If a group of civic leaders convened in 1936 had its way, Tucson's main streets would all be named for Spanish saints, city pioneers and area army posts.
The city's numbered streets and avenues were boring, some businessmen told a committee formed to consider the idea. They lacked any draw to tourists or winter visitors and they were just plain confusing.
The committee started its work with a simple mission to restore a few downtown streets back to their original Spanish names and make the numbering system more uniform. But its work exploded into a sprawling citywide plan to change the majority of street names in Tucson.
Had they prevailed, today you might visit the University of Arizona via Calle Padre Kino (Speedway), head downtown on Pioneer Boulevard (Sixth Avenue) or get to Park Place mall on Camp Boulevard (Broadway).
Original 1862 names
On May 18, 1936, delegates of Tucson's civic organizations met to discuss returning Tucson's downtown streets to their original names. Those names were first documented in Maj. David Ferguson's 1862 map, surveyed by J.B. Mills.
After a lengthy debate, the assembly asked the City Council to restore the names of just a couple streets and a park. Council members wanted more information. So E.P. Mathewson, chairman of the city Planning Commission, named a committee to study the issue. Its members included Michael Hodges of the American Legion, Harry A. Drachman of the Hiram Club, Fred Ronstadt of the Chamber of Commerce, Edith Kitt of the Arizona Historical Society and William Dunipace of the Toastmasters Club.
Early meetings were devoted to making street numbers uniform - it used to be that odd- and even-numbered addresses were on the same side of the street. The group also decided the base streets for street addresses and directions would be Broadway, which was to be changed to Camp Boulevard, and Sixth Avenue, which was to be changed to Pioneer Boulevard. Tucson's base streets now are Broadway and Stone Avenue.
Broadway got its name from a traveling salesman who put a stolen New York City street sign on Fred Ronstadt's store on Camp Street. For moral reasons, argued committee member Dunipace, it should be returned to its original name.
Subsequent meetings focused on returning downtown streets to original, Spanish names. The group identified these five:
• Congress Street was originally Calle de la Alegria (Happiness Street).
• Main Street (now Main Avenue) was Calle Real (Royal Street). It was originally part of El Camino Real or The Royal Road.
• Pennington Street was Calle del Arroyo (Stream Street or Wash Street) because it followed the arroyo.
• Ott Street, which no longer exists, was Calle de la Plaza (Plaza Street), as it led into La Plaza de las Armas.
• Alameda Street was Calle de la Guardia (Guard Street), then at one point was Cemetery Street.
The committee voted down all these changes, except for Calle Real. And eventually the small idea morphed into a plan to give Tucson's streets more exciting names to draw tourists.
The 1936 plan
A citywide street renaming plan in 1936 proposed changing dozens of street names:
• Westmoreland Avenue would be Schwalen Avenue in honor of Henry E. Schwalen, the founder of Menlo Park, which was named after the town of Menlo Park, Calif.
• Anita Avenue, the street from which Barrio Anita gets its name, would be made a continuation of Granada Avenue.
• Tenth Street, west of the railroad tracks, which then ran behind the Hotel Congress, would be Rebeil Street, most likely after Andres Rebeil, who served on the Pima County Board of Supervisors and ran a dry goods and clothing store on the southwest corner of Congress Street and Scott Avenue.
• All east and west streets would have Spanish names.
• Streets south of Broadway would be named in alphabetical order, starting with Broadway, for Spanish female saints.
• Streets north of Broadway would be named in alphabetical order for Spanish male saints.
• There would be three exceptions: Speedway would be Padre Kino, 22nd Street would be Old Spanish Trail and Third Street would be Universidad, Spanish for University.
• Lowell Street would be Paseo Moraga in honor of Salvador Moraga, a commander of the Tubac Presidio. This change was to prevent confusion with Fort Lowell Avenue, which no longer exists (and is different from the current Fort Lowell Road).
• Hawthorne Street would be Paseo Observatorio because it began at the Steward Observatory on the University of Arizona campus and runs east.
• Miles Street would be Paseo Leon in honor of Cirilo Leon, son of a Mexican army lieutenant.
• North-south streets east of Sixth Avenue would be named, in alphabetical order, for Tucson pioneers. (See list below.)
• Most north-south streets west of Sixth Avenue would be named, in alphabetical order west, for Arizona army posts. (See list below.)
North and south streets
(proposed 1936 changes on the right)
East of Sixth Avenue (Pioneer Boulevard)
Fifth Avenue (Pedro) Aguirre Avenue
Fourth Avenue (William) Breakenridge Avenue
Third Avenue (J. Knox) Corbett Avenue
Second Avenue (Sam and Philip) Drachman Avenue
First Avenue (Charles) Etchells Avenue
Euclid Avenue (Wenceslao) Felix Avenue
Tyndall Avenue (Alfred) Goldschmidt Avenue
Park Avenue (Samuel) Hughes Avenue
Fremont Avenue (Eugene) Ives Avenue
Santa Rita Avenue (Carlos) Jacome Avenue
Mountain Avenue (William) Kirkland Avenue
Highland Avenue (Robert) Leatherwood Avenue
Vine Avenue (Jacob S.) Mansfeld Avenue
Cherry Avenue (Fray Marcos) De Niza Avenue
Warren Avenue (Miguel) Ortiz Avenue
Martin Avenue (Charles) Poston Avenue
Campbell Avenue (James) Quinlan Avenue
Norris Avenue (Frederick A.) Ronstadt Avenue
Olsen Avenue (Bishop Jean Baptiste) Salpointe Avenue
Plumer Avenue (Pinckney R.) Tully Avenue
Wilson Avenue (Henry) Underwood Avenue
Norton Avenue (Carlos and Demetrio) Velasco Avenue
Tucson Boulevard (Maria) Wakefield Avenue
Forgeus Avenue (Gonzalo de Quesada) Ximenes Avenue
Sawtelle Avenue (Thomas) Yerkes Avenue
Treat Avenue (Louis) Zeckendorf Avenue
Stewart Avenue (Mark) Aldrich Avenue
Bentley Avenue (Henry) Buehman Avenue
Country Club Road Country Club Avenue
West of Pioneer Blvd (Sixth Avenue)
Seventh Avenue Ft. Apache Avenue
Stone Avenue Ft. Buchanan Avenue
Ninth Avenue Ft. Crittenden Avenue
Tenth Avenue Ft. Defiance Avenue
Eleventh Avenue Ft. El Dorado Avenue *
Twelfth Avenue Calle Real
Thirteenth Avenue Ft. Grant Avenue
Fourteenth Avenue Ft. Huachuca Avenue
* There was never a Ft. El Dorado - it was Camp El Dorado, on the west side of the Colorado River on land that is now part of Nevada but used to be part of Arizona.
To learn about the history of Tucson street names, don't miss writer David Leighton's Street Smarts column, which runs in the Daily Star each Tuesday. him at firstname.lastname@example.org