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Touring Tucson

May 10, 2010

Talk about a field trip worth its weight in gold…Design Styles class met Friday for a walk around the old Presidio area downtown (think Tucson Art Museum).  The weather was favorable for such an outing, and we sure had tons of fun learning about the different styles and unique histories of the residences.  Ellen Lowery, our seasoned instructor (and I only mean ‘seasoned’ because of her vast experience guiding this tour for so many past Design Styles classes) gave thorough descriptions, as well as titillating tidbits that most ‘tour guides’ wouldn’t recognize as delicious folklore.

more info on the Corbett House can be found here

We gathered in front of the Corbett House, a well-restored mission Revival bungalow.  It is representative of Tucson’s middle class in the early 1900s.  According to the Tucson Art Museum’s website, J. Knob Corbett migrated to Arizona’s weather to treat tuberculosis in 1880, where he later built the residence in 1906-7.  He was the Postmaster in Tucson for 23 years. See the Tucson Art Museum’s website for more details and a peek at this house’s interior.

Many other sites (or sights), included:

The Owls Club (a three-story residence hall for bachelors in the region) was built by Southwestern architect Henry Trost.  It is a prime example of the Mission Revival Style built in 1902, although its ornate façade seems a bit busy for the period.  It’s tough to see in this photo, but note worthy, those are Horny Toad “Corinthian” column ornamentations…priceless Southwestern stuff! Owl's Club, Tucson

The Steinfeld House – sorry no imge yet – (also by Trost) was built in 1900 of brick and stucco in the California Mission Revival style.  Apparently, it is the first residence in Tucson to have a bathtub complete with indoor plumbing.

My ‘hand’s down’ favorite is the Rockwell House – which I wish I had a better image, I’ll try to get one soon-(1907-1908, Holmes & Holmes) because it represents the English Tudor Style (and sticks out like a sore thumb).  The building material of the first story is brick, while the second story is comprised of dark wood half-timbering with light colored stucco (how dramatic).  According to all documented accounts of this house, it was designed from the interior out, without regard for the irregular forms on the exterior (an interior designer’s selfish little dream)!historic rockwell house

The tour was not complete without a visit to the first motor lodge of the region (the Hitchfeld motor lodge), now referred to as Hinchcliffe Court – again, image on it’s way (i hope).  It was built in 1910-11 (attributed to Holmes & Holmes) and included a courtyard surrounded (in a horseshoe plan) by 10 Craftsman Style bungalows.  The auto court was designed to attract the motoring public.

“….Charles Hinchcliffe built the bungalows…in the hoity-toity neighborhood then known as Snob Hollow. Hinchcliffe had lived in California and evidently was influenced by the popular California bungalow style, whose dominant theme could be described as less-is-more. Each snug cottage was given one bedroom (a few have two), a sunroom, living room with fireplace, dining room with elaborate wooden built-in cabinets and shelves, bathroom, porch and a tiny backyard. To save space, there were no hallways, and each had an ingenious cabinet for rollaway beds. Hinchcliffe ran the bungalows as a resort for well-heeled winter visitors. These tourists were mostly Californians….”

–quote found on

Hinchcliffe House (1910, Holmes & Holmes) is described as “an excellent but deteriorating example of the Western Stick style bungalow.”  The small apartment in the back of the house is a miniature version of the main house.  The Japanese-inspired roof and exterior ornamental details were meant for the Japanese climate, unfortunately, the design has not acclimated well to the desert’s dry heat and monsoon rain.

Like many older buildings in Tucson, restoration is essential.  While so many of these structures have been properly cared for and restored, others are left to deteriorate.  Here’s hoping a broad neighborhood revitalization project encourages downtown Tucson to urge land/homeowners to restore these gems to their full glory.

I think we all enjoyed the tour (even the little guys Lullen brought for adventure) as we have all truly enjoyed the hardest class at school- Design Styles!  Thanks Ellen for suggesting the tour and helping us survive the semester.

If you want to peruse other places listed on Arizona’s National Historical Registrar, check out the collection at

~Jules, ID/LA

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