As one of Tucson’s early mayors, Gustav A. “Gus” Hoff made it a priority to lay more sidewalks and grade more streets.
On that front, at least, not much has changed.
Hoff was born in Germany on Dec. 7, 1852. His family immigrated to the United States around 1855 and settled in Yorktown, Texas, about 75 miles east of San Antonio. His father, Charles F. “Carl” Hoff, a miller, built a large Dutch windmill for grinding corn and operated it during the Civil War.
In 1865, with Texas in turmoil after the war, the Hoffs went back to Germany for about two years, then returned to the United States.
Back in Texas, Carl Hoff began to work in the cattle business. In 1871, he pushed his herd along the famed Chisholm Trail toward Abilene, Kansas, but when he reached Newton, Kansas, he decided to settle there. He kept his stock but also built a general merchandise store.
In 1874, Carl and Gustav went to Utah and spent a season freighting ore with mule teams from different mines in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The following year they went to San Bernardino, California. Gustav stayed there and worked in the freighting business until 1877 while his father went on mining trips in New Mexico and Arizona. His father is said to have died in Tucson.
For the next three years Hoff worked as a clerk in the wholesale house of Hellman, Haas & Co. of Los Angeles. During that period, in 1880, he wed Alice A. Ford in California. The couple went on to have five children: Mamie, Pearl, Clara, Florence and Louis.
In 1881, Hoff settled in Tucson on behalf of the German Fruit Co. of Los Angeles. He left the business nine months later and worked for C. Seligman & Co. grocers, at 204 Main St. He stayed with the company when it became A. Goldschmidt and until it closed.
In the meantime, Hoff’s younger brother Charles and his wife arrived in Tucson and the siblings formed Hoff Brothers, a merchant brokerage that lasted about a year. After that he worked as a traveling salesman for the grocery department of L. Zeckendorf & Co.
In the 1880s, Gus and Alice bought a home at 127 W. Franklin St. Alice is said to have been the first Christian Science practitioner in Tucson, and the family home was the first meeting place of the Christian Science Church in town.
In the late 1880s, Gustav served on the City Council and, as result of his work for the Old Pueblo, was elected to the 16th Arizona Territorial Legislative Assembly.
The assembly convened on Jan. 19, 1891, in Phoenix. Among the laws passed was one authorizing the formation and maintenance of a force of Arizona Rangers, although it wasn’t until 1901 that it was finally organized under Captain Burton C. Mossman (namesake of Mossman Road).
The lawmakers also created Coconino County from the northern half of Yavapai County and soon after, Flagstaff was chosen as the county seat. A bill was introduced to create Miles County from Cochise and Graham counties but it never passed.
In 1892, Hoff entered into a partnership with L.G. Radulovich and A.V Grossetta (namesake of Grossetta Avenue) and formed the Tucson Grocer Co. In 1897, the trio also became involved in the Tucson Hardware Co.
The same year, 1897, Charles was Pima County treasurer.
From January 1899 to January 1901, as a Democrat, he served as mayor with his biggest accomplishment being the purchase of what would come to be called the city waterworks. He also worked to improve the city by adding sidewalks and graded roads. Since he supported the prohibition of alcohol, it’s likely he pushed this idea as mayor.
In June 1899, A.M. Franklin, an associate of the Hoff brothers, recorded the Hoff’s Subdivision of Block No. 85 along with Hoff Street (now Hoff Avenue) with Pima County. By 1901, Charles and his family were living in the subdivision near the University of Arizona, along Hoff Street.
Charles Hoff served on the City Council from 1906-07 but soon after returned to Texas.
After his stint as mayor, Gustav became manager of the L.H. Manning Co. He served in that capacity until his death in 1930.
Alice Hoff lived in Tucson, at the house on Franklin Street, until she died at age 106 in 1963.