In 1897 when hardly anyone was living in what is now midtown Tucson, newlyweds Alvina Himmel Edmondson and her husband Charles S. Edmondson (from New Orleans) started homesteading 160 acres of land near what is now Speedway and Tucson Boulevard.
Alvina later single handedly homesteaded with her 4 daughters after she was divorced in 1927. In 1934 or 1935 Mrs. Himmel Edmondson sold part of her large homestead to the City of Tucson (for $3500), with the proviso that the land become a park named for her father Adolph Himmel and mother Harriette Himmel. Her father was a well-known silversmith in New Orleans, Louisiana.
This was an amazing pioneer woman and was obviously one of the first residents of what later became Sam Hughes Neighborhood.
At that time her closest neighbors were 2 miles away, and in a May 21, 1942 article (found in the Tucson Citizen archives), she relayed to the reporter that “coyotes, rattlesnakes and Indians caused her great uneasiness.” A photo of Alvina and her original redwood home accompanied the article. (I was unable to locate the original photo itself in the Tucson Citizen or Arizona Daily Star archives, or at the Arizona Historical Society (AHS). I made copies of the article/photo which are now in files at both Himmel library and the AHS.)
The neighborhood grew in that central area after the building of the elementary school (built in 1927 by famous local architect Roy Place), which was named for Sam Hughes, a businessman and politician. Hughes came to Tucson in 1858 and later married a local Mexican woman Atanacia Santa Cruz, and had 15 children (5 died in infancy) here in Tucson. Sam Hughes died in 1917 after Arizona became the 48th state in 1912. The Sam Hughes Elementary School is at 700 N. Wilson Avenue.
Alvina Himmel Edmondson died at age 78 on January 11, 1948, exactly 62 years ago, in the original redwood home (located at 2625 E. 1st Street — no longer there in Sam Hughes Neighborhood) on the land she had homesteaded on. Her daughter Catherine Edmondson continued to live in that house till the early 1970′s. From the address, that original homesite is now a parking lot of Catalina United Methodist Church, 2700 E. Speedway Blvd.
That’s the origin of Himmel Park, which was later expanded with more land purchases in 1944, and then the Himmel Park branch library was built in the northeast area of the park in 1961. The library is almost a historic building being nearly 50 years old, but the entire Sam Hughes neighborhood is already designated a National Historic District. This neighborhood’s boundaries are Speedway to Country Club to Broadway to Campbell Avenue, east of the University of Arizona.