Preston N. Jacobus was born on Feb. 25, 1864, in Sussex County, New Jersey.

He was the second child of Peter N. Jacobus, a doctor from New Jersey, and Otilia “Delius” Jacobus of Prussia. His mother died when he was a child, and his father later remarried and had two daughters with his new wife.

After high school, Preston went to work at the Hudson Bank in Hudson, New Jersey (now part of Jersey City). He held several jobs and eventually became cashier.

During his time at the bank, he wed Anna C. Hedges in 1892. The couple moved to Yonkers, New York, where he established what is said to be the largest laundry in the city, with branches along the Hudson River.

They had two sons: Raymond in 1895 and Russell in 1898.

The family moved to Los Angeles County, but by 1901 had relocated to Tucson due to the tuberculosis Preston had contracted in New York. He later told a friend, “I was due to die the day I arrived, but I made up my mind that as long as I could put off that event and enjoy life, I intended to do it. So as soon as I got my family located, I bought a few hens and told myself I was established in the poultry business. I found it a fascinating employment.”

He also tried his hand at real estate, buying his first property on South Fourth Avenue. Next he bought a property on South Sixth Avenue and then one on Main Street (now Avenue) near the old Eagle Flour Mill, which netted him quite a profit. That sale made him decide that realty was the career for him.

His biggest real estate purchase came in 1907, when he paid $35,000 for much of or all of the land that had been an Indian school run by the Presbyterian Church. The land was bounded by present-day University Boulevard to the north, Fifth Street to the south, First Avenue to the east and Third Avenue to the west.

In total, he built 42 houses in Tucson. His obituary in the Tucson Citizen read, “His home building he considered his greatest work, priding himself on the fact that he built artistic homes and tried to give their purchasers the very most he could for their money. One of the best of these houses was one which he built for his own family, consisting of his wife and two sons, Raymond and Russell, on the corner of Fourth Street and Third Avenue (445 E. Fourth St.). He was also directly responsible for the building of the Rincon Apartments on the corner of Sixth Avenue and University Avenue (now University Boulevard).”

Some of the houses he built were designed by well-known architect Henry O. Jaastad.

On Jan. 4, 1909, Jacobus became a nonpartisan Tucson city councilman. On Nov. 4 of that year, he replaced Ben Heney as nonpartisan mayor of the Old Pueblo, serving until 1911.

During his tenure in office, Jacobus worked to get the streets improved, with more than six miles of streets graded in 1910 — a significant amount considering the town’s size at the time. Miles of concrete sidewalks were built, and miles of sewers were laid under his direction. The Stone Avenue Bridge was built of concrete, and Congress Street was extended to Toole Avenue.

While at heart he was a builder, at times he had to get involved in the politics of the day. In 1910, during an attack on a police officer by a group of men, the officer shot two of the attackers in self-defense. In spite of the evidence, the officer was taken off duty and put on a leave of absence. Mayor Jacobus and Councilman Mose Drachman worked to get the officer restored to duty.

After his mayorship, he returned to private interests, which included running his firm, Rincon Realty, working as a director at the Southern Arizona Bank & Trust and serving as president of the Catalina Exploration Co.

He died of pulmonary tuberculosis on Nov. 28, 1911.

According to Donald A. Jacobus, Preston’s grandson, the family name is pronounced Jay-KAH-bus, with the emphasis is on the middle syllable, not the first as many Tucsonans pronounce it.

Special thanks to Dan Cowgill, chief title officer, Fidelity National Title Agency, for research assistance. For a full list of sources used in this article, see the online version at