Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tucson's Presidio re-creation set to open

[Sourcec: Teya Vitu, Tucson Citizen] -- The history of downtown comes full circle this weekend with the dedication of the $2.8 million Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, the first finished artifact for Tucson Origins Heritage Park. The rebuilt half-acre of adobe-brick presidio at Washington Street and Church Avenue is an homage to the presidio that emerged on that spot from 1776 to 1783. This version telescopes several features spanning different eras onto a half-acre patch. The 1780s torreón (tower) stands a few feet from an 1830s Mexican-era streetscape. In between is a small hole in the ground evincing a 2,000-year-old pit house. The adobe bricks come as close to authentic as modern building codes allow. "We matched the adobe as much as we could for texture, color and size," said Eric Means, president at Means Design and Building Corp., which rebuilt the presidio. "Mexico still has 1700s buildings. We copied those."

The Means team also studied the remains of presidio wall foundations. It learned that the Spanish used two methods to craft the 22-by-11-inch bricks. One had a brick made in a form on the ground, and then the brick was lifted into place; the other had the mud poured into a form in place on the wall. The adobe composition matched the 18th-century brick (except that cement was added to stabilize the adobe): 50 percent sand, 25 percent clay and the rest silt and straw. Tucson Adobe in Marana crafted the bricks, which re-create the whimsy of different colors used in the original walls. Beyond that, presidio proponents and designers had to draw on imagination because no records exist regarding what the presidio looked like. Artist Bill Singleton translated all that imagination into a 53-by-13-foot mural that gives a snapshot of presidio life. Means cut six embrasures (gun slots) at the top of the torreón walls. "We have no idea if they had embrasures or not," Means said. The torreón is 20 feet high. Means rebuilt the torreón a few feet east of the original tower, for which foundations for the 44-inch-thick walls still exist. Across a presidio entryway, Means built a 15-by-30-foot barracks that would have housed about a dozen soldiers. Boards are built into the wall to create little shelves. The ceiling is river hardwood with saguaro ribs, topped with 4 to 12 inches of mud. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]