This is a place for discussions of historic preservation in Armory Park, and what benefits and challenges it presents. Local history is another subject addressed here and in web pages. I will publish articles here when it seems helpful; readers are invited to comment. To support the mission of this site, acceptable comments are those that contribute to reasonable historic preservation, better understanding of our history and serve the interests of Armory Park residents. Others may be invited to post here also. Please let me know if you want to do so.

Monday, December 6, 2021

From the Storks Nest to Armory Park 2021

Most people likely think of our historic buildings when we consider our historic Armory Park neighborhood. That's especially true for us more recent arrivals who have not observed the community over many years. The stories of our people bring the neighborhood to life by adding context and color to the physical structures. Small stories like Julieta's below are always welcome.  -Ken

I have lived no more than two miles from Stone and Congress all my life. I was born at the Stork’s Nest 86 years ago. The Stork’s Nest was a small maternity hospital on North Court Avenue that closed in the early 40s. The building is still there.

 Where I lived for 12 years the house still stands next to the Temple of Music and Art on Scott Avenue. Living there I saw a busy, happy downtown.
Then it died. When it started to come alive. I was so happy.

We went home for lunch every day while in elementary. Took sandwiches for my junior high lunch hour, until a family with the last name of *Orozco, constructed a food stand in front of their house on 12th Street across from Armory Park. We would buy our hot dogs or hamburgers, then go to the park and enjoy our lunch.
My playmates and fellow school classmates lived here in Armory Park. This was my playground after being in school all day. I attended the Safford elementary and junior high schools from first grade through the ninth grade.
The train whistles don’t bother me in the least bit. Now I live one block away from the railroad tracks by Barrio Brewery. I’m sorry and feel for those who are bothered by the blaring sounds from the trains. It must be difficult to be hearing them when trying to get a good night's sleep. The sounds help me go to sleep.
Regarding this past weekend’s festival at the Jácomes Plaza. It was wonderful that it was moved away from Armory Park. In 2003 we moved from Menlo Park to East 16th Street. I expected my new neighborhood to be somewhat noisy being that we would be in the downtown area.
That’s all for now. Happy good night,
Julieta Bustamante Portillo
 Bright yellow house named “Casita Sol”

*Señor Jacinto Orozco, owner of the food stand, was Tucson’s first Spanish broadcaster. He had one, two hours (I really don’t remember the hours.) every weekday on KVOA, I think. It was an afternoon program. He would announce who in the Mexican community had died. I mainly remember that he played beautiful Mexican music. When I was three and four years I would dance to the music in our small living room. More happy memories.

This story was published on the Armory Park listserv on November 15th, 2021. Thanks Julieta

Monday, November 29, 2021

Margo Caylor - Neighborhood Historian and Innkeeper

Margo Caylor and her husband Rob, own the Blenman Inn. This adobe Victorian mansion is located just west of the Children's Museum. Besides being beautifully restored and furnished, it is distinguished by its rare style among Tucson houses. It must also be one of the largest adobe homes in the city. 

In addition to operating the inn, Margo is an accomplished amateur historian. She was not satisficed with owning an historic property, she also researched and wrote a compact history of the house and its prominent residents. You can see the page on the inn's website with this link:

Here are a couple of excerpts: 
As the Civil War came to an end, the Indian Wars raged in Southern Arizona well into the 1870s when Charles Rivers Drake, a former US Army officer, broke ground on this home.

​Drake was commissioned to provide contract labor and supplies to the recently-organized Southern Pacific Railroad Company in the laying of track between Los Angeles, California and El Paso, Texas. He chose this particular homesite because of its near equidistance along that 1,000 mile segment of track; the perennial fresh water supply offered by the nearby Santa Cruz River which flowed northbound out of Mexico, and because of the safety and protection offered by Fort Lowell—an adjacent Army fort erected during the Civil War that continued in operation, charged with sheltering Tucson residents from Indian attacks.
Drake’s additional responsibilities included helping out at neighboring Fort Lowell and the tent city of soldiers which occupied what is now Armory Park. With a basic knowledge of medicine, he assisted in primitive surgeries and prescribing of medicine to personnel injured during the Arizona Indian Wars of the turbulent 1870s.

. . . .

