The Surprising History of Trail Dust Town

I’m always surprised when I meet people who live in Tucson and they don’t know about Trail Dust Town, that charming little western town near the corner of Grant and East Tanque Verde Road. You know, the one with the covered wagon out front? It’s a fun place to take your kids, have a steak dinner, visit a museum or watch a Wild West stunt show!

I’m not surprised though when I learn that most people don’t know about it’s history.

I’ve lived here for over 25 years but I didn’t know until recently that this charming little oasis was built from the abandoned western movie set of an unfinished 1951 Glenn Ford movie.

Glenn Ford – “Not sure why we never finished that little movie in Tucson.”

 

In 1960, with the backing of a small group of businessmen, W. Howard Hamm developed the three acres. He turned it into a late 1800’s style western town with dining establishments, little stores and site appropriate entertainment … including staged shootouts between “feuding” cowboys.

Original photo from 1960 AZ Daily Star


 

Soon after opening though, the battles turned all too real! In 1963 and 1964 Trail Dust Town was at the center of a mini war over vending machine concessions. (!) The town was the fifth establishment within eight months to be targeted by bombers in what local police called an escalating “power struggle” between local mob families. Thank goodness the bombings were just mostly threatening. The fuse would be lit and the dynamite was tossed onto the roof of a business.  

Stunt show

 

After surviving the bombings of the 1960’s this little Tucson treasure has amassed a number of historical artifacts, including an Allan Herschell merry-go-round which was manufactured in 1954. It still has its original horses and benches.

Historic carousel

Trail Dust Town is also home to a non-profit history museum; Museum of the Horse Soldier. The museum chronicles the history of U.S. mounted military service. It is notable for having one of the nation’s largest public displays of artifacts from the era of the military horse, including original period saddles, uniforms, weapons, firearms, and ephemera. Some of the museum’s highlights include the only Civil War collection available to the public in the state of AZ and rare U.S. military saddles from the 1830s to present day. 

Going thru the mine can be scary! … but fun!


 

Opening in 1962, the Trail Dust Town steakhouse, Pinnacle Peak, became famous for good food and good fun. In 1971 it burned to the ground but it came back better than ever. 

 Their “No Ties Allowed” policy has always been a part of the Pinnacle Peak fun. If you wear a tie, they will cut it off and display it on their wall for all to see! If you aren’t wearing a tie and want to go through the fun of having it sliced off you can pop into the General Store and they’ll sell you one that’s ripe for cutting! 


If you decide to visit Trail Dust Town it’s best to go in the evening. The lights are twinkling and this is when the Wild West shows occur. Have fun when you go!

Trail Dust town train


Carol Fenn 2-2017