Monday, November 19, 2012

A Neighborhood Atop a Cemetery

Tucson's built in the caldera of a volcano.  It's ringed by mountain ranges, growth beginning in the middle of the hole and spreading out as far as the mountains allowed.  The original presidio is in the center of downtown, the dead were buried further north, just east of Main Street. 

Then, civilization began to encroach.  Development was moving in the direction of all those bodies, and the survivors were told to dig 'em up.  Evergreen Cemetery was created further north and west, and plots would be available for the displaced remains.  Some were moved.  Some were not.  Homeowners in the Dunbar and Spring neighborhoods are still digging up caskets and clothes and bones.  Were the bodies buried with all their clothes victims of contagious disease?  Was burial the safest method of disposal for things they'd touched? 

The answers are unknown, but the history is commemorated by signage in the roundabouts.

I visited this slice of Tucson with the Streetwalkers, another piece of the Happy Ladies Club.  Boas optional, this group wants to move but prefers pavement to gravel and flat surfaces to hundreds of feet of elevation change.  At this point, they are more my speed than the Desert Hikers, who take on miles at a time.  It's not as adventurous, but it turned out to be just as much fun.
There's a lot to be learned on these excursions, as our fearless leader shared details about the houses we passed.  I'm trying not to think about what the residents thought of my photography.  People drive by our house and take pictues and it's kind of creepy; somehow, I didn't feel intrusive at all.  It's all in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?
 We admired the blue fence posts and railings,
 and marveled at what less than $200,000 can get you within biking distance of the University.
We learned that many of the original stores have been repurposed as houses, like this one which served the ethnic Chinese who lived out here, on the outskirts of town.
The door opens out to the corner; it's a feng shui thing. 
This property is gated, but there's a nice garden outside for the neighbors to enjoy, too.
Don't those chairs look like they're waiting for us to sit down, cocktail in hand, watching the world go by? 
 The fence is made of recycled wood and the planters are barrels and the irrigation is everywhere to feed the roses.
And there were roses everywhere.
Gotta love the desert southwest; our roses bloom a second time for Thanksgiving.
Without an HOA and its restrictions and covenants, relics of mini-golf parks past can be relocated in the front yard with impunity.
This is a community in the true sense of the word; it even has a bulletin board. 
There are murals, historic
 and ethnic
 and directional signs pointing you to the mountain ranges.
There are gates made of bike parts.
 And there's a blacksmith shop.
This is the blacksmith.
He showed us how to make a curl.
He selected the pieces to be heated. 
Then he put them to the coal fire; it gives a better result than a gas flame.
Yes, he has only one glove.
He was braver than I'd ever be.
Then, he took the heated pieces to the anvil and flattened them, then curled them using the pointed edge in front and the rounded edge in back.
He's been at it for 34 years; his son is the welder.
The neighborhood boasts a theater owner who puts on big musicals in a tiny Red Barn, 
and a barber school (where photos felt intrusive) offering low-cost instruction in a field where jobs are available.  Student haircuts are $5; the teachers check everyone before they walk out the door.
It's a community, after all.  They'll be seeing their handiwork on the streets.
Next time you're in town, give me a call.
I'll be glad to take you and show you around.


  1. Tucson is one of my favorite towns on the planet...the place has character. Interesting history, too, A/B. Thanks for sharing! ;)

  2. I LOVE Tucson! This is another new place for me to explore...some day.

  3. We ride through Dunbar Springs frequently. I love the neighborhood, it hasn't been homogenized into something that can be seen everywhere else. I did not know about the bodies, very interesting tour you had.

  4. That must be a little farther from the University than I'm used to seeing ... I'm used to seeing old couches on the front porch of houses that students are renting. LOL on the photography! YOU know that you aren't trying to be invasive taking photos of interesting houses and landscaping - but that is most likely not the case with people photographing your house.

  5. How fascinating. I don't know that area but have enjoyed photographing barrio viejo with its shrines and fascinating old buildings. I missed out on a book that one of the schools put out about it and the Arizona historical museum had displayed but not for sale. When I tried to buy it, I was out of luck. I do though have a good one on the old ranch houses of Southern Arizona. Last trip down we walked around the Empire ranch which is now open to the public but not inside the home. Same with San Rafael Ranch which I guess is only available to tour for certain groups or maybe times. I love old Arizona structures.

  6. I just love the monkey in the yard and would like to have one in our yard. I mentioned this to my husband and he said I was just strange. No monkey.


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