Historic Downtown Yuma
The Yuma Crossing National Historic Landmark and Associated Sites
This area, including the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, the Territorial Prison, and Fort Yuma across the Colorado River to the north, was officially designated in 1966 as a National Historic Landmark. Europeans first visited the site in 1540 when Hernando de Alarcon arrived by way of the Colorado River. During the next four centuries, a sequence of events occurred at the locale that are of extraordinary significance in the development of the Southwest. Paths of the Spanish soldiers and missionaries, trails of the American mountain men, wagon roads of the U.S. Army, and the "Forty-Niners," and modern railroads and highways have all converged on the Colorado River at this location.
The Landmark is today endangered and has been placed on the "Threatened" list developed by the United States Department of the Interior. Years of neglect and intrusions have resulted in increasing loss of context. The erosion and recent dismantling of the Southern Pacific Settling Tanks points out the need for a long-range strategy to conserve and interpret the NHL. There are positive indicators, however. Significant environmental remediation within the Landmark has been undertaken by both the private sector and City of Yuma. Gateway Park represents a joint effort by the City of Yuma, State of Arizona, and the Heritage Area to develop a recreational and historical park at the Crossing.
TEA-21 funds are being utilized to link the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park with the remainder of the Landmark. The City of Yuma is investing funds to remove intrusive utility works within the Landmark and has adopted a redevelopment plan for a 22 acre area along 1st Street, involving land both inside and outside of the Landmark.
The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area recognizes the importance of preserving the national Historic Landmark. It will support the funding of interpretive and preservation efforts as a part of this Plan. It will also advocate that any new commercial development respect the historical importance of the site.
Yuma is fortunate in that it is the site of one of the few National Historic Landmarks in the Southwest. This Federal designation recoginizes places "that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States". The desert crossing at Yuma is a tangible reminder of significant historical events from the date of the first contact between Quechan and Euro-Americans in the sixteenth century to the era of trails, rails, and highways of more modern times.
Districts and Landmarks
Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park
The Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park is the historic home of the Army's Yuma Supply Depot and the Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) Yuma Project offices. The site includes six historic structures built by the Army and dating to the Indian Wars period of the late 1800s. Museum exhibits showcase the military and BOR history of the site, while examining the larger role of the Colorado River within the settlement of the Southwest. The park forms a critical piece of the National Landmark and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park
The Territory of Arizona established the Territorial Prison on the high ground at the Yuma Crossing in 1877. The Prison was in use until new facilities were constructed elsewhere in 1909. After housing the local high school for four years, the property fell into disuse and disrepair. Due to efforts by the City of Yuma, the process of decay was arrested and in 1940 a museum structure was constructed at the site. The City operated the Prison as a museum until 1960, when the site became the third facility to be added to the Arizona State Parks System.
This historic bridge, constructed in 1915, was the only highway bridge across the Colorado River for 1,200 miles. It was restored and re-opened in February 2002.
Brinley Avenue Historic District
The Brinley Avenue Historic District lies on the western limit of Yuma's 19th century settlement pattern. Brinley Avenue, since renamed as an extension of Madison Avenue, marked the nominal edge of the Yuma Mesa. The district includes the west side of Madison Avenue from 1st Street to 3rd Street and both sides of Second Street from Main Street to Madison Avenue. Developed initially as a residential area which took advantage of the rising elevation on the mesa and being on the edge of town, the streets took on a different character over time. This district is important for a number of reasons. As a residential area, it was the site of homes for some of the prominent people in Yuma's history. The streets became an important commercial area as 2nd Street grew to fulfill the role of a major arterial connecting downtown with agricultural interests in the valley. Constructed in this district were the Sanguinetti Mercantile, the Gandolfo Annex and the Molina Block. With the higher elevation on the edge of the mesa, this area had relief from periodic flooding. As a result, this district contains the highest concentration of adobe buildings in the community.
The Molina Block
The Molina Block, dating from the late 19th Century, is one of the oldest commercial structures in Yuma. It functioned as an early "shopping center," housing a variety of commercial enterprises within its many rooms. Major flooding of the Colorado and Gila Rivers in 1916 destroyed almost all of the adobe structures along Madison and First Avenues but spared the Molina Block. In the 1930's, the building was home to Yuma's doctors and dentists. As the old downtown declined during the 1960's the adobe complex served as a homeless shelter. In 1979 the structure was included in the Brinley Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Gandolfo Theatre
The Gandolfo Theater is one of the most important landmarks in Yuma. Built by local entrepreneur John Gandolfo, the building was a center of community activity from 1917-1950. Designed with a seating capacity of 635, the auditorium served as a movie house and theater. Theater offerings were drawn from a touring circuit, which include road shows from New York and Los Angeles. Before a 1927 fire destroyed the third floor, the building also housed dances and meetings of social groups such as the Masons and Elks.
In recent years - through a public/private partnership involving the City of Yuma - the Theatre has been completely renovated and is again a useful addition to Yuma's downtown.
Main Street Historic District
The Main Street Historic District represents the historic center of commerce from Yuma's early days of the 19th century. Building construction ranges from 1912 to modern times. Early construction was adobe and wood but following the flood of 1916, which destroyed most of the buildings, brick and concrete were used to rebuild downtown. Significant alterations and "slipcovers" have degraded its integrity. However, major restorations and new sensitive in-fill construction have revitalized the area. In addition, five contributing structures within the district are on the National Register.
Hotel Del Sol (Del Ming)
The Hotel Del Ming was built in 1926 to respond to the completion of the nearby Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. The Hotel was named after Yuma Mayor F.S. Ming, who headed the investment group that built the facility. Taylor and Taylor of Los Angles were the architects and the building is an excellent example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.
The Historic Southern Pacific Railroad Yard
When the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) entered Yuma in 1877, one of the first undertakings was the establishment of a freight yard and engine service facilities. The land used for these purposes had been donated to the railroad by the City of Yuma and was located well south of the built-up area of that time. The site eventually contained a roundhouse and turntable, a machine shop, freight house, fuel storage facilities, and other supporting structures. Yuma was a division point on the Southern Pacific rail line, which meant that crews and engines were changed here and locomotives received routine maintenance.
After the main line relocation in the mid-1920's the yard facilities were augmented with a larger facility built further to the east, but the engine terminal facilities continued in heavy use until the end of the steam era. Today, little remains of the facilities except vacant land. The only remaining structure is the 1891 Freight Depot - a National Register structure - that until the 1950's handled less-than-carload freight shipments for the Yuma area.
The Union Pacific Railroad, the successor to the SP, today owns the former yard, historic freight depot and maintenance facilities.
Southwestern Ice and Cold Storage Company
This large structure dates from the mid-1920's and was constructed to supply ice and cold storage capacity for the local agricultural industry. The railroad shipped most of the agricultural products of the Yuma area and the cars carrying perishables had to be iced prior to and during their journey to market. At one time, the icing platform at this location was the longest in the United States.
The structure has been vacant for many years and today is owned by the City of Yuma.
Century Heights Conservancy District
The Century Heights Conservancy District comprises over 120 buildings, which represent a concentration of a range of distinct early Yuma residential building forms. These include Queen Anne, Western Colonial Revival, Bungalow and several Period Revival styles. This area is significant because it contains the largest, intact grouping of early residential architecture remaining in Yuma. Fifteen buildings within the district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The period of major construction significance for the district started in 1892 and ended in 1936. The buildings retain a moderate to high degree of integrity, are associated with pioneer families who settled in Yuma, and significantly represent working and middle class residential development.