Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 25, 2019

Unexpected: A Bungalow Court in Tucson, Arizona

I have yet to cover some of the principal topics stemming from last summer’s visit to Tucson, including the historic downtown area, which includes a few buildings preserved from early European (i. e. Spanish) settlement in the 1700s.

A recurring theme at Under Western Skies is that traveling well doesn’t suggest following only carefully planned and fully researched itineraries. Often, the most enjoyable and interesting experiences are the unexpected ones — not always those “must-sees.”

On one loose-ends afternoon in Tucson, a bit worn down by a day that started at dawn, headed for a hike in Saguaro National Park, we were simply cruising some of Tucson’s residential neighborhoods. The point of the exercise — in addition to being seated in an air conditioned car while the outside temperature hit 114 — was to see what daily life was like for residents. What are the neighborhoods, houses and local parks and schools like?

Out on any American city’s main thoroughfares — in Tucson they include Speedway, Campbell, Swan, Broadway — one sees many of the same retail brand names for food, department stores and services. Other than differences in landscaping, you might be in Oklahoma City or Indianapolis.


Neighborhoods say a lot about a town, because that’s where the people who live there genuinely express who they are. Many of Tucson’s neighborhoods are called “barrios,” a Spanish term for a district. Some of the city’s barrios near downtown have streets lined with residences dating from the 18th century, like one of the oldest, Barrio Presidio, near the original site of Spanish settlement.

Tucson street Brad Nixon 5569 680

Obviously not Oklahoma City or Indianapolis.

On this afternoon, we were driving along streets in the Sam Hughes area of Tucson, east of the University of Arizona. There’s an interesting mix of residential styles, including Spanish haciendas, Craftsman and some 21st century contemporary houses, too.

On east-west Hawthorne, I brought the car to a sudden stop in the middle of the quiet midafternoon street. There!

Tucson bungalow Brad Nixon 5686 680

A bungalow court: entirely unexpected in a neighborhood almost entirely comprised of single family dwellings.

Bungalow Court?

Originating in Los Angeles in the early part of the 20th century, bungalow courts multiplied in many cities that were expanding rapidly, especially in the west, which was attracting flocks of newcomers seeking their fortunes.

I was fortunate, because the owner of the property, Michael, was present, meeting with one of his tenants and attending to some maintenance. He generously spent a few minutes with me, telling me some of the history of Hawthorne Manor Apartments.

Pueblo Meets Mid-Century

Built in 1940, Hawthorne Manor is rather late in the run of bungalow courts. The seven compact structures — averaging 600 square feet — are an interesting amalgam of lines drawn from traditional southwestern adobe buildings and mid-century modern architecture.

Tucson bungalow Brad Nixon 5695 680

I particularly like the corner windows — a hallmark of ‘40s and ‘50s architecture.

Tucson bungalow Brad Nixon 5693 680

In the best tradition of well-executed bungalow courts, Hawthorne Manor is of a piece: multiple dwelling units that are each distinct, but partake of a consistent style, unified by attractive landscaping.

Tucson bungalow Brad Nixon 5689 680

It was a pleasure to encounter an architectural gem in the keeping of an attentive owner, who understands that Hawthorne Manor is not simply a rental property, but a fascinating survivor from another era.

For more about Hawthorne Manor, including additional photographs and contact information regarding rentals, visit the property’s website at If you drive past to have a look, do remember that these are private dwellings, not public property.

Pay attention as you cruise around. Not everything worth seeing is in the tourist guide.

I’ve written a number of articles about bungalow courts in Los Angeles. This link provides a historical overview.

© Brad Nixon 2019. Thanks to Michael at Hawthorne Manor Apartments for his gracious welcome and background information, reflected in this blog post.


  1. I really like the style of those bungalow courts with their corner windows

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great post 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. And thanks for visiting.


  3. Love the architecture and open spaces. Life in the BIG big city is killing me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Make no mistake, Tucson is a big city, with a million people in the metropolitan area. But, you’re correct, it does not have that “big, big city feel,” and most people there live in human-scaled neighborhoods like this one. Why one travels, after all. Thanks for your comment.


  4. Very cool. It’s nice to see somewhere maintaining a property like that.
    I spent two weeks on vacation in the southwest this summer. My wife and I had no plans except our flight, hotel reservations and a plan to see as many parks as possible.
    In St. George, UT we ate at some cool local restaurants that probably don’t show up in any tourist guides.
    In Visalia, CA we found a great brew pub, “Brewbakers” by walking around downtown.
    And we ate flatbread tacos at an Indian reservation in Death Valley.
    The best food can often be found in the least likeliest of places.

    Liked by 4 people

    • True everywhere. Just for the record, Tucson’s full of great places, both on and off the guide lists. Named as a UNESCO world heritage food city. Happy travels and bon appetit.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This bungalow reminds me a little of old Palm Springs before the outer cities were developed. I spent a lot of time there at a friend’s grandmother’s bungalows. The differences were slight. The life was very simple. All apartments were built around the pool so there was a common relaxation area. Most of the residents were family or old friends. I think there were 7-8 units.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m sure that’s true. We haven’t explored a fraction of the interesting architecture of Palm Springs. An excellent memory. Thanks.


  6. Never mind the details — I’d move into one of those in a minute. What a beautiful place. Granted, there probably aren’t many boats to varnish in Tucson, and there are those 114 degree temperatures, but no place is perfect.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You might have to commute to Tucson’s “beach” and “harbor,” which are in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, at the top of the Gulf of California. A 4-hour drive, one way, but you get to go through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.


  7. Another of your post series that I always enjoy. The bungalow court seems like such a wonderful opportunity to live a life of community. It’s nice to see this one so well preserved and cared for.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I thought I was done seeking out bungalow courts, but this one simply showed up. Sometimes it’s just luck. Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

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