Dunbar Historic District

The Dunbar Historic District is a neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona that holds a rich history and cultural significance for the city’s African American community. It is located in the heart of Tucson’s downtown area, and is bounded by Stone Avenue on the west, Fifth Avenue on the east, 17th Street on the north, and 19th Street on the south.

The district was named after the Dunbar Elementary School, which was built in 1918 and was the first public school for African American students in Tucson. The school was named after Paul Laurence Dunbar, a famous African American poet and writer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The school served as a cornerstone of the African American community in Tucson, and was a hub for social and cultural activity.

The Dunbar Historic District was officially designated by the City of Tucson in 1994, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes a mix of residential, commercial, and institutional buildings, many of which were constructed between the 1920s and 1950s. These buildings reflect the unique architectural styles of the time, including Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, and Art Deco.

One of the most significant buildings in the Dunbar Historic District is the former Dunbar Elementary School, which now serves as the Dunbar Pavilion. The building was designed by Tucson architect Henry O. Jaastad and features a Spanish Colonial Revival style with white stucco walls and red-tiled roofs. The school closed in 1978, and the building was later restored and repurposed as a community center and performing arts venue.

Another notable building in the district is the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, which was founded in 1917 and moved to its current location in the Dunbar neighborhood in 1926. The church is a prime example of the Mission Revival style, with a distinctive bell tower and arched entryway. The church has been a pillar of the African American community in Tucson for over a century, and has hosted numerous community events and social justice campaigns.

The Dunbar Historic District also includes several historic homes, many of which were built in the early 20th century. These homes are unique in their architecture and reflect the diverse styles of the time, ranging from Craftsman bungalows to Mediterranean Revival villas. The district also features several commercial buildings, including the former Cotton Club, which was a popular jazz venue in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Dunbar Historic District is not only significant for its architecture and history, but also for its cultural significance to Tucson’s African American community. The district served as a hub of social and cultural activity for the community, with events such as the annual Juneteenth celebration, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The Dunbar neighborhood also played an important role in the Civil Rights movement, with local leaders such as Dr. Richard A. Jr., who was a prominent physician and civil rights activist in Tucson.

In recent years, the Dunbar Historic District has undergone a revitalization effort to preserve its historic buildings and promote cultural tourism. The City of Tucson has invested in the restoration of several buildings, including the Dunbar Pavilion, and has designated the district as a cultural heritage tourism destination. The Dunbar neighborhood is also home to several community organizations, such as the Dunbar/Spring Neighborhood Association, which work to promote and preserve the district’s history and culture.

In conclusion, the Dunbar Historic District is a unique and important part of Tucson’s history and cultural heritage. The district’s architecture, including the former Dunbar Elementary School and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, reflect the unique styles of the early 20th century, and serve as a reminder of the district

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