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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Tucson turns 239 years old

    Kyle Hansen
    Kyle Hansen / The Daily Wildcat Mayor Jonathan Rothschild cuts the cake during Tucson’s birthday celebration at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014 in Tucson, Ariz. Tucson is 239 years old

    Although the birthday cake did not have 239 candles on it, there was still plenty of merriment at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum this Saturday to signal Tucson’s historic milestone.

    Mayor Jonathan Rothschild led an annual celebration at the museum with a crowd of onlookers and supporters of the museum. Rothschild offered a proclamation to officially recognize the day of celebration and then proceeded to make the first slice into the decorative birthday cake, which was donated by a nearby Bashas’.

    “It is particularly appropriate that we are here at this depot,” said Rothschild, who is a third-generation native Tucsonan. Rothschild said that the transportation depot significantly changed Tucson’s landscape when the railroad opened back in 1880. The depot presently houses a small museum with artifacts dating back to when Tucson first welcomed the railroad.

    “We can’t forget the big rails here,” Rothschild said, “because they are the key to our success.” Rothschild continued to say that he believed the Amtrak station was presently under attack by lawmakers in Congress.

    There was still plenty of love for the railroad to be seen at the birthday celebration. Volunteers of the museum handed out paper train-conductor hats and Amtrak-themed coloring books to the cavalcade of young families present at the event.

    “The train helped bring new residents to the town,” said Stephen Hackney, a museum volunteer. “It’s a nice, tangible connection to the city’s past.”

    Tucson was first founded by Hugh O’Conor in 1775 but would not become a part of United States territory until 1854. When O’Conor first founded the city as a military post in the 18th century, he named it the Presidio Royale San Augustine de Tucson. After the introduction of the railroad in 1880, Tucson’s population had reached 8,000 residents. By 1950, it had expanded to 120,000 residents.

    “The enormity of [Tucson] is almost staggering,” said John Champney, a guest at the birthday celebration. Champney is a resident of Detroit and first came to Tucson in the late 1950s when he was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

    Champney said that he tries to venture back to the Old Pueblo as often as possible since he really enjoys the Spanish motifs of the city.

    “I come to Tucson as often as I can to vacation,” Champney said. “The weather [and] the culture [are] just great.”

    Follow Kevin Reagan @KevinReaganUA

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