Best Of Tucson®

Tucson, the Home-City

"The great buildings of the world have been, almost without exception, temples and churches," proclaimed a 1920 publication by Tucson's Chamber of Commerce. "One would hardly believe that one of them--a great church--is on the American continent, in the desert of Arizona. It is the Mission San Xavier del Bac."

Having been restored and improved more than a decade earlier, the landmark church of the Tohono O'odham was the major cultural attraction in Tucson. But the chamber brochure boasted about others: "The Mexican quarter, quaint and romantic ... has long been the Mecca for artists and writers, striving to put into lasting colors and words the spirit of this historic heritage before it passes away forever."

But Tucson's best-known writer didn't live in downtown's barrio. He was building a home way out in the undeveloped desert near Speedway Boulevard and Wilmot Road. Suffering from tuberculosis, popular author Harold Bell Wright moved here for his health, and like thousands of others, he insisted the clear, dry desert air had saved his life.

Besides cultural attractions and personalities, 1920s Tucson offered its residents two music stores, three-digit telephone numbers and four newspapers, along with five theaters and the Alianza Hispaño-Americana building on West Congress Street, where music and dances were regular attractions. Of course, Tucson's streets were mostly unpaved, so more than a half-dozen blacksmiths and horseshoers plied their trade in town, but the community was progressing in 1920.

Another Chamber of Commerce pamphlet prepared around that same time--entitled "Where, What, and Why--Tucson, Arizona?"--highlighted the Women's Club on Alameda Street, stating it "is the center of social activities for women and their friends."

Ladies could also meet at Tucson's Country Club, an 18-hole dirt course with sand greens located along Broadway Boulevard a few miles east of downtown. The club house was a place for local society women to get together, including one swimming afternoon where "beach pajamas (were) the popular costume of the day," after which the ladies lunched and played bridge.

But more important to women was the August 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment. Even though women had been given the right to vote by a large majority of voters in November 1912, the state Legislature additionally ratified the federal amendment eight years later, with two politicians who were members of Tucson's Old Pueblo Club voting with the majority.

The club, housed downtown in a building on South Stone Avenue, was headed by Epes Randolph. A pioneer railroad man of the Southwest, as well as a former superintendent of the Tucson division of the Southern Pacific Railroad, Randolph served four terms as president of the club before passing away in 1921.

The previous year, the Chamber of Commerce had summarized the community with: "Tucson is the garden-city of the Southwest, but above all the home-city, where nearly every one of the 25,000 inhabitants owns the house in which he lives."

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