History of West University Neighborhood

»Guide to Tucson’s Historic Neighborhoods, a project of the Blenman Elm Neighborhood Association (BENA), historic districts, and the City of Tucson Historic Preservation Office to highlight, recognize and preserve Tucson’s oldest neighborhoods.

The history of West University Neighborhood is rich. West University was the first Tucson suburb north of the Southwestern Pacific railroad and was settled between 1890 and 1930. As Tucson grew, the neighborhood evolved from a suburb into a historic downtown neighborhood. Its strategic location, between the University of Arizona and downtown has attracted middle and upper-middle class residents.

The neighborhood includes more than 700 buildings in a great variety of architectural styles. Most of the styles arrived with the railroad in 1880. About half of the houses in the neighborhood are bungalows. This style originated around 1900 in California as a hand-crafted wood style. In a short time, it became the first mass-produced, speculative residential form. Typical bungalows are small, two rooms wide and two or three rooms deep, built of stuccoed brick with front porches and gable roofs. Some of them include neoclassical revival elements such as columns and roof detail.

Also important in the West University Neighborhood are the Southwest Revival styles based on historic structures found in New Mexico, Arizona and California. There are mostly stuccoed brick with little or no detailing. Many have mission tile roofs, arches, projecting vigas and canales (rain spouts).

Tucson’s first streetcars, drawn by horses and mules, began running in 1897, and service along University Boulevard was added in May 1898. By the end of 1930, the streetcars were retired. But in the mid eighties, the Old Pueblo Trolley, a non-profit volunteer organization, restored two cars which ran from the University of Arizona Main Gate down University and Fourth Avenue, ending at the car barn on Eighth Street. In late 2013, the Sun Link streetcar project was completed and the old street cars were replaced with modern street cars that connect downtown and the far reaches of the University.

Back in 1979 neighbors got together to form WUNA and apply for historic designation of the neighborhood. This action was in response to the late 1970’s UA Area Plan to expand west through West University to Stone Ave. Below are the relevant pages from WUNA’s original application that detail additional history of the neighborhood, the 1981 West University Historic District Rehabilitation Plan:
»page 3
»page 4
(Pages 1 and 2 describe the early formation of WUNA.)

Trolley Stop in West University, Tucson, AZ - on History of West University Neighborhood page