In The Steps of Esteban: Tucson's African American Heritage

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Special Topics & Publications

The Negro of Tucson, Past and Present
by James Walter Yancy
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Images from James Walter Yancy Thesis Photographs
page 3 of 4


The Orndorff Hotel
The Orndorff Hotel

Orndorff Hotel Dining Room
The entrance to the Orndorff Hotel Dining Room

In the mid-1890s, Mrs. Lee came to Tucson to open a restaurant run exclusively for a white clientele. Mrs. Lee had originally come to Arizona in 1888 to cook for a wealthy Eastern family but "sought greater opportunities for the application of her unique 'cuisine art'," so she opened a cafe in Phoenix that catered to white tourists. "After a few years, her place became the most exclusive eating house in Phoenix." Upon her arrival in Tucson, Mrs. Lee made arrangements to rent the dining room at the Orndorff hotel, "which had been closed for some time due to the fact that it was not profitable to the hotel to operate it." Although her restaurant "received the patronage of the best people in Tucson" she was forced to close after three years due to poor health and died in the early 1900s.

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