Saturday, August 15, 2009

The first car in Tucson

The La Siesta Motel was a most fitting site for a Tucson Birthday event. The evening was perfect with warm weather, the occasional cooling mist from an overhead system, live mariachi music and the smell of a barbeque grill. La Siesta opened up several rooms for viewing and Demion Clinco of Frontier Consulting gave a 30 minute presentation on Historic Miracle Mile Tucson’s Northern Auto Gateway. The slide presentation outlined the importance of U.S. Routes 80, 89 and Arizona State Route 84 as they converged at Miracle Mile (originally named Casa Grande Highway) and Oracle Rd. This corridor was developed with dozens of motor courts, motels and businesses that catered to travelers, truckers and their vehicles. By the mid 1950s, over 100 motels were operating in Tucson along the highway corridor. As they competed for business their creative use of neon signs flourished.

My favorite story from the presentation is that in 1899, Dr. Hiram W. Fenner became the first Tucson car owner. The car arrived by train and he only managed to drive it a few blocks from the station before he ran into a saguaro cactus. It wasn’t until 1905 that Dr. Fenner was issued Tucson’s first driver’s license.


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