Ruins of Commanding Officer's quarters at Old Fort Lowell, Tucson.
|In use||1873 - 1891|
|Built by||United States|
|Materials||adobe, mesquite, earth|
|Occupants||United States Army|
Fort Lowell was a United States Army post active from 1873 to 1891 on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. Fort Lowell was the successor to Camp Lowell, an earlier Army installation. The Army chose a location just south of the confluence of the Tanque Verde and Pantano creeks, at the point where they form the Rillito River, due to the year-round supply of water during that period. The Hohokam natives had chosen the site centuries earlier, presumably for the same reason. To this day, shards of Hohokam pottery can still be found in the area. The Army claimed a military reservation that encompassed approximately eighty square miles and extended east toward the Rincon Mountains.
The Post of Tucson was established May 20, 1862, after the California Column drove Confederate forces from the area. The post was abandoned in July 1864 and reestablished in July 1865. On August 29, 1866 the post was renamed Camp Lowell in honor of General Charles Russell Lowell, who died from wounds sustained during the Battle of Cedar Creek. Initially located on the east side of Sixth Avenue, between Twelfth and Fourteenth Streets, the post was moved for sanitary reasons to a location about 7 miles (11 km) east of town on March 31, 1873. The post's name was changed to Fort Lowell on April 5, 1879.
Old West Era
The fort played a pivotal role during the Apache Wars, providing additional protection for the Tucson area. Far too large and well-manned to be attacked directly, Fort Lowell provided supplies and manpower for outlying military installations. During its eighteen years of operation, the fort averaged thirteen officers and 239 enlisted men. Among the units present during this period were the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th Cavalry Regiments, as well as the 1st, 8th, and 12th Infantry Regiments.
The orientation of the post was set according to magnetic north. It featured a large parade grounds, officers' quarters, quartermaster and commissary storehouses, corrals, quarters for enlisted men as well as for married non-commissioned officers. The most prominent building on post was the hospital, the adobe remnants of which still stand under a protective structure. A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, graced the area in front of the officers' houses.
Among the more well known officers to have served at Fort Lowell were the young Walter Reed, the Army physician famous for his yellow fever research, and Charles Bendire, the amateur ornithologist after whom Bendire's Thrasher is named.
Fort Lowell today
The fort lay in ruins for many years; its adobe structures slowly melting back into the desert. Pima County eventually converted the bulk of the former post into Old Fort Lowell Park, which features ball fields, tennis and racquetball courts, a large public swimming pool, and the Fort Lowell Museum dedicated to Fort Lowell's days as an active military installation. Fort Lowell also includes a large pond.
The city of Tucson now owns the park. Tucson recently purchased the former Adkins property immediately west of Craycroft Road on which the last of the original officers' quarters stand. Plans indicated that they would be open to the public as a museum. However, high levels of lead paint were found and the buildings were not opened. On the north end of the former Adkins parcel stands a pile of large stones that, according to local lore, formed a wall of the guardhouse in which Geronimo was kept prior to his removal from Arizona.
A reconstructed Fort Lowell was featured in the 1972 film Ulzana's Raid, starring Burt Lancaster. However, the reconstructed fort was actually built in an area just southwest of the Santa Rita Mountains, near Nogales, Arizona.
The Fort Lowell Museum is a branch museum of the Arizona Historical Society, and is located in the reconstructed Commanding Officer's quarters. Exhibits focus on military life on the Arizona frontier. The Fort Lowell Historic District is the neighborhood located on or near Fort Lowell. It is set aside as a historic district.
- http://www.oflna.org/fort_lowell_museum/ftlowell.htm Fort Lowell, retrieved June 28, 2009
- http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/ftlowell/thefort.html The Fort, retrieved June 28, 2009
- Schilling 1960, p. 137.
- http://parentseyes.arizona.edu/ftlowell/elfuerte.html El Fuerte, retrieved June 28, 2009
- Schilling, Frank A. (June 1960). "Military Posts of the Old Frontier: Arizona - New Mexico". The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly (University of California Press) 42 (2): 133-149. JSTOR 41169446.
- Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association - Museum information and history
- Arizona Historical Society Museums
- Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association