Tucson is rich with history and culture, but many new residents of SaddleBrooke Ranch don’t know much about their new home in Arizona. So on Saturday, February 7, a bus pulls into La Hacienda clubhouse parking lot and quickly gathers up 44 residents filled with the enthusiasm to learn more about Tucson. Alan Kruse, our tour director for our adventure, welcomes our group. During our hour trip, Alan tells the story of Tom Mix, an American film actor and star of many early Westerns. He died in a car wreck just a few miles from our neighborhood. Other stories of settlers in the area set the stage for what we will discover about Tucson.
The first stop is at Arizona Historical Society Museum near the University of Arizona campus on 2nd Street. Although the museum was not open, Alan gives us an overview of the development of Arizona from the first arrival of Europeans in 1540 through the times under Spain and Mexico, to territorial Arizona in the 1800s and beyond. Alan encourages us to make a future visit. After a few refreshments and a break, we head off to tour more of the city of Tucson.
On this tour Alan Kruse combines the old: history, archeology and architecture and the present: Rio Nuevo, restorations and recommendations. We hear several stories about Wyatt Earp, John Dillinger, arrival of the railroad in 1880, Hotel Congress, the new 4th Avenue underpass, the trolley, the Fox Theatre, Pioneer Hotel, site of St. Augustin’s Church and convent, Pancho Villa’s statue, Daniel’s Clock and the old Valley Bank.
The bus heads off to the top of “A” Mountain (Sentinel Peak) and stories of early University of Arizona football and coach Pop McKale. On our way back to town we pass the site of the Convento (1770), the Gardens and Warner’s Mill on Mission Road. Next is the Barrio Viejo with its El Tiradito shrine, adobe homes, Lalo Guerrero, the Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge on Cushing Street and the Hernandez murders.
Our next stop was for lunch at La Cocina in Old Town Artisans; great service, great food and time to reflect on our morning. After lunch we walked to Casa Cordova house to view the permanent Museum of Art “nacimiento,” an elaborate 800-piece Nativity scene. Back on the bus we head to the El Presidio neighborhood. The homes here include those of early Tucson residents Fish, Hereford, Franklin, Hughes, Stevens, Herring and Steinfeld. On our way to the U of A campus we get a chance to see restored Neon signs along Drachman Street between Stone Avenue and Oracle Road. The University of Arizona’s historic section includes the State Museum, Centennial Hall and the recently renovated Old Main. On our way home we tour historic Miracle Mile and the Ghost Ranch Lodge.
It was a great one-day tour. Alan Kruse also offers two-hour walking tours of downtown Tucson.