson needs its past.
A historical context containing forms of the past, as well as new forms of the present, adds considerably to the depth and quality of the city and gives visual testimony to the capabilities and aspirations of man. Now is the time for the City of Tucson to declare the Barrio a historic district, thus enabling it to be preserved, restored and rehabilitated. The, and only then, can it become a vital part of the Tucson community.
Unlike the competing buildings of Speedway Boulevard and other parts of the city, the buildings of the Barrio harmonize with one another, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is one reason why the entire district needs to be preserved, rather than a few scattered buildings within. The Convent Street canyon is unique, not only to the city, but to the entire state. Indeed, designation of the Barrio as a historic district can allow the past to live in the present, to become a part of Tucson's social, economic and cultural aspirations. Tucson's past deserves to be free, not imprisoned in the stale atmosphere of a museum.
Our research into other, earlier examples of historic preservation in this country has shown that the most successful cities engaging in restoration and rehabilitation first declare the prospective area a "historic district." Tucson should no longer lag behind, but should do the same. As shown by the results of our study of the Barrio's history, it is the only complete area remaining of Tucson's earliest beginnings.
After declaration as a "historic district," the doors are open to a variety of economic programs where funds for preservation and rehabilitation may be obtained. A quick glance through the chapter on Programs
Socially the Barrio is ripe for preservation. Those with little insight will see the area only as a "slum," blind to the riches within. It should be remembered that the Barrio has seen only neglect. The gap between it and the rest of the city has grown worse as Tucson has experienced a continually higher standard of living. The people housed in the Barrio have always been of a lower economic class--transient and often apathetic. Yet, there is a quality of craftsmanship in the Barrio that the mechanized craftsman of today cannot duplicate.
Displacement of residents has always been a problem when any area rises in environmental quality or economic status. This problem, however, is minimal in the Barrio; relatively few families will have to be uprooted. Our studies of the area's image and people show that in the proposed twelve block area, there is not the tight, neighborhood atmosphere, such as exists in El Hoyo, which the residents there are fighting to preserve. Instead, the residents of the Barrio are mostly transient, living there not because they want to, but because they cannot afford to live anywhere else. Some of the houses need only minor repairs, but many of them have no plumbing, heating or adequate cooking facilities. Our design proposals (Part II) provide hope for these people in the form of adequate low-cost housing facilities, designed to enhance the qualities of the past we are striving to protect.
Economically the Barrio is ideal for restoration and rehabilitation. Alternatives were studied (Part II), and it was found that restoration and rehabilitation is best, not only for those directly associated with it, but for all of Tucson.
The fact that the Barrio is located adjacent to the new Community Center increases the economic incentive to prospective tourist-oriented businessmen. Preservation and restoration of the area will stimulate Tucson's economy, while at the same time rehabilitating the "eyesore" which the city is ashamedly trying to hide from tourists with a proposed high-speed freeway.