Area History

 

Una Historia Subjetiva de Propiedades de Estribaciones de Coronado

A Subjective History of Coronado Foothills Estates 1600 BC to the Present

By Earl (Mac) McGill, 35-plus-year resident of Coronado Foothills Estates (Copyright held by author)
 

Introduction

This historical account is entirely subjective. It has been assembled from nearly 40 years of personal experiences and perceptions while living in Coronado Foothills Estates, as well as from tales told by others. Documented information, such as the arrow point data, will be properly noted.

 Although every effort has been made to be as accurate as possible, accept what you read as one person's view. If you have additional information, or corrections to this version, please e-mail them to the webmasters, via the contacts page. The webmaster will pass them on to the author.
 

In the Beginning (1600 BC – 1969 AD)

When we first moved to Coronado Foothills Estates in the summer of ’69, there were only two homes between the Coronado National Forest boundary and our new address on Cocopas. The pavement on Columbus ended at Finger Rock Wash and the streets to the north were dirt trails. Permanent pools dotted the wash, along with loads of exotic looking minerals and even artifacts. The park was littered with the rusting remnants and trash from the mining operation that was the original claim on the land—evidence of an earlier enterprise that had drawn Link Wilson, our founding father.

Wilson’s wife, Lutie, talked Link into purchasing 116 acres of defunct copper mining land that would eventually become much of the subdivision you live in—for $20,000. Yes, that really does figure out to $172.41 an acre. When Link and his wife first moved here, they lived in a cook’s shack that eventually became their home, and kept 4,000 chickens (which exceeds the CRR two pet limit by 3,998). In 1961 the Wilsons sold all but five acres to developers. (Thanks to Nancy Fuller & Bonnie Henry for the article)

 But Link Wilson was by no means the first to set foot on these foothills. Near the summit of Pontatoc Ridge, the monolithic mountain that rises steadily from west to east along the northern border of our subdivision, a pair of caves on the north-facing side mark the location of what is said to have once been a Spanish silver mine. Indeed, Coronado himself may have looked up and questioned the wisdom of mining so precarious a position at the top of an 800’ sheer rock cliff.
A likely answer to Coronado’s query might have been, “Sire, the mine was already here when we arrived.”

Yes, evidence suggests that the tunnel below the top of Pontatoc Ridge was started in prehistoric times, perhaps mined by Native Americans for the turquoise that can still be found there. Yet they were not the first.
 

Early Inhabitants

pointsUnquestionably, the earliest inhabitants of these hills were the Stone Age folks who left behind the spear and arrow points that were prevalent before this era’s bulldozers and builders buried them, probably forever. One group (“Daitil” points), uncovered at the La Paloma site, have been dated to approximately 1600 B.C, roughly 3,600 years ago. (Stone Age Spear and Arrow Points of the Southwestern United States by Noel D. Justice, p. 17 )

The points (often called “arrow heads”) in the photo were collected in Coronado Foothills, north of Cocopas Rd, saved from oblivion prior to excavation. (The University of Arizona declined accepting these points from the author.)

 

 

 

Lake Havasu (c.1960s?)

lakeNo one is exactly sure where this photo came from, but it clearly shows a lake that once occupied the area between Havasu and Coronado marked on our subdivision map as the "park." I've only seen the lake brim-full once and that was during the '83 flood. The water behind the dam got so high that it began eroding the spillway area on the east side. Residents downstream became concerned that the crumbling dam might suddenly give way and flood their homes, so someone came in with a backhoe and scooped out the spillway, cutting it deeper to reduce the water pressure behind the earthen dam. Later, someone else breached the center section. Speculation that mosquitoes were a problem is unfounded because the lake was teeming with mosquito-eating minnows. I scooped up a bucket for my pond where they reproduced for 22 years, until 2005 when raccoons or some such animal cleaned them out. Also, the stream that came down from what is now the La Paloma area was a year-around trickle. There was a permanent spring above the white house on Coronado across from the park, which has long been cut off by construction. 

 

Development (1962)

Development of the 500 lots, spread between Swan and Alvernon and from Skyline to Ina, began in 1962. Lots 1-74 were the first to include a set of recorded deed restrictions. Over time, five separate blocks of lot numbers were developed in stages--which accounts for differences in deed restrictions.
 Because these restrictions were routinely violated, steps were taken to organize a homeowners association (CFHA). The first meeting, held at Sunrise School, established the purpose of the association, to enforce deed restrictions. The original Board met a minimum of twelve times a year. The fiscal year began on October 14 and dues were set at $15.
 Four sections of CFE do not belong to the association. Lots 14-25 were zoned commercial, allowing a 7-11 store to be built there in 1977, and lots 24 & 25, 300 A-F (six home sites), 408-412, 428-430, and 444-445 were excluded because the owners chose not to sell to the developer. 

