Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is a state park of Arizona, United States. The presidio was built by Spain in 1782 to resist the raids of Apache Indians who had driven many Spanish settlers from New Mexico and into the protection of the fort’s walls. It is located near present-day Tucson, at the northern end of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The park preserves part of the presidio as a museum with displays that tell about its history. Visitors can walk through parts of the original presidio and see how residents lived in this first line of defense against Native Americans. There are plans to build an observation tower atop Mount Lemmon which will offer views of the surrounding area and provide an even better view of the Resaca de la Palma valley. This plan has been approved by the board of directors of Presidio Trust, Inc., but not yet funded by the Arizona legislature. In 1970, the park received nearly 1,000 acres (4km) from the Arizona Board of Regents for Higher Education through a program run by the W. P. Carey School of Business. Known today as the North Mountain Campus, it is one of two land grant universities in the University of Arizona system. The other main campus is on the south side of town, closer to downtown Tucson proper.
The park features include scenic vistas, archaeological sites, historical structures, museums, hiking trails, picnic areas, and nature center. The park also provides access points for trailheads leading up Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in the region at 9,157 feet (2,791m). The park receives more than 3 million visitors annually. On special occasions, such as holidays or weekends, attendance exceeds 5 million people. The park is open year-round, but unstaffed except for limited hours during the late fall and early winter season due to budget cuts.
A new multi-purpose building opened in October 2016. Designed by architect Ramiro Barrera, the $5 million facility includes classrooms and work space for staff and students as well as an outdoor learning lab overlooking the city and mountainside. The park hosts numerous events each year, including fairs, rodeos, concerts, holiday light shows, mountain bike races, and marathons. During the summer, there are daily naturalist activities for children and adults, including astronomy outings, guided hikes, story time, art classes, and native plant walks.
The park also serves as the home field for the annual International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Symposium every February. The park contains four separate plazas known as the Plaza del Pasado (Plaza of the Past), the Plaza de los Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Plaza), the Plaza de las Américas (American Plaça; formerly named Plaza Isla de la Luna, meaning ‘Island of the Moon’), and the Plaza de Todos Los Santos (‘Square of All Saints’). These are all originally named after saints, though their religious significance has been lost over time. Today they are primarily recognized for their Mexican heritage, especially the former three. They were designated a National Historical Landmark in 1960, for exemplifying “the pattern of European settlement in the western hemisphere.” The park grounds contain nine historic buildings and ruins, mostly dating back to the eighteenth century. Only one structure, the guardhouse, dates back further than the seventeenth century. Four of these structures are fully restored, while four additional buildings are partially restored.
One building is completely reconstructed to appear original, and one structure is a scale model of the presidio. The park grounds feature a number of significant archaeological sites, some of which are included in the National Register of Historic Places. Excavation of the Presidio San Ignacio site revealed hundreds of artifacts, most of them pottery shards. Radiocarbon dates taken at nearby Oak Creek Canyon put the date of occupancy at between 1450CE and 1260 CE. Other research indicates that occupation may have extended into the 1380s CE. Prehistorically, the region of the modern park saw heavy rainfall, around 80inches (2032mm) per annum. Evaporation from the soil left little water table elevation change, so wells could be drilled relatively close to the surface. At least five different villages occupied the same general location throughout the long period of human habitation, spanning thousands of years.
The inhabitants grew corn, beans, and squash, and hunted, fished, and gathered wild plants. Pottery fragments show that various types were produced throughout the period, although the shapes and designs changed very little. The earliest forms of pottery found in the region of the presidio were made using coiled and spoked wheels, and stamped animal shapes. By the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, the inhabitants appeared to be sedentary, living in permanent villages. The first interaction with Europeans occurred in 1541, when Francisco Vzquez de Coronados expedition encountered the village of Sasco, whose chief gave the Spaniard a good impression of the tribe. Subsequent expeditions explored the lower reaches of the Salt River, and returned to establish missions at San Antn de Carlos and San Sebastian, later called Mission San Xavier, then moved north to explore the Little Colorado River Valley. In 1657, Father Massanet visited the area, and reported finding many Indian graves and much evidence of recent warfare. As a result, he concluded that the Chichimecs were too warlike to live in peace with the Spanish, and encouraged the establishment of encomiendas where the Christianized Indians would be forced to pay tribute to the king of Spain.
Although the exact date of construction of the presidio is unknown, it is believed to have been constructed sometime between 1781 and 1784. Its design probably began under the direction of Juan Bautista de Anza, and continued under the supervision of Jos Serapio Villavicencio, both members of the famed de Anza family. Construction was carried out by Felipe de Neve, Lorenzo Ferrez, Andrs Pico, and Gaspar Castao, all Italian masons employed by the King of Spain. Work started along the east wall, which was 2.5 meters (7.6ft) high and 8 meters (26ft) thick. Next, the west wall was erected, forming what was initially a 4 x 8 meter enclosure. The interior was finished off, creating a large open area within the fort. Additional enclosures were added to the northeast and southwest corners, giving the fortress its final shape. Built to resist artillery, the fort contained heavily fortified barracks for the soldiers, as well as storehouses, sutlery, armory, and a hospital. While designed as a presidio, it did not serve as a frontier post, but rather as a garrison for the populated area around Tucson, serving as a kind of self-contained small army. When the Pima Indians heard that the Spanish were coming again, they fled to the hills, leaving the presidio undefended against the Apaches. After being attacked on March 27, 1871, by a mob of unruly miners, the presidio was abandoned. For almost 100years, no one thought much of the crumbling ruin. Then, in 1958, local citizens arranged a visit by preservationists who discovered the old military outpost still standing in remarkably good condition, complete with its huge adobe blocks and mortar fire holes. With support from concerned locals and enthusiastic tourists, the presidio was acquired for the state park system in 1969, becoming the first park in Arizona dedicated solely to preserving a preserved presidio.