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Posted on: October 29, 2018

Old Highway 80 Recognized As "Historic"

US 80, Gila Bend, Gila Station, 1930s Photo courtesy Dave Devine

“ARIZONA”S OLD US 80 DESIGNATED A STATE HISTORIC ROAD” 

Arizona’s Old US Route 80 was designated an Historic Road by the Arizona State Transportation Board. This is the first road to receive this designation in over 15 years. Arizona’s portion of this cross-county highway was an economic and cultural arterial that connected rural communities with urban cores. It shaped both the American experience of the Southwest and the development of cities that flanked its roadbed. According to Demion Clinco, CEO of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, former State Representative and lead author of the nomination, “The designation of this uniquely American historic highway represent years of community advocacy and a long term commitment of dozens of community groups and stakeholders.” He continued, “This highway reflects early and mid-twentieth century automotive culture and connects the iconic historic communities of southern and central Arizona.”

 

Not only does the road connect a myriad of cultural landscapes and historic places, it is itself a unique historic resource. Like Route 66 to the north, the Arizona segment of US 80 shaped the West. Along its path developed roadside architecture: service stations, diners, attractions, neon signs, motels and a host of other resources woven into communities and though rural vistas combining to create a distinct and unique sense of place. The road winds its way from the New Mexico border through Douglas, Bisbee, Tombstone, St. David, Benson, Tucson, Florence, Apache Junction, Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, Buckeye, Gila Bend and Yuma before crossing into California. 


State Senator Lisa Otondo, a Yuma native representing Arizona Legislative District 4 that stretches from Yuma to Tucson, and who has worked on the designation effort for over 4 years said, “This designation celebrates Arizona’s rich history. Thanks to the hard work of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation and individuals like Demion Clinco, Arizona Department of Transportation Director John S. Halikowski and members of State Transportation Board including chairman William F. Cuthbertson, I am certain this historic designation will create heritage tourism and boost the economics of the communities it connects.” Senator Otondo continued, “From Yuma to Benson and Gila Bend to Florence, the State needs to enhance and fund programs that support rural economic development. While it is important to designate these unique cultural assets, we must also continue to find ways to economically support local businesses and enhance the economies of our historic communities that make Arizona unique.”

 

The destination of the Arizona segment of this national highway links to the designation of Historic US Route 80 by the California Department of Transportation. The supporters of the designation hope other states including New Mexico and Texas will designate their portions of the old highway.


Background

Beginning in 2012 the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation began the inventory, survey and mapping of the historic alignment of US Route 80. (1926 – 1977) across the State of Arizona from the New Mexico border through Douglas, Bisbee, Benson, Tucson, Florence, Apache Junction, Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, Buckeye, Gila Bend and Yuma into California.

 

The Arizona US Route 80 Historic Highway application was prepared by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation and was developed through numerous site and corridor surveys and with mapping support from Tyler Theriot and Desert Archaeology, Inc. The application utilized the superb work of Jeff Jensen’s publication and detailed guide “Drive the Broadway of America! The US 80 and Bankhead Highway across the American Southwest” and "Good Roads Everywhere: A History of Road Building in Arizona" prepared for the ADOT Environmental Planning Section by Melissa Keane and J. Simon Bruder and includes the superb national context essay: "US Route 80 The Dixie Overland Highway" by Richard F. Weingroff of the Federal Highway Administration. In addition to the available secondary sources, primary research was undertaken at University of Arizona Special Collections, Arizona Historical Society research library, and extensive field research along the route.

 

The application documents the historic resources connected by Arizona US Route 80 and identifies the intrinsic qualities that define the Arizona USRoute 80 experience. The application provides a historic context that tracks the early highway development connecting with extant physical resources including: sites, objects, buildings, structures, monuments and districts along the way. For more information on this project and to download the application visit: https://preservetucson.org/stories/historic-arizona-u-s-route-80-designation/

 

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