i confess i’d had my eye on our barrio house for a good year or so before we ever visited it. when we first moved to tucson in 2011, we’d rejected the neighborhood as being both too close to the I-10 and, well, as a little too scary seeming. but my interest in barrio viejo had been growing (helped along by a tour of historic barrio houses put on by the tucson historic preservation foundation, as well as an american institute of architects tour i’d been on shortly after we’d moved that featured two barrio houses, albeit ones that were new construction). soon enough i found myself perusing properties online and cruising the roads between Cushing Street and 22nd.
how could anyone not be intrigued by the big, white, falling-down place at the corner of 17th Street and Convent? it was true that from the outside it looked like a warehouse (nearly everything in the barrio does), but i knew enough by then not to be fooled. it was very possible something fabulous lurked behind that blank, crumbling exterior.
then again, it was very possible the entire place would be a bust. on the southern end of the property i could glimpse the back yard through a chain link gate–enough to see that there was a gigantic tree in one corner–and that was about it. still, it was enough to make me want to see more.
even so, i hesitated. first of all, there was the asking price on the house. when i checked it on zillow, i laughed. there was no way in hell we were paying what they wanted. plus, we’d already bought a house–a really great, 1963, MidCentury Modern ranch near tucson’s iconic Arizona Inn. we’d put in a new master bathroom and a pool, and though those were small projects compared with what we’d done in our previous house (i’m an incurable remodeler) they’d still taken up quite enough energy and money. moving would be silly. we’d just gotten settled in.
but (there’s always a but, isn’t there?) the thing of it was: great as our new digs were, somehow they just didn’t speak to us. it felt–and continues to feel–like a transition house. i really can’t explain it, because i know someone else would be madly in love with the place. but that someone, for whatever reason, isn’t us.
and so we began “looking” (even though i really ought to know by now that when it comes to houses, i’m incapable of just looking). i told myself it would be a good exercise to see things i wanted and let them go–after all there’s always another house coming up that might be even more perfect. we have friends who are like this, who have been known to wait for years before actually buying. i was going to be like them.
all of that lasted right up until the moment we turned the corner into the back courtyard of the barrio house and saw this (also the current header image, though easier to see here without the text covering it up). that’s when i realized we were goners.
because, you know, it was fabulous.