Thursday, July 30, 2009

EMPS: The Two Towers

When Carly assigned "Landmarks" as the topic for this week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, I was briefly stumped. Over the years, this blog has featured lots of photos of Tucson landmarks already: historic buildings, ballparks, Tucson's one downtown skyscraper, interesting bridges, public statues and so on. What was left that I hadn't already photographed for you? And, could I get to it on a day when I was scheduled to give blood and Pepper had a grooming appointment?

But as I dropped Pepper off at PetSmart on Tuesday, I thought of a few places. One, the Mission San Xavier del Bac, is too far south of the city to reach quickly, but there was something else that I'd been meaning to photograph for a while, just off Broadway Boulevard near Reid Park. As I drove toward it, with Cayenne still in the car and perhaps a little nervous at the absence of her "sister," I came across another major Tucson landmark, one I should have thought of before. Here it is:

5151 East Broadway is the tallest building for miles around.
From the Picasa albumTwo Towers

This is the office building at 5151 East Broadway Blvd. As far as I can tell, the street address is the complex's only name. It stands at the corner of Broadway and Rosemont, across the street from Barnes and Noble and very close to a travel agency I worked for in the late 1980s.

Built in 1975, it is the fourth tallest building in Tucson, and can be seen from miles away. Tucson doesn't go in for skyscrapers much, partly I suspect because nobody wants to block the mountain views we have in every direction. 5151 is the exception. According to a really neat page on Google 3D Warehouse, it has 16 floors and is about 246 feet high. My late mom's friend and therapist has an office there, as does one of my recruiters.

In front of the tower on the Broadway side of the property is a long, flat annex, which has recently been gutted. I don't know why this is, whether there was a fire or a need to remove asbestos, or they just want to redo it for some reason.

5151 makes the Rincon Mountains look short by comparison.

Parking for 5151 is on a large, slightly sloped deck behind the tower, accessed primarily from Rosemont. This flat expanse makes the tower stand out more than it does from Broadway itself.

And check out the view from the back of the parking lot!

It's kind of hard to get a sense of the size of the building. If you're back far enough to photograph the top of it, chances are good that the view of the bottom is obstructed. Also, the fact that it's broad rather than narrow mitigates the impression of height. But trust me; it's not a small building. And by the way, I appreciate its modern style.

A little over two miles west of 5151 is a very different tower, from a very different period in Tucson's architectural history. This is the El Conquistador water tower. Built in 1928, when Country Club Road was at the edge of the city rather than in the middle of it, the tower is all that remains of the ambitious but doomed El Conquistador Hotel. According to the book Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City by C. L. Sonnichsen, the project ran out of money before the hotel was completed. Even after it was finished it continued to lose money, having too few rooms to offset the cost of its opulence. The El Conquistador underwent bankruptcy reorganization in 1935, changed hands a few times, and lost its appeal as the city grew up around it, particularly the El Con shopping center, which opened across Broadway from it in 1959.

The hotel was razed in 1968 - all except for the water tower, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is designated as an official Tucson Landmark. These days it's tucked away about a block behind Broadway, between an urgent care facility and an unmarked condo or apartment building, a few blocks north of Hi Corbett Field. Several other features from the hotel have been moved to other locations around Tucson, including a copper dome that adorns the Casa Blanca shopping center on North Oracle.

The "Spanish Colonial Revival" or "Arizona Mission" style was added to the tower in 1932 under the direction of Tucson architect Roy Place, who was also responsible for the Hotel Congress and a number of other historic Tucson buildings. My favorite detail on the water tower itself is this weather vane, depicting a miner and his donkey.

Be sure to check Carly's blog Ellipsis each week for the Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot. I'll have an entry sometime tomorrow morning for Steven's Feline and Furball Friday, followed a little later in the day by the new Weekend Assignment - assuming I can think of a new topic by then! Any last-minute suggestions?


1 comment:

Jama said...

That tower sure look majestic but I'm really awed by the beautiful mountains that's around your town!