The Tucson Museum of Art’s block of historic properties is located on the northwest corner of what was once the Presidio of San Augustin del Tucson, established in August 1775 by Lt. Col. Hugo O’Conor, of the Spanish army in Mexico, and Fr. Francisco Garces of San Xavier Mission. By 1783 the adobe walls around the Presidio were complete and stood 12 feet high and 3 feet thick. The Presidio was roughly bounded by present-day Main Avenue, Pennington Street, Church Avenue, and Washington Street. The one entrance was located on the west wall where the Fish House now stands. By the time the wall was completed, there were 72 soldiers in the garrison, the largest of New Spain’s chain of forts. The Presidio was comprised of the soldiers’ living quarters, a general store, chapel, cemetery, stables, and a well. The buildings were single-storied flat structures also made of adobe similar to the rooms in La Casa Cordova.

The arrival of the railroad in 1880 spurred tremendous growth in Tucson and made new building materials cheap and readily available. Older homes were updated with pitched roofs and both interior and exterior functional and decorative elements. Most of the newer homes in the neighborhood were built to reflect styles popular in the states such as Mission Revival which is evident in the Corbett House. Many of these homes continue to serve as residences, shops, offices, and cafes in what is today known as the El Presidio Historic District.

The Museum’s historic block represents five houses built between the mid-1850s to 1907 surrounding the modern museum building that houses most of the galleries.

The J. Knox Corbett House, completed in 1907, is a mission-revival style two-story home restored and furnished with period pieces from the American Arts and Crafts era. It is open by appointment only or for public tours on Wednesday mornings at 11:00 am from October through April.

La Casa Cordova, one of the oldest buildings in Tucson, is home to the seasonal exhibition El Nacimiento. It is an excellent example of a Sonoran row house that was a popular building style in the late 19th century. The rooms of La Casa Cordova, including El Nacimiento, are open November – March only. The courtyard is open year round.

The Edward Nye Fish House, known as the John K. Goodman Pavilion of Western Art, also dates from the late 1800s and is home to the Art of the American West collection.

The Romero House, believed to have been built in 1860, has undergone numerous alterations and is now home to the Tucson Museum of Art’s ceramics studio offering studio art classes to both children and adults.

The Stevens/Duffield House, also known as the Palice Pavilion, dates back to the late 1800s and houses the Art of Latin America collection of pre-Columbian, Mexican folk art, and colonial works.

For Your Information

Records for buildings on the historic block are housed in the Research Library and open to the public during regular library hours.

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