Sonoran Row House/Gift Shop & Exhibits
The main entrance for the Presidio Museum is through the Sonoran Row House that is home to the museum’s Gift Shop and exhibits. The north room of the house was built in 1866 by Juan Siquieros and Solded Jacome. The central and south rooms were build in the late 1870s. Look up and you’ll notice the variety of materials used to build the ceilings in the home, which are original. The north room uses saguaro ribs. The center room’s (Gift Shop’s) ceiling were made from packing crates, and you can even see some of the writing that was on the crates near the north end of the room. The south room’s ceiling consists of a “manta” cloth ceiling to keep bugs off furniture and beds. The floor planking in the north room is original but it was taken from all of the floors in the house to cover the north room.
Juan Siquieros and Soledad Jacome had six daughters. Juan left after the birth of the last daughter, and Soledad supported her children as a seamstress and by renting out rooms.
Territorial Courtyard/Soledad’s Garden/Fig Tree
The Territorial Courtyard was built to resemble….
Soledad’s Garden is a welcoming Territorial-era (1854-1912) garden that features plantings and interpretive signage linked to the story of Soledad Jacome. The garden is designed to reflect this period following the Gadsden Purchase and the traditional foodways and herbal remedies of the interior courtyards of Hispanic families in Tucson.
The Black Mission fig tree in the Territorial Courtyard is representative of fig trees that the Spanish brought with them from Spain. It is a special heritage variety named after the contemporary Sosa-Carrillo family. From their ancient courtyard higuera (fig tree), cuttings were taken and planted in places like the Presidio and Mission Garden. The Presidio Museum’s fig tree was awarded “Champion Tree” status by the Arizona Tree Council in 2021 because of its history, size, and prominence.
Presidio Enclosure/Re-created Presidio Walls
The Presidio enclosure seen today is located on the northeast corner of the original Spanish presidio (fort). The re-created walls encompass two acres of the original 11-acre presidio that was active from approximately 1775 to to 1856. At the height of occupation, a community of nearly 400 people lived inside the presidio. This includes the soldados (soldiers) and la gente (the people), non-military residents who worked to supply the military with supplies and food.
Many of the Presidio Museum’s events are held in the Presidio Enclosure, including our Living History Days, held the second Saturday of every month from October through April. During this event, our docents and volunteers dress in period costume and re-enact the daily life at the presidio, demonstrating blacksmithing, soldier drills and cannon fire, bread baking and tortilla making, children’s games, and many other types of activities that would have occurred during the presidio’s height of occupation.
Located within the Presidio Enclosure is the Native American Pit House, the Horno, the Comal, the Soldier’s Quarters, the Mural, and the Milpita Garden.
Native American Pit House
This pit house was discovered during the excavation of the site on which the Presidio Museum now sits…
The garrison at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson was made up of approximately 60 soldiers, both single and married with families. The Soldier’s Quarters at the Presidio Museum presents both a family dwelling (on the left as you walk in) and a barracks for single soldiers (on the right).
Soldiers with families were provided a private space with rough wood furniture, usually a table for preparing and food and a bed for the parents. Children slept on the dirt floor. The doors were made of cow hide strips. There were often no windows, as they were built in a row along the inside of the presidio walls. Most of the cooking was done outside on the Comal (griddle) and in the Horno (oven). Personal items and extra clothes were kept in a trunk. Chamber pots were used during the night and the contents were most likely thrown over the wall.
Single soldiers lived in a barracks-style dwelling and slept on straw mats, in bed rolls, or on rough-hewn beds. They had small trunks to hold their personal items. They hung their uniforms on hooks on the wall and stored their weapons in the barracks as well.
The mural painted on the south wall of the Presidio Museum reflects what the original presidio would have looked like looking south. You may notice that there are several different types of uniforms worn by the soldiers in this mural. The Catalonia Volunteers (Spanish soldiers from Barcelona) were light infantry soldiers who wore blue coats. The Dragoons of Spain (Spanish calvary) wore red coats and carried a 9-foot lance and adarga shields. The Presidio Troops (local troops from the area) wore blue coats under a long beige cuera – a sleeveless jacket made of seven layers of deerskin to protect them from Native American arrows.
An interesting note about this mural is that several Presidio Museum volunteers were used for the faces of the soldiers included in the mural.
Next to Presidio’s adobe’s wall, you will find the Milpita Garden, a small garden shaded by a mission grape taken from the Baja California mission of San Borja as cuttings. This garden represents the crops of the indigenous peoples of the Santa Cruz Valley and includes the traditional trifecta of corn, beans, and squash. These different plantings are mutually beneficial with the cornstalks providing a structure for the bean vines to cling and grow up from, while the large leaves of the squash provide critical shading to improve moisture retention for all three crops in the desert. The word milpa comes from the Aztec language, Nahuatl, and refers to a cultivated field with the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) growing system. As Summer agricultural crops, the three different seeds are planted together in the Spring and harvested in the Fall. The “-ita” ending (suffix) to milpa is a diminutive meaning small. These foodstuffs were the backbone of the local Tucsonense cuisine persisting even after Spanish contact and into the present.