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Best Historic Architecture

San Xavier Mission

1950 W. San Xavier Road

READERS' PICK: The San Xavier Mission was founded by Father Kino circa 1692, but it wasn't until the late 1700s that it began to resemble La Paloma Blanca, the Spanish Baroque "White Dove" that stands near the Tohono O'odham reservation on what is now Tucson's southwest side. More than a decade of restoration by an international team of architects, artists and museum conservators has left the intimate adobe chapel looking better than ever, with its ivory exterior preserved and boldly painted interior reborn. Just as its creation stood to elevate the souls of all visitors to a higher plane, so does its restoration (by donations raised by the determined and devoted Patronato del San Xavier) remind us of the beauty and generosity of which we are collectively capable. An inspired place, with many inspired tales within its candle lit walls.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Pima County Courthouse, 115 N. Church Ave. In spite of the fact that it's pink as the butt of a Southwestern cliché and houses the place where we pay property taxes and parking tickets, our readers can't help citing the Pima County Courthouse among their perennial favorites ... and who can blame them? Designed and built by Tucson architect Roy Place in 1928-29, its gentle arches and striking tile dome stand in stark contrast to the surrounding piles of architectural defeatism. The old courthouse straddles the line between embracing regional history and promoting a sleek modernist simplicity, departing from the conventions of the day to deliver a timeless structure capped by that beautiful, abstract tile work by an artist whose identity remains unknown. (And consider, modern readers, back then aesthetics didn't even need to be mandated by local law so that a measly one percent of the budget might be spent on integrating art into the public building process.)

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