Through Our Parents Eyes
Jump to Menu Jump to Content

Developing Marshall Square, 1922-1926
Servicing the West University Community

As the 1920s began, another business venture caught Tom's eye; the development of commercial real estate. At the time, most businesses in Tucson were in the downtown area. The 1924 City Directory lists 12 drug stores, six book stores, 35 restaurants, 25 barber shops, four beauty parlors, one downtown post office, 22 meat markets, and 96 grocery stores. However, the closest business establishments to the University were two homes converted to restaurants; the Varsity Inn at 940 East Third Street and the Yucca Tea Room, 841 North Tyndall Avenue. The next closest stores were then located in the 400 block of North Fourth Avenue.

As early as 1905, Louise had been purchasing land on the north side of what would become the 900 block of East Third Street (University Boulevard). The location was ideal for commercial development as it was conveniently located at the Main Gate entrance to the University and at the end of the trolley line. As Louise and Tom had traveled through California, they noted several towns where rows of brick stores were built. Tom had even photographed some of them. Pasadena's commercial district in particular impressed the couple, and influenced the design of the complex to be built in Tucson.

Foreground land is the future site of University Square, now know as Marshall Square. The two structures left and right of center photo were bus stops constructed of lava rock and terra cotta tile roofs. The rounded structure in the background was the "Flying Cage" or mammoth aviary.
Foreground land is the future site of University Square, now known as Marshall Square
or Main Gate. The two structures left and right of center photo were bus stops constructed
of lava rock and terra cotta tile roofs. The rounded structure in the background was the
"Flying Cage" or mammoth aviary.

In 1922, Louise and Tom Marshall constructed a building to house five stores. The corner was occupied by the University Drug Store. These private improvements along University Boulevard would eventually result in the University realigning its Main Gate to be in line with the city street.
In 1922, Louise and Tom Marshall constructed a building to house five stores. The corner
was occupied by the University Drug Store. These private improvements along University
Boulevard would eventually result in the University realigning its Main Gate to be in line
with the city street.

In 1922, site preparation began for a brick building which extended from Park Avenue almost to Tyndall Avenue and would house six businesses. This commercial center represented the "first suburban shopping center in Tucson." By 1924, occupants filled the units and were doing a brisk business. From west to east the business were: University Barber Shop, Copper Kettle Restaurant, University Station Post Office, University Market, University Book Store, and University Drug Store. He wanted to include a bank in the complex, but the banks of those days did not have branches. Across the street, at the southeast corner of Tyndall and University Boulevard, a automotive service station was built in 1925 and leased to Texaco.

The Marshall-owned, Texaco leased gasoline station looking northeast. Marshall Square stores show to the left of the gas station.
The Marshall-owned, Texaco-leased gasoline station looking northeast.
Marshall Square stores show to the left of the gas station
.

Evo DeConcini, who served as a Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, Arizona Attorney General, a Pima County Superior Court Judge and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, worked as a manager of the Texaco station. In his biography he relates this anecdote.

"I knew Mrs. Marshall personally because I worked for her. In 1926, I opened up a service station for her on Third Street and Tyndall, one block from the University gate, and I worked at that station for about a year. I was the so-called manager, but we had only one other employee. Johnny West, brother of Mrs. Oliver Drachman. We worked together for a long time, and I enjoyed my association with him. I will always recall one amusing incident at that station. We had an old-fashioned cash register, which had one drawer, a handle and a long tape, which would record our sales. The tapes we turned in were many feet long. After I had been there a while, Mr. Marshall came down and said we were short one quart of oil. Well that was a big surprise and I laughed to myself -- oil was twenty-five cents a quart and was in tanks and not cans as it is served today. How they ever figured we were short a quart of oil, I'll never know, but that was the end of it. No one was ever docked twenty-five cents from their $100.00 a month salary." [Hey! It's Past 80! A Biography of a Busy Life, 1981, p. 203]

The immediate success of the University Square stores motivated the Marshall's to expand. In 1926, along the Park Avenue frontage and connected to the corner drug store, the building was expanded north to accommodate the University Gift Shop and the Green Lantern Caterers. Behind the main stores and south of the alley Tom referred to as College Avenue, they constructed a separate building for the College Ice Cream plant.

Notations in Louise's journal give some indication how this important commercial center was developed. The cost to build the structure on Third Street was listed as $37,000 and both M. H. Starkweather and Henry O. Jaastad, prominent architects in Tucson at the time, are mentioned without any indication as to what part of the development they might have designed. John C. and M. M. Hale were the building contractors. Louise, always careful in her attention to detail, unfortunately was distracted from the project when her mother died in Massachusetts on March 22, 1923.

Another conflict which arose came from the University of Arizona. President von KleinSmid, a dynamic individual who had led the University since before World War I, developed grandiose plans for expansion to the west. The University experienced rapid growth during and after the war, and the administration wanted to acquire land west of Park Avenue for new development. Expansion ultimately took place to the east of Old Main, and Dr. von KleinSmid moved on to greener pastures at the University of Southern California. Not until years later would the University realize its long desire to expand westward.

A popular, but short lived development north of the stores took place in January 1929 and remained until September 1931. A miniature golf course named Tiny Links was constructed there on the southern portion of the Nelson Block (the Arizona Historical Society and a bank were eventually built on the northern portion of the block.). Lighting allowed for nighttime golfing, and the grounds were landscaped with cactus. Competition arrived when a new course was constructed with better facilities and amenities about half a mile west on University Boulevard. The Tom Thumb course, backed by substantial investors, opened in June 1930 between Trinity Presbyterian Church and what is now Time Market.

By the late 1920s, University Square, the pioneering retail shopping complex, began to experience competition from two directions. In 1929, Zuni Court, a half circle of garden apartments on University near Euclid, was expanded and renamed the Geronimo Hotel. The two-story building provided resident accommodations on the top floor while the first floor was dominated by Martin's Drug Store #7 and a Piggley Wiggley store. The Geronimo upgrade motivated the Marshalls to totally renovate the Santa Catalina Apartments in the summer of 1928. The new competition helped bring about the demise of the Marshall's Grocery. It is interesting to note, that in the 1990s the Marshall Foundation now owns the Geronimo complex.

Three blocks to the north along Park Avenue even more competition arose. On the southwest corner, a Pay'N'Takit Market was built. Across Speedway would be a corner drugstore, a grocery, bakery, barber shop and shoe repair shop. The eastern corners were dominated by automotive services; Talmage Service Station (north) and Baum & Adamson (south). New residential districts nearby - Jefferson Park, Lester Ranch, the Old World Addition - were being developed which drew people and businesses to the north of the University. The University crowd continued to take advantage of the goods and services offered by the merchants of University Square.

Continue with Pastime Park On The North Side Of Town