The First Historical Landmark Designated to the City Of Tucson

Background Information:

The San Pedro Chapel stands tall on a small hill facing the Old Fort Lowell neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona. In the mid 1800's, families migrating from Mexico to Arizona took shelter in the ruins of Fort Lowell that previously served as a military post but which they called "El Fuerte". As more migrants settled into the area, a community began to develop which prompted the development of schools, stores, houses and churches. The Chapel that stands today was built in 1931 over the ruins of an older church destroyed by a tornado in 1929 that once stood in its place, called Santo Angel de la Guarda. The newer San Pedro Chapel, was built by members of the El Fuerte community who used adobe, a building material consisting of earth and water to make the structure.

The chapel was the peak of a fifteen-year development process by the Hispanic inhabitants of the Village of El Fuerte to create buildings to be of service to their spiritual needs (Spicer, 1981). It was used for various different spiritual practices including catechism classes, choir meetings for young girls, and mass Sunday’s. El Fuerte had been a steppingstone, a means for Mexican immigrants to move up the economic ladder in America and they were able to create a robust life for themselves thriving and growing as they built their community together.





 The San Pedro Chapel served the El Fuerte people for religious purposes until 1948 when it was moved to the new parish church close by. The owners changed hands various times over the next few decades. In 1961, the new owner converted the building into a home with the addition of a bathroom, storeroom, kitchen, living room, and a temporary small pool or fishpond. The owners changed hands again a few years later to David Gabaldon an artisan who turned the chapel into a site for art exhibits, weddings, and other events.           

In 1982 the San Pedro Chapel was made the first City of Tucson Landmark. In 1993, the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, Inc. bought the Chapel after David Gabaldon’s death. Shortly after, the chapel’s importance was acknowledged and accepted by both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. In 2004, the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association started a historic preservation process to reinstate this element of Tucson’s wonder and beauty. 





Although no longer used for regular worship services, the San Pedro Chapel services many events including weddings, neighborhood gatherings, historic lectures, parties, memorials, and art exhibits. It has been restored and offers all the charm and nostalgia of a historic building but with modern amenities making it perfect for special events, seating up to 64 people. Rental fees vary depending on the event but it is typically as follows:

  • Wedding Ceremony - $1,400
  • Wedding & Dinner - $2,200
  • Elopement - $750
  • Memorials - $600
  • Adobe House Only - $450




The hill upon which the chapel sits perched was at one time the heart of El Fuerte and the main façade faces north. The Chapel is situated on a little hill that overlooks the Catalina Foothill Mountains and faces Mt. Lemmon. It sits in the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood with an authentic and wondrous presence.




Even though the chapel was owned by a religious institution and used for religious practices its qualified as a historically significant site because of its primary importance as the only public building historically linked to the Hispanic community of El Fuerte. The building was the religious and community center for the Village of El Fuerte during the first half of the twentieth century. It is a piece of living history and is completely restored to offer all the charm and nostalgia of a historic building. 

The chapel itself is a Mission Revival Style and has had very few changes made to it since its creation in 1931. Its architectural design looks very similar to that of various other Catholic mission churches constructed in Tucson during the early 20th century. Given that it was created in 1931, this makes the chapel architecturally significant as an example of a late-stage Mission Revival design in a religious structure. The San Pedro Chapel is a forthright, but humble and modest, stylistic offspring of the missions built on the northern border of New Spain before Mexico gained independence (Spicer, 1981). The primary Mission Revival Style feature of this historical landmark is the curvilinear parapet which surges over the entrance and is surmounted by an uncomplicated arched bell tower (Spicer, 1981). The chapel epitomizes the classic sense of place reminiscent of rural agrarian communities that have since disappeared from Tucson as a result of the infringement of the urban spread and development.

The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history and the property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a period of time and a group of people. Especially as it pertains to Hispanic social, political, economic, and cultural development in the Village of El Fuerte.





Works Cited



San Pedro Chapel Site #23. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2022
, from

San Pedro Chapel. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2022, from

Spicer, R. B. (1981, May 11). San Pedro Chapel National Register Nomination Summary Sheet (United States of America, Department of the Interior, National Park Service). Retrieved November 13, 2022, from