Westside Neighborhood Names
Joaquin Islas and Alex Rodriguez
Stories my nana told me ... Loco Lencho
How does a barrio or a neighborhood get its name? As far as we can tell,
if you can't trace it back to its developer, it's like folklore: there's no
definitive story, just a lot of versions on similar themes. Here's some
stories we've collected on the neighborhoods and how they got their names.
Sobaco means armpit in Spanish. The way area residents spell the name,
however, is: Sovaco. This barrio originated around 1930. Area sometimes
referred to-especially by outsiders-as El Rio.
"It got its name because of the way that street Riverview curves around
like that, like the shape of an armpit."
"It was from the kids of other neighborhoods, the way they would tease
each other. You're from Sovaco, you smell like an armpit."
(John Pazos, 7/8/97)
We could only find one story on Jollyville's name. This story says that
Jollyville got its name because kids from other neighborhoods like Sovaco
would tease Jollyville kids and the Jollyville kids would never get mad,
they would just say: we live in a nicer neighborhood. So the other kids
said these kids were "jolly" because you couldn't make them mad. And
"jolly" led to "Jollyville."
(Source: John Pazos, 7/8/97)
Apparently Barrio Anita sits on an area where the Spanish once placed tonto
("tame") Apaches. These Apaches sold this land to the Spanish in 1828.
Anita used to also be known as barrio de los hilachos or ragged ones.
(Sources: James Officer, Hispanic Arizona, University of Arizona Press:
1989; Angel Ignacio Gomez and John Henry Chilcott, Outline Of Mexican
American Education, The Department Of Learning And Staff Development,
Tucson Public Schools: 1976)
"Anita Street was the main street in the barrio, with all the cross
streets leading into it. According to Tucson resident Julia Soto, a woman
whose first name was Anita, used to live in the barrio and hold lively,
outdoor patio dances at her home. The street, and later the barrio, were
named after her."
(Tucson Citizen, 7/27/79)
"There used to be a healer woman over there...my mother told me. They
named the barrio after her...her name was Anita."
(Gilbert Jimenez, 7/7/97)
Barrio Hollywood is now considered to be bordered on the north by Speedway,
on the south by St. Mary's, on the west by Silverbell, and on the east by
the Santa Cruz River. But in the past, Grande Avenue, bisecting today's
Hollywood, was considered a dividing line. On the east of Grande, the
neighborhood was originally known as Riverside Park, a little subdivision
that Mexican families began to move to from older Tucson barrios around
1920. The area west of Grande began developing in the thirties with the
subdivision name El Rio Park. Also, Lydia Carranza Waer (b. 1929), who grew
up in Riverside Park, used to hear people in the thirties refer to the area
west of Grande as Beverly Hills.
(Source: Thomas E. Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in
Tucson, 1854-1941, The University of Arizona Press: 1986; Lydia Carranza
Waer interview, 6/25/97)
"They thought they were stars over there in Hollywood-that's how it
got its name."
(John Pazos, 7/8/97)
"Jim Corbett told me that Hollywood was the name of a baseball team that
played for the neighborhood in the wider community. Or maybe it's because
the women were so gorgeous."
(Margaret Mckenna, 6/26/97)
"The name Hollywood originated in the Depression-it was sort of a
(Lydia Carranza Waer, 6/30/97)
"When El Rio Elementary was renamed Manzo after former principal Ricardo
Manzo, Tucson bureaucrats began to refer to the area as Manzo. But we
resisted the name. Hollywood already had a name."
In 1915, a man named Schwalen was the owner of much of the property that
now comprises Menlo Park-a subdivision name which reflected Schwalen's
fondness for the town of Menlo Park in the San Francisco Bay Area. Menlo
Park, California was named in 1854 by two Irishmen, Dennis J. Oliver and D.
C. McGlynn, ranchers and brothers-in-law, who erected a gate in front of
their shared property to recall their hometown of Menlough (menlough is
Gaelic for lake) in County Galway, Ireland. There was only enough room on
the gate for Menlo Park, however, and when the Southern Pacific Railroad
came through in 1863, the station was named after the gate and the name
began its trek into officialdom.
When Schwalen's subdivisions first went on the market, they had deed
restrictions against Mexican Americans (except for the subdivision sections
south of Congress). These deed restrictions were eventually dropped since
the area was considered by many Anglos to be the 'wrong side' of the tracks
and the river (there was no "stable" bridge across the Santa Cruz River at
the time). Nevertheless, the area did attract a significant number of Anglo
families. In fact, the area was predominantly Anglo until after World War
(Sources: Alex Kimmelman, 7/16/97; Jeanne Bone, Menlo Park (California)
Historical Association, 7/16/97; Thomas Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses: The
Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854-1941, The University of Arizona Press:
This area was named after an Anglo doctor who lived
in this area for several years, a Dr. Kroeger. He served the area as a
general practitioner. Jennie Morales, a longtime resident, said he
delivered her as a baby. The area was also nicknamed Sal Si Puedes due to
occasional flooding leaving only one or two exits out of the area. Area
has a rural flavor; people keep horses and other livestock there.
(Sources: Tucson Citizen, 9/27/79; Jennie Morales, 7/16/97; Outline of
Mexican American Education, Angel Ignacio Gomez and John Henry Chilcott,
The Department of Learning and Staff Development Tucson Public Schools,
Barrio Sin Nombre
In Spanish, barrio sin nombre means barrio without a name. We could find no
stories on how it got this name. We did find out that this neighborhood is
an area rich in cultural and archaeological resources, including the site
of Warner's Mill and the mission community of San Augustín del Tucson and
In the thirties and forties, the area started to be settled by
African-American homesteaders, including Hiram Banks (his property was
later subdivided and called Hiram Banks Acres, bordered by San Juan Trail,
Via Elenora, Calle Sombrero and San Jacinto Drive). Another subdivision was
"A-Mountain Addition" -- this is probably where the neighborhood name comes
from. Many African-Americans settled in the neighborhood after World War II
because an African-American developer, James Benefield, was working to
build low cost housing for veterans, especially minority veterans. A local
philanthropist, Helen d'Autremont, was also dedicated to building and
selling low cost housing in the area. She also built, with her own money,
the community building in Vista del Pueblo Park, and donated the land for
the Archer Center. In the seventies, incentives were offered to attract
middle and upper income families to the area. By 1976, 68% of residents
were owner-occupants. The Archer Center is named after Fred Archer, the
Center's first director and an important community activist. One of the
Center's primary goals today is to help area youth find jobs. Providence
Services Corporation recently awarded $137,000 to the "A" Mountain
Betterment Association and the "A" Mountain Watch Association to open a
community center which will focus on mentoring programs for youth. The area
just took third place in the 1997 Most Improved Neighborhood in the United
States contest sponsored by NUSA-Neighborhoods, U.S.A. The area motto is: a
community that works.
(Sources: Tina Gardner, 7/18/97; Barbara Elfbrandt, 7/10/97 and 7/20/97;
"Short Neighborhood History of Vista del Pueblo and the Surrounding
A-Mountain Area," under the auspices of the Tucson-Pima County Historical
"African-American people used to call it The Hill."
(Barbara Elfbrandt, 7/10/97)
"First of all, it's the oldest African American neighborhood in
Tucson...and there are descendants there, I believe, from the Tenth
(Alex Kimmelman, 7/16/97)
"It was the only place that African-Americans could buy a home without
(Dr. Marion I. Roberts, 7/18/97)