Samos Neighborhood Profile

Samos Neighborhood by CJ Boyd

When Council Member Dahl tells people he has lived in Samos neighborhood for many years, the most often asked question is, “why is it named that?”

“You would think it would be called Salpointe, after the Catholic high school that makes up about a quarter of the neighborhood,” he replies. “When the neighborhood association formed years ago, (March 2001) we were not on good terms with the school – a situation that has changed 180 degrees. But back then we wanted a different name and settled on Samos, a Greek Island that was birthplace of the first person to build a house in the neighborhood”.


Salpointe Catholic High School Chapel and Administration building seen from Glenn 

That person was Chris Mitcholis, who arrived in Tucson with his wife Frances in 1920 and purchased a great deal of land from Tucson pioneer Albert Steinfeld-a banker and local merchant. Mitchell Street and nearby Mitchell Park are named after Chris Mitchell.

The neighborhood stretches from Mountain Ave to Campbell Ave, Glenn Street to Grant Road. Like most of the Ward 3 neighborhoods, Samos began as an “Addition”, a subdivision outside city limits that was designated in the 1920s. The area went largely undeveloped until the late1940s and early 1950s. Samos was annexed into the city in 1953 as part of what was then known as North Campbell Estates. 

Jerry Bolger, moved to the neighborhood with his parents and brother in 1947. At that time, the streets were dirt and the neighborhood was being built to meet the demand for post-war housing. Salpointe Catholic, which Jerry later attended wasn’t built yet. He recalls the price of the 2 bedroom brick house on E Water street went for about $9,000. His brother Diego, now lives in the house he grew up in.

Unlike other parts of Tucson and the United States at large, the racist “deed conditions” that we now know as redlining weren’t initially included in the Samos property deeds.Those conditions came later when Albert Steinfeld died in 1935 and his estate was taken over by his son Harold. At that time, owner/occupancy restrictions were added to property deeds owned by the Steinfeld estate, specifying that “anyone other than the Caucasian race” not be allowed to purchase or live in the subdivision. Prior to this “amendment of restrictions”, people of color could and did buy property in the subdivision. Francis Urquides, for example, was a Mexican American who bought his home on Martin Avenue in 1930, and lived there until his death in 1980, according to Samos: Stories that Built a Neighborhood by Katherine Lancaster and Barbara “Bam” Miller, a 2017 book that provided much of the material presented here.


Salpoint Catholic High School at 1545 E Copper St

To give an idea of how much Tucson grew in the 1950s, the city population went from 45,454 in 1950 to 212,892 in 1960. During this time, Samos saw some significant changes that shaped it into the neighborhood we know today. Prior to 1953, the road we now know as Grant Road was called North Street and was no bigger than any other neighborhood street. Between 1953-1957, this road was widened and adapted to the increased auto traffic, gaining the new name of Grant Road. In 1950, Salpointe Catholic High School was built on what had been an empty dirt field where neighborhood kids would play.

Council Member Dahl, his wife Bam Miller and son Brian Dahl have lived in Samos for 40 years. There is a block-long urban wash adjacent to their home where the neighborhood association holds quarterly potlucks. When Brian was growing up, he and his dad would kayak monsoon-filled streets and the wash.

The neighborhood association has planted trees, organized clean-ups, established a community bulletin board and free lending library and accomplished a traffic calming plan for the entire neighborhood that consists of traffic circles, islands and chicanes (small islands closer to the roadway’s edge). A recent project is the “Free Table” located near the neighborhood wash, a place where anyone can donate household items no longer needed or take from the table items left by others. Started at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, it became a place where neighbors could help clean out their house of clutter, look for treasures (kids especially love it) or just chat for a little while with a neighbor at a safe distance.

On a personal note: because the Ward 3 office is close, I walk through Samos almost daily to get lunch at one of the many eateries on Campbell. My favorite dishes include the Deluxe Poke bowl at Yoshimatsu Japanese Eatery, any of the papusas at Selena’s Salvadorian, the dark meat combo at Lucky Wishbone, and either the Shoyu or Tonkotsu at Ja Ramen.


A metal butterfly sculpture by Jerry Hall in the traffic circle at Water Street and Warren Avenue

One feature that contributes to the friendly feel of the neighborhood are the metal art pieces that can be found in yards and traffic circles.Much of that comes from folk artist Jerry Hall, a resident on Silver Street between 1980 and his passing in 2010. Known as the “Tin Man”, his many sculptures were made from recycled scrap metal, and donated to the neighborhood. Over time, this project was taken over by fellow local metal artist Joey Cisterna.


Triangle Park at the NW corner of Grant Rd/Campbell Ave

The one official park in Samos is Triangle Park, named after the shape it used to be before construction at Grant and Campbell turned it into at trapezoid (admittedly, Trapezoid Park, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). Samos Wash is not technically a park, though it is used as one by neighbors. And though this is far from certain, the neighborhood association is currently working on establishing a linear park along the north side of Grant Road after the upcoming road widening. The hope is to have something like the one along the south side of Grant in Jefferson Park. It would provide some much-needed green space and abatement from the soon-to-be six lanes of Grant Road. Working to provide public input to the Grant Road widening project has also been a priority for the Samos Neighborhood Association.