Pre-History 900 AD - 1250 AD
The 1870s Fort Lowell was located and constructed on land previously inhabited and used between 900 A.D. and 1250 A.D by a large community of the prehistoric Hohokam people, today known as the Hardy Site. Due to the nature of the site, there is abundant surface archeological evidence (such as pottery sherds) to suggest dwellings and cultural artifacts. There is also surface evidence of historical-period artifacts and the probability of buried historical features that are of equal importance in the interpretation of the site.
Fort Lowell Historical Overview
Following the Civil War, the United States Army re-established its presence at the “Post at Tucson” in Arizona Territory, where in the same year it was renamed “Camp Lowell”. The post served as a supply base for all army posts south of the Gila River, and as protection for citizens against Apache Indian attacks. Soldiers also acted as guards for overland supply trains and manned picket posts to protect settlers. They also acted to counter marauding Apache raiders.
The U.S. Army relocated Camp Lowell 7 miles east and north from the town of Tucson to its present location near the Rillito River. Construction began at the new Camp Lowell using adobe for most of the building material, with much of the labor provided by the soldiers themselves.
The camp was known as Fort Lowell, a designation indicating a level of permanence. The Fort grew to have approximately 30 adobe buildings, and included accommodations, a hospital, commissary, stables, trading store, guard house, kitchens, a large parade ground, and tree-lined sidewalks.
Following the abandonment of Fort Lowell, the property was disposed of by the United States Department of the Interior. Many of the buildings were stripped of their useful components and quickly fell into ruin.
Three of the Officers’ Quarters and their kitchens were purchased for use as a sanitarium.
By the early 1920s, and except for a few structures, the Fort buildings were largely in ruins from the effects of the elements and vandalism.
The Sanitarium is sold to Harvey Adkins whose family operated Adkins Steel and Tank Manufacturing Company from 1934 until 2006. Harvey Adkins also built a small house on the site at the intersection of Craycroft and Fort Lowell roads, where he raised a family.
The State of Arizona leased over 40 acres containing the remaining original structures to the Arizona State Museum, part of the University of Arizona.
The Arizona Land Department placed the property up for sale and further buildings were lost as a result.
The construction and enlargement of North Craycroft Road also impacted the site and effectively divided the original fort into two distinct areas: east and west.
To the west of the Fort Lowell Park the Commissary building and ruins of the hospital remain.
The one intact Officers Quarters on the Adkins Steel parcel representing the most complete original structure from the 1870s Fort Lowell.
The reconstructed Officer's Quarters and Summer Kitchen, located on the east side of Craycroft were constructed from adobe. However, they are not in the same location, nor do they align with the original structures.
The Fort Lowell Historic District was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. At the time of the nomination, the portion of the original Fort Lowell then owned by Adkins Steel was not included within the nomination boundary.
In the 2004 Bond election, Pima County voters elected to support the purchase of the Adkins Steel property.
The Adkins Steel and Tank Manufacturing Company remained in operation until 2006, when Harry Adkins, son of Harvey Adkins, retired from the manufacturing business in the summer of 2006. Following negotiations, the property was transferred to the City of Tucson in a real estate deal that placed ownership of the Adkins property with the City. The bond funds originally designated for purchase of the property in 2004 were re-designated for use in the repair and restoration of the property.
Following transfer of the Adkins property to the City of Tucson in 2006, it is possible that the portion of the Fort containing the remaining original Officers’ Quarters from ca.1875 can be included in the boundary description of the Fort Lowell Historic District.
Compiled by Simon Herbert that includes information contained in:
Fort Lowell Historic District. Portfolio II, Tucson, 2004, and
Maize Fields to Main Streets An Overview of Cultural Resources
by SWCA. SWCA Report No. 02-18. Tucson, 2003
Pima County Cultural Resources and
Historic Preservation Office.
Office Phone No: 520 740 6684