Established in 1877, Tucson is the oldest incorporated city in Arizona. The major transportation and trade hub in the state and the most populous until 1920, this city is rich with history. Fort Lowell, a military stronghold during the Apache Wars in the late 1800s was later reinvented as an artist’s colony in the 1930s and 40s, El Presidio and the Barrios in the downtown area were home to the first Tucsonan’s simple adobe homes, the University of Arizona was the first University in the Arizona Territory and the famously charming and lovingly maintained Sam Hughes Neighborhood was one of the first subdivisions in the city.
The Sam Hughes Neighborhood
Designated as a national historic district in 1994, the Sam Hughes neighborhood is a square-mile, centrally located and bound by Speedway Boulevard, Broadway Boulevard, Campbell Avenue and Country Club Road. According to the Sam Hughes Neighborhood Association the neighborhood is named for the school located in the middle of the original quadrant and the school was named for Sam Hughes.
A visionary and one of Tucson’s founding fathers
Samuel C. Hughes was a Welsh immigrant who came to the United States in 1837 at the age of eight. Fearing imminent death from an advanced case of tuberculosis, he made his way to Tucson in 1858 by way of California, to convalesce in the dry air, convinced that his time was short. But, like many before and after him, the desert climate proved to be the cure he needed.
With his health restored, Hughes set about opening a butcher shop and settling down in Tucson. He married a local girl, Atanacia Santa Cruz, fathered 15 children and was a true community leader. He started the first bank, served in several city council roles and was instrumental in the establishment of a public education system, calling it “the pride of my life.”
Development of the neighborhood that bears his name began in 1921 and almost 100 years later the homes are still admired for their originality and history with a semi-annual neighborhood association-led walking tour. Sam Hughes is a neighborhood with families and schools and a fabulous public library … and it is also a preserved representation of our history.
A home for the ages in the heart of Sam Hughes
Stand in the foyer of the grand 1930s residence on the corner of Norris Avenue and Hawthorne Street in the heart of the neighborhood and you are transported through time. You can almost feel the imprint of occupants-past, hear the conversation, and smell the leather of the books lining the gorgeous library. An academic, artist or professional’s dream home, the warm, inviting ambiance with multi-purpose rooms welcomes the use of offices, libraries, studios, workshops or whatever creative endeavors a professional might need or want.
Not just a house; it is a piece of Tucson’s history and has been home to noteworthy intellectuals like Nobel laureate and Professor emeritus of physics and optical sciences Dr. Willis Lamb, the most recent luminary to call it home. The residence was originally two homes that were connected to create a uniquely large property. A walk through on the original hardwood floors to the charming eat-in kitchen with French doors leading to the patio can’t help but spark visions of post-war cocktail parties or relaxed lunches before the short walk back to campus for afternoon classes. Every cozy nook of the home waits for new memories and new history to be made.
The Sam Hughes neighborhood is filled with historic homes like this one, some original and some built in later eras … a walk through this neighborhood is a walk through the history of Tucson.