The stone age survives in Tucson

The stone age survives in Tucson

One of the most distinct only-in-Tucson features of the University of Arizona is the lava rock wall along Park Avenue and other old parts of campus.

The rock came from a quarry that operated from the 1880s until 1956 at the base of Sentinel Peak, aka "A" Mountain.

There are a handful of houses built of that black and gray rock. Most of the buildings on the adjacent Tumamoc Hill are volcanic. And dozens, if not hundreds, of houses in the central city have porch pillars or walls built with Sentinel Peak basalt.

About 30 years ago my husband and I salvaged several dump-truck loads of volcanic rock from the Sigma Chi fraternity house on First Street.

I happened to drive by one morning when I saw the house -- built in 1931 -- being demolished. I stopped and asked the contractor if I could have the rock. He said yes, if I made it quick. My husband immediately rented a truck from the old Erv's on Fort Lowell. He handled the first load but then had to go to work and left me to take over. I was so scared of hitting something that I drove every round trip between downtown and the UA straddling the middle of Speedway.  My husband has used that rock in the construction of several houses over the years. 

One more little bit of Tucson rock history. Barry Goldwater was a member of that Sigma Chi house in 1932.

The Menlo Park neighborhood, just a stone's throw from the old quarry has at least three stone houses.

 

There are several stone buildings on Tumamoc Hill. The Arizona Geological Survey says the geology of Tumamoc and Sentinel Peak is dominated by 20- to 30-million-year old rock.

The wall along Park Avenue on the University of Arizona campus. Old photos show this wall was there by at least 1916.

The wall along Park Avenue on the University of Arizona campus. Old photos show this wall was there by at least 1916.

This house in the West University neighborhood has a variety of types of stone.

This house in the West University neighborhood has a variety of types of stone.

Tucson shows it colors

Tucson shows it colors

What Tucson needs: More shady arcades

What Tucson needs: More shady arcades