Sunday, February 09, 2014

Tucson's Fort Lowell Day Celebration

We have driven past Fort Lowell Park on Craycroft a number of times in the past month. It didn't look like much--some burned out grass and a few old structures.

Silly us.  This past Saturday we shortly discovered that the Fort Lowell neighborhood contains a fascinating "microcosm of  Southwest history." Located along what used to be a real running river, it has been inhabited for over a thousand years.  Recent archaeological excavations have discovered Hohokam pit houses and pottery as well as military items from the Fort Lowell era. A nicely decked out gentleman told that story.

Here he explains photos of pit house remains in the area.

Here he notes both Hohokam and Fort Lowell relics found during recent digs on sites in the area.
But back to the Fort proper.  It was moved to this site from downtown Tucson in 1873 primarily to serve as a staging area for fighters in the Apache Wars.  At its peak it included a hospital, stables, a school, officers and enlisted men's quarters, mess facilities, stores, etc.

Some buildings like the Camp Commander's home and now museum have been restored.

Some, like the old Post Trader's Store have been extensively re-constructed over time and are now still inhabited. 

This Officer's Billet is  in process of major restoration.
The walls of the old Hospital are now protected by a roofed shed, while some sites, like the old Commissary or the school, await further work.

But the story does not end here.  With the Apache campaigns successfully completed, Fort Lowell was decommissioned in 1891.  Mexican immigrants began to settle in the area and soon a little village called El Fuerte (The Fort) was established.  As the official pamphlet says, "Anglo settlers also took the opportunity to inhabit and restore the old buildings" over time. That village, long since integrated into the sprawl of today's Tucson, still exists as the Old Fort Lowell Historic Neighborhood.

Once a year the neighborhood association encourages visitors to traipse along the old byways and stations docents along the route down tiny El Callejon Way.  There you will find restored and still occupied homes of both new residents and families who have lived here for generations.


The Garcia family is one of the most important residents. Juan, seen here,  has occupied, enlarged, and rebuilt this home for sixty years.  He also fashioned the pews in the nearby San Pedro Chapel out of the crates that covered old missile part shipments.


Below is the chapel and the interior showing those pews.

On our way back to our car we stopped to listen to the Mariachi Tesoro and the 4th Cavalry Band


And that is what enchanted us for not one but over three hours on this fine sunny Saturday.
Take a tip from this wise old owl.  Put Fort Lowell on your Tucson tourist schedule.


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