 

The Park

Because the land did not lend itself to building homes, the developers petitioned the county to set aside the 11.5 acres as a park. After CFHA was formed in 1971, the Tucson Botanical Society asked to use the park but homeowners balked because they did not cater to people from outside the area coming and going.
 In 1973 CFHA obtained a lease for one dollar a year--provided CFHA clean up the mining machinery and debris that littered the park. Volunteers cleared the area and a scrap metal company hauled away the heavy metal and equipment. A building left standing was used by CFHA until vandalized and removed in 1974. With its removal, yearly insurance premiums dropped from $209 to $50.
 Park boundaries were marked with redwood posts in1978, additional vegetation planted, and a track was cleared for jogging. Volunteers (myself included) constructed concrete picnic tables and BBQ pits. Homeowners planted palo verde seeds and celebrated their newly renovated park with a hot-dog roast. Alas, the picnic area was destroyed by vandals and when the dam was bulldozed 1983, so went the track. 

 

Movie Location (c.1969)

Portions of the movie, C.C. and Company (written by Roger Smith, a local) were filmed on Swan along the east side of our subdivision. I remember nearly driving into a ditch on Swan while gawking at Ann-Margret on the back of Joe Namath's motorcycle. One review of the movie read (in part), It's all put together ineffectually with one exception: Smith is impressive as the motorcyclists' guru; he's a big and handsome young guy who knows how to project. Ann-Margret is cute and Namath is clumsy. 

 

Fire! (c. 1970)

In the decades we’ve lived here, fire has always been a concern. Before the La Paloma Dr. homes were built, a fire swept that area and got a pretty good start coming down the hill toward Coronado. A fleet of aerial tankers were called in, plus busloads of Papago (they were called then) firefighters. They brought the fire under control, but we had to evacuate (Cocopas Rd) for several hours when the smoke became particularly dense. It was an amazing but scary air show that has forever indebted us to the men who fight the fires. 

 

December Snowfall (1971)

On December 8, 1971 Tucson received 6.8 inches of snow, making it the snowiest December on record. For a few hours the kids were able to ski Cocopas! 

 

Lips that Touch Liquor

1974: residents in Coronado Foothills Estates petitioned against liquor licenses for business establishments in the area. Residents claimed they were already overrun with speeders, drinkers and marijuana smokers, up this way to enjoy the view, and liquor sales would only make the problems worse. The Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit later in August 1977 claiming neither it nor the residents had been notified of the license application hearing before the state Liquor Board. Southland Corp., 7-Eleven's parent company, withdrew its plan to open with a liquor license, but the store does now sell beer and wine. 

 

CFHA Loses Court Battle (1977)

In the case of Smith v. Coronado Foothills Estates Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., the court ruled that recovery for wrongful injunction is limited to the amount of the bond unless malicious prosecution is shown. A minority ruling, however, allowed for damages in excess of the bond amount when the bond amount is patently inadequate. IOW, we lost. 

 

Hundred-Year Flood (1983)

Ask anyone who was around here in 1983 what they remember most about that year and they will tell you “the flood.” From September 27 to October 3, 1983 (not during the Monsoon season), a remnant from Tropical Storm Octave stalled on a line from just south of Tucson to Clifton, Arizona. Areas northwest of Tucson were inundated with floodwaters when the Santa Cruz and Gila Rivers spilled over their banks, and the usually dry Rillito became a raging torrent that tore down brand new office buildings and bridges. At one point during the flood, only one bridge connected Tucson to the rest of the world. (Photos)

 Close to home, blockades were set upon Skyline to prevent crossing the Finger Rock Wash between Pontatoc and Columbus. Skyline had become a virtual dam from backed-up water that had formed a lake. It was feared that the roadway might collapse under the pressure.

 A memorable few days, but it was not the worst flooding Coronado Foothills Estates has experienced in my time. That had already occurred a few years earlier. 

 

White Christmas (1986)

White XmasYes, the dream really did come true here in Coronado Foothills--and it wasn't just a dusting. Several inches provided enough to make a snowman.