Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is Arizona’s first state park. The 1885 furnished schoolhouse, Otero Hall, and Rojas House are all on the National Register of Historic Places. Now operated by the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum, the Park features a museum, underground display of the Presidio ruins, Arizona’s first printing press, a picnic area, and the Juan Bautista de Anza Trailhead.
The Tubac Presidio Visitor Center contains Spanish/Mexican influenced furnishings and an artist mural of the Presidio, a model of the Presidio, historic maps, and a video presentation. A hands-on table is also available which contains a variety of unique items from Tubac’s past that you can pick-up and examine.
The Tubac Presidio Museum houses interpretive exhibits with many original artifacts including early Native American archaeological and ethnographic collections, Spanish Colonial and Mission-era, mining, ranching, Civil War, Arizona Territorial Period, life of women and children, and the original Washington Printing Press that printed Arizona’s first newspaper in 1859. Additional exhibits change on a regular basis to provide further subjects to enjoy.
The 1885 Territorial Schoolhouse
The 1885 Territorial Schoolhouse is the third oldest schoolhouse in Arizona. Sit at one of the desks and imagine yourself learning history in a one-room school. See the rules for both students and teachers. Take the 1895s eighth grade final exam to see if you can pass it!
Otero Hall, build in 1914 as a community center and used as a school room in the 1930s, houses a collection of paintings that reveal some of the more interesting events in Arizona history, along with a recent exhibit at the Tubac Presidio – a rare original 1850’s period carriage called an “ambulance,” but is not the same as the modern version of a medical vehicle.
The Rojas House
The Rojas House is a mid-20th century adobe vernacular row house with original furnishings of Luisa Rojas, a life-long resident of Tubac. The house was lived in by the same family for over 100 years. It demonstrates what a typical Hispanic home was like in the 1980s. There are the remains of an adobe tack house nearby.
The archaeological dig of the Presidio’s Captain’s Headquarters shows the foundations of the building and some of the artifacts found on the site. They depict items of interest to the local population over a period of two centuries.
Outside patio exhibits show how people lived, cooked, and worked in Spanish Colonial times. Additionally, outside interpretive panels are located along the sidewalks.
There are seven gardens on the site. The Children’s Garden allows visitors of all ages to reflect on how games played today are so different from those played not that many years ago. The seasonal flowers attract various birds, butterflies, and photographers. The vegetable, Old World/New World, succulent, Ethnobotanic, orchard, and herb gardens intrigue with their history and colorful displays.
Mini exhibits can be found in various locations around the park. There is an example of how limestone is made and used to protect adobe walls on the museum patio. Read about the Apache from their point of view or see examples of Spanish flags in the Otero Hall hallways. In the schoolhouse, an example of school text books over the past 150 years shows that many of the social attitudes found then are still being taught today.
The Arizona Cavalcade of History
The Alan B. Davis Gallery in Otero Hall has sixteen paintings by renowned Western artist William Ahrendt, each depicting a significant event in Arizona’s colorful history. The paintings and their historical narratives were featured as a special 16-part “Cavalcade of History” series in Arizona Highways magazine from 1987 through 1990. Arizona Highways remembers this series as “among the magazine’s most remembered illustrations.” The giclée reproductions on canvas were donated to the Tubac Historical Society in memory of longtime Tubac resident and businessman Alan B. Davis. The collection is on permanent display. Included with park admission.
Unique 1800’s Ambulance
This exhibit at the Tubac Presidio is a rare original 1800’s period carriage called an ambulance. It has been restored and modified to replicate the ambulance that Phocion R. Way, an engraver from Cincinnati, Ohio, rode on from Mesilla on the Rio Grande River to Tucson in June of 1858. Many other figures in Tubac’s Territorial history arrived here on this type of vehicle because of its comfort and speed. Our ambulance was restored over thirteen months by Hanson Wheel and Wagon in Letcher, South Dakota and is the only known vehicle of its type on display anywhere in the world. Included with park admission.
Frontier Printing Press
The Washington Hand Press was used to print Arizona’s first newspaper in 1859 and still does so today. A working print shop shows the equipment needed to produce the Weekly Arizonian. Periodic demonstrations reveal hand press printing, type setting, and other aspects of this marvel of industrial engineering. Included with park admission. See the Events page for the schedule of printing and other craft demonstrations.
The Baca Floats
Luis Maria Cabeza de Baca
was a prominent sheep owner in New Mexico. In 1821 he received a land grand (title) from the Mexican government called the Las Vegas Grande. It comprised 496,467.96 acres of land and encompassed the town of Las Vegas, N.M. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo preserved the status of the Mexican and Spanish grants, but dictated a claim holder could not keep land with a town or for mineral rights. In exchange for relinquishing his original grant, Baca got to pick fiver other parcels of land. Thus began the saga of the five land grants of approximately 100,000 acres each that are known as the Baca Floats. The word float indicated the location-changing nature of these land claims.
Two of the floats were located in what is today the state of New Mexico, one in what is now Colorado, and two others were located in the part of New Mexico that became the Arizona Territory in 1863.