Saturday, October 24, 2009

Scenes in old Ajo, Arizona
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The Tucson, Cornelia & Gila Bend Railroad ran 42 miles of single track from the Southern Pacific at Gila Bend to an attractive mission style depot at one end of the plaza in Ajo.

New Cornelia was always a surface mining operation and the unused open pit is still there of course, occupying almost as many acres as the town site. At first, steam engines pulled gondolas, later, electric locomotives were used.

The centerpiece of the planned community is a palm fringed plaza completed in 1917. At the northeast end was a flagpole opposite the railroad depot, and at the other end a bandstand. Two business blocks were on either side, housing the company store, post office, Oasis theater and shops. This is the block on the northwest side around 1938.

Hispanic, African-American, Asian and Native American families had to live in segregated neighborhoods until recently in most Arizona communities. Most classrooms were integrated until about 1910, then separate classes, teachers and even schools were assigned to students of color until the Supreme Court decision of 1954.

Hotel Cornelia, built in 1916, is located at 300 La Mina Avenue in Ajo. The building was more recently occupied by Cameron Realty and Jon Jon's Day Spa.

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