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A Brief History of Citizens Warehouse

Citizens Warehouse

Citizens Transfer and Storage Co., Inc. opened in 1907 as a cartage and drayage business, delivering goods and merchandise from the railroad, by horse-drawn wagons, to homes and individuals throughout the region. In its early days, Citizens was located on Congress Street, including a location at the intersection of Congress Street and Stone Avenue.

The first known activity by Citizens at 44 West 6th Street was in 1929 when a single-story building with a full basement was designed by Roy Place and built by Frank Putter Construction. Constructed entirely with cast-in-place reinforced concrete, the structure was designed to support up to five stories. Reinforced concrete columns were placed at a uniform twenty-one foot spacing and define a grid of five bays wide and three bays deep. At the interior, the round columns measuring eight feet in circumference with tapered capitals support a flat slab with drop slabs at all columns. The columns are square and are expressed on the exterior. Exterior walls are eight-inch thick poured-in-place concrete. While the elevator itself is non operational, the shaft is being used to allow light and fresh air into the basement, where BICAS is located.

The building was originally oriented toward the railroad tracks to the south, with several large openings and a raised loading platform. From the late 1920s through the early 1940s, Citizens’ employees would have to go to the rail yard at the southeast corner of 6th and 9th Avenue to unload merchandise and transport it to their warehouse. By the late 1940s the company had its own railroad spur and could off-load directly onto their dock.

In 1951, a second story was added to the structure. This addition was also designed by Roy Place and his son, Lew, who joined with him in 1940 to form Place and Place architects. The contractor was once again Frank Putter Construction. Later that same year, a one-story brick addition was added to the west of the main structure after a fire destroyed metal buildings that were located there.

In 1963, a two-story building was added north of the two-story structure. The architect for the addition was Howard Peck. This building was a single pour concrete structure with fifteen-foot pilasters built into the foundation. The structure was built over a drainage box which angles westward below the railroad tracks toward the Tucson Electric Power facility. A clear-space trestle was built over the box so that there was no load bearing weight on the box. This building, known as Lucky Street Studios, was demolished in the winter of 2012, in preparation for the ADOT Downtown Links project.

In 1984, Citizens Warehouse was sold, along with two other structures and a vacant lot, to the Arizona Department of Transportation for the proposed expansion of the Aviation Corridor (Downtown Links). Since the early 1990s Citizens Warehouse has seen new life as artists’ studios and community space.

In its reincarnation as artist space, Citizens Warehouse has undergone minor changes to address code and user comfort issues. Upon acquiring the building, the floor plates were not subdivided and electrical wiring and lighting was antiquated for the new use. Similarly, lack of windows created a cold and cavernous indoor space.

Alterations, a number of which were completed with minor loans from the Arts District Partnership, have made the spaces satisfactory for art purposes. In the early 1990s, sprinklers were added to the basement, allowing occupancy of the first floor. At that time, interior partitions were added and new electrical conduit and wiring was run to support overhead lights and outlet boxes. In 1995, an open steel exit stair was added to the north side of the structure to provide a second exit from the second floor. The second floor was subdivided into six studio spaces. New window openings were saw-cut into the existing poured-in-place walls to provide more illumination to the interior. Plumbing fixtures were added to several of the studio spaces on the second floor to make them more functional.

Citizens Warehouse is a contributing structure to the Tucson Warehouse Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Place in October 1999. The Tucson Warehouse Historic District is significant for its contributions to the growth of industry and commerce in Tucson and Southern Arizona during the first half of the twentieth century. During this time, Citizens Transfer Company became one of Tucson’s most prominent storage and delivery companies, capitalizing on the growth of Tucson and through its prime location directly adjacent to the railroad tracks. Citizens Warehouse is a good example of trends in construction technology, including the use of a reinforced concrete structure.

Citizens Warehouse is also significant for being designed by prominent Tucson architect Roy Place. He designed many of the noteworthy public buildings at the University of Arizona. In 1929, the same year that Citizens Warehouse was constructed, Place designed the iconic Pima County Courthouse. Just blocks from Citizens Warehouse, the elaborate, Moorish influenced, Spanish Colonial style Courthouse is a sharp contrast to the utilitarian building Place created for Citizens. In these two buildings it is possible to understand the breadth of Place’s architectural practice and his faculties for working with different architectural styles and construction techniques. In 1929 Place’s Citizens Warehouse may have contributed as much to the region’s growing commercial infrastructure as the Pima County Courthouse contributed to its civic character.

Although Citizens Warehouse has undergone a change of use, many of its original features remain intact. Changes to the building have been in the spirit of its origins as a no-frills commercial structure. 

* Excerpted from the Citizens Warehouse Building Condition Assessment Report, 2007 by Poster Frost Mirto, Inc. as it appears in the book Citizens Warehouse, published 2013.