[Source: The Economist] -- The neighbourhood around Hoffman Park, five miles (8km) east of downtown Tucson, resembles a thousand others in the West. One-storey houses erected in the late 1940s and early 1950s sit behind scrubby gardens. Most are built of brick and roofed with asphalt. In some streets, mailboxes line the curb. A perfectly ordinary suburb—and, if the city gets its way, a future historic district. History is not, perhaps, the first thing that springs to mind in Tucson. Although it was founded in the 18th century, the city took shape after the second world war. Thanks to big employers, such as Hughes Aircraft, its population almost doubled between 1950 and 1960. Because land was so cheap, modest houses were built on large plots. Up to 3,000 houses a year were being built, luring buyers with models blessed with such names as the Monarch, the Savoy and the Windsor. Formica countertops, fitted carpets and coloured bathroom fixtures were commonly included in the price.
In general, a building needs to be at least 50 years old before it can be added to the National Register of Historic Places. Owners can choose to pay lower taxes in exchange for not adjusting their properties too much. Since Tucson grew so quickly in the 1950s, potential candidates for the register have mushroomed in the past few years. To help decide which ones to preserve first, the city has commissioned a study that identifies distinctive building and landscaping styles. Among them are such obscure inventions as the Tucson ranch house (wide and low-slung, with a white roof) and the “enhanced desert” garden, an improbable mixture of native cacti, flowering perennials and a little grass. Jonathan Mabry, the city's historic-preservation officer, explains that Tucson wants to protect buildings from being torn down and replaced with “mini-dorms”—cheaply made structures rented to students at the University of Arizona. The city also hopes historic districts will foster a sense of community, which can be lacking in such a young, fast-growing place.
[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo source: Tom Tingle, Arizona Republic.]