Drake sold the home in 1891 to Charles Blenman, an English attorney who had sailed around Cape Horn en route to San Francisco. Blenman practiced law in Tucson for more than 45 years and was affectionately known as “Judge” or “Barrister” throughout his career. The flagpole in the front yard of the Blenman Inn is the original one that Blenman erected. He was known for his patriotism, raising and lowering the flag on a daily basis. The “judge” entertained frequently at his home, being a brilliant storyteller and was known for his hospitality and for having a wide circle of friends. His two sons, Charles Jr. and William grew up in the house and both received appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy, both eventually retiring to Tucson, both earning the rank of Admiral.

Both of these men were prominent in their days in early Tucson. Both are also our historic neighbors. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Review: Tucson, A Drama in Time


Rob Caylor loaned me this book when we met at the historic Blenman Inn, just west of the Children's Museum. Margo and Rob own this wonderful inn and I was enjoying a tour of the house. Rob has been developing properties in Tucson for many years and he enjoyed following the growth of Tucson over the decades. 

The book's format is unusual, paragraph length historic facts arranged in order by years. This arrangement makes it easy to follow the evolution of Tucson and makes it easy to read in many sittings. I rarely read a history in one or a few sittings; more often I read a number of pages then continue at a later time. 

This is a great book if you want to understand Tucson at various times in its long history. Individuals, family and businesses can be followed over a number of years. The names are likely to be familiar to long time residents or more recent arrivals (like me) who like history. It is available at Amazon in paperback ($24.95) or in the Kindle electronic format ($9.99). I chose the latter format. 

This link will take you to the appropriate Amazon page:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Review: Living in the Past

An Owner's Guide to Understanding & Repairing an Old Home

Many people coming to Armory Park are novices in the details of living in an historic home and neighborhood. Author Scott Sidler has provided answers to the questions us novices should have asked. 

Perhaps the best way to learn what this book has to offer is to review the subject matter extracted from the Table of Contents:
























The best time to read the book is before purchasing an historic property. The challenges of maintaining or repairing an old house may be more than you want to take on. If you have exterior changes in mind, you may find that the historic review process will make those changes impossible or more difficult. The process will always take time and may incur more cost. There are permit fees involved.

If you decide to go forward or already own an Armory Park property, the second section can be helpful. The tips regarding some of the most common repair tasks may help with your repairs. 

I couldn't find the book in the Pima County Library system. The print version of the book is fairly expensive at $33 but you can buy the Kindle version for $10. Here is the link at Amazon:

Whichever you choose, this book will be useful as you live the adventure of caring for an old house or decide that this adventure is not for you. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Historic Blenman Inn

This excellent piece by KGUN9 tells a good story about the Blenman Inn today and how it came to be. Margo and Rob Caylor are the owners of the inn and have preserved its historic character while offering comfortable accommodations to the traveling public. Margo is an accomplished amateur historian and has filled in many details of the house's history and its most significant residents. I've had the pleasure of touring the inn and it is even more appealing in person. 

You can view the video by clicking below: 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Railroad Coal Tower

 There has been some listserv discussion recently regarding a coal tower the railroad used to fuel its steam locomotives back in the day. Tod Santee did a post  that inspired me to do a search for the matter in the Star archives. Here is what Tod had to say: 

  "Up until way back in '97-'98 or so, there was an historic coal tower straddling the tracks almost directly east of 16th St & Toole.  One day we found out Union Pacific or Southern Pacific RR was preparing to knock it down with a wrecking ball but only because of the news that a homeless guy who had apparently been living inside the upper part for a few years when he came to Tucson during his transience.  He climbed out on the roof of it basically daring the wreckers to "go ahead and try" according to so news reports & interviews he got with the Star.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

New Window Replacement Options

At its September 21st meeting the APHZAB accepted for its reviews the revised language in the Technical Standards Manual regarding windows. The Board will now have more flexibility to recommend approval of alternative window materials. Here is the relevant language from the meeting Legal Action Report (LAR): 

The Board members then asked for certain clarifications. It was noted that the language merely allows the Board to consider alternate materials on a case-by-case basis, especially “clad” wood windows. Ms. Brown suggested that it could potentially allow certain considerations on historically authentic replacements that are now being manufactured. She gave several examples: vinyl is never considered appropriate as a material; some aluminum replacements may replicate historic steel windows better than other options; exterior and interior surface wood munitions and mullions may more faithfully recreate historic proportions on dual pane windows  rather than scaled up versions required for the heavier and thicker panes (noting that between glass snap in grids and exterior only designs are not considered appropriate; and that some fiberglass products may be better than modern wood replacements in specific instances. The option however will only allow for consideration of possible materials on a case-by-case basis. Further acceptable changes would require further updates to guidance than the language now in the code the Board is discussing.