Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Hidden cemetery downtown to be excavated; bodies moved

Pima County expects to find the remains of as many as 1,800 people during an excavation needed to complete a courthouse downtown.

The county will start the year-long archeological project Nov. 6, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said today in a meeting with the Tucson Citizen editorial board.

The county wants to find all of the remains from what was known as the Tucson “National Cemetery,” a burial site from about 1860 to 1875. Although soldiers stationed at Camp Lowell were buried there, most of the interred were Hispanic, said Linda Mayro, the county’s cultural resources manager.

The county used burial records from the Catholic Diocese of Tucson and others to estimate the number of remains, but it’s unknown how many are there and exactly where they’re buried, she said.

The work will be done on an area bounded North Toole Avenue, East Alameda Street and North Stone Avenue. The property, owned by the county and Chicanos Por La Causa, will become the site of a joint Pima County Justice Court and Tucson City Court.

The remains will be given to a specific descendent group or re-interred at All Faiths Cemetery in Tucson.

To make sure the excavation and re-interrment are done properly, Huckelberry said, the county and the Arizona State Museum have worked the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, descendant groups such as Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson, and tribal groups including the Tohono O’odham.

The county has budgeted $9 million for the archeological work. The excavation and increased costs of building materials have raised the cost estimate for the court building from $76 million to $110 million, Huckelberry said.

Voters approved construction of the courts building in 2004.

Once the archeological work is done, construction will take another two years to complete, and will feature a plaza, retail space and a six-floor courts building.

When the building is finished, the county board of supervisors and administration will move from a county building on West Congress Street and into the distinctive pink Justice Court building on North Church Avenue.

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