While traveling to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on New Years Day, we passed through the small southern Arizona town of Ajo. The striking town plaza with its towering palm trees and Spanish architecture immediately caught our eye. Past the plaza, we saw colorful artwork on the sides of the old buildings. The town simply oozed with charm. Late in our stay at Organ Pipe, we returned to Ajo to walk its streets and soak up its sights.
Much of Ajo, in particular its highly photogenic central plaza, was created by John Campbell Greenway to be a good place for his New Cornelia miners to raise their families. Greenway, a former Rough Rider with Theodore Roosevelt, was the highly successful general manager and an owner of the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company including the Lavender Pit Mine at Bisbee and the New Cornelia Mine (once one of the largest copper mines in the world) at Ajo. For Ajo’s architecture, Mr. Greenway chose Spanish Colonial Revival, a Mediterranean style with Moorish influences of high arches, white stucco surfaces, and tile roofs.
At Ajo’s town center, we strolled through the historic plaza and railway depot with their towering palm trees. Across the street from the plaza, we marveled at the the ornate Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Past the church, we saw the historic Curley School, a former K-12 school that is now the Sonoran Desert Inn and Sonoran Desert Conference Center.
While the town’s architecture was stunning, the best part of Ajo was its colorful Artist Alley. One can’t help but admire the blending of cultures that has resulted from Ajo’s proximity to the Tohono O’odham Nation and Mexico. Themes of the Sonoran Desert, migration, love, respect, and human rights dominate the colorful murals. It was a place to walk in silence and reflect on the meaning of each painting.
Visiting Ajo and reflecting on its past, present, and future was the perfect way to end our week long stay at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We absolutely loved every second spent at Organ Pipe and Ajo. We had seen so many interesting things, met several truly lovely people, and enjoyed perfect weather. A special thanks to Jim and Jetta for offering to rescue us if our e-bike batteries died on the Ajo Mountain Drive! We enjoyed all our camp site visits with you both and hope to see you again someday. This was a special place and we will be back. But for now, we had been in southern Arizona over a month and it was time to start slowly moving north.
The Adventure Continues
Be sure to join us on our next adventure as we move to the shores of the Colorado River at River Island State Park. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!