Sunday, September 03, 2006

Proposal revives old Tucson street names

[Source: Rob O'Dell, Arizona Daily Star] -- Once upon a time, back in Tucson's presidio and territorial days, its streets didn't have names like Pennington, Congress and Main. Instead, those streets were named, respectively, Calle del Arroyo, Calle de la Alegria and Camino Real. Councilman Steve Leal wants to honor those names of the past in the present by installing street signs with the historic names from past eras around Downtown. Like La Calle del Campo, which became Camp Street, and ultimately, Broadway. "It adds another layer of intrigue, appreciation or interest," Leal said. "It gives an immediate relationship between past and present."

He is also proposing a decorative plaque on the street poles or on the sidewalk to explain the old street name and what the streets were like at the time of the walled presidio, the fortress that protected the community in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Even places where the streets aren't there any more, like Downtown's Calle de la India Triste (Street of the Sad Indian Lady), which became Maiden Lane before vanishing entirely as Tucson grew, could be recognized. Although Leal couldn't give a ballpark estimate for what the signs would cost, he said they would be a cheap and effective way to spruce up Downtown and drum up interest. He said the street signs have been proposed several times in various forms, but never materialized. He has put the issue on this Wednesday's City Council agenda for the council to discuss. Leal said he wants staff to come up with a cost estimate.

Tom Peterson, retired director of the Southern Division of the Arizona Historical Society, said some Downtown street names were in Spanish from the presidio times until as recently as the early 1900s. Leal said he is not attempting to change the official names of the streets to their originals, but only to install decorative street signs to honor the past. Marty McCune, the city's historic preservation officer, said the historic street signs are a good idea. But she said the street names need to have a plaque that explains them. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]