Street Smarts: Fighter of Indians, purveyor of posh hotel remembered with downtown street

2014-01-07T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T15:33:22Z Street Smarts: Fighter of Indians, purveyor of posh hotel remembered with downtown streetBy David Leighton Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 07, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Hiram S. Stevens, a successful businessman and politician, came to Tucson in 1856 after a stint fighting Indians in the New Mexico territory.

He was born in Weston, Vt., in 1832 and received a limited education. In 1851, at the age of 19, he enlisted in the Army and was dispatched to New Mexico with the First United States Dragoons.

After he was discharged in 1856, he came to live on a ranch near Sentinel Peak (“A” Mountain). While there, he provided the military posts with beef and hay, and in the process made a substantial amount of money, some of which he spent on gambling in town.

Also in 1856, he met Petra Santa Cruz, whose parents, Juan and Manuela Santa Cruz, had died. When they met, Petra was living with her younger sister, Atanacia, and aunt, Guadalupe, in an adobe house on a dirt road known as Calle del Correo (Mail Street). Stevens courted Petra for three years and — although her aunt initially opposed the marriage, at least in part due to race and religion — the two wed in 1859.

In 1861, the couple moved to Vermont, where they lived for three years before returning to Tucson. In 1865, Stevens was in a successful business with his brother-in-law, Sam Hughes, filling government contracts.

In 1865, the Stevenses purchased land on what is now North Main Avenue and built a home. The house is now part of the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block at Alameda Street and Main Avenue.

Stevens also was in the hotel business for about 20 years, as owner of one of the finest hotels in the state: The Cosmopolitan at North Main Avenue and West Pennington Street.. Later named The Orndorff, the hotel was a city landmark until it was torn down in 1937.

Stevens also was involved in politics. In 1871, he was elected the first treasurer of the newly incorporated city of Tucson. In 1874, he won the territorial delegate seat in Congress, serving from 1875 to 1879; he also served on the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

On March 21, 1893, Stevens came home complaining of a headache, and hours later the town learned that he had shot his wife and shot and killed himself. Petra survived and raised the couple’s two children through adoption, Eliza and Thomas. She died in 1916.

Stevens Avenue, at the northern end of downtown , was recorded with Pima County in 1899. It was most likely named by Philip Contzen, who surveyed the land.

Sources:

Special thanks to Charles “Chuck” Stratton (descendant of the Santa Cruz family).

“Preserve the Old Landmarks,” Arizona Daily Star, Dec. 29, 1910.

Bettina Lyons, “A History of the Hiram Stevens House and Hiram Stevens Family and U.S. Marshal Milton B. Duffield,” Tucson Museum of Art, 1981.

Hiram S. Stevens biography by Clifford J. Stratton (descendant of the Santa Cruz family).

U.S. Congress website: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=S000880

Judith William, “Plaza of the Pioneers,” Tucson Museum of Art, 1982.

Pima County plat map MP 01006.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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