Although a relatively young municipality, the community has a long and rich history with more than 4,200 years of continuous human occupation in Marana and the surrounding middle Santa Cruz Valley. Long before the coming of the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries in the 17th Century, the area was inhabited by the Hohokam people who developed extensive canal systems and used waters from the Santa Cruz River to irrigate crops.
The first European to visit the Marana area was a Jesuit Priest, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1694. In 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain of the Presidio of Tubac led an expedition north along the Santa Cruz River to found the city of San Francisco. With the area under U.S. jurisdiction in 1854, prospectors seeking mineral riches intensified their efforts in the region. Gold was not discovered in abundance, but, by 1865, high-grade copper ore was being shipped from mines in the Silver Bell Mountains.
Rail transportation came in 1881 and signaled a major change in the area. It gave Marana its first identification as a specific place by appearing on Southern Pacific Railroad maps in 1890. “Maraña” is a Spanish word meaning a jungle, a tangle or a thicket and was chosen as an appropriate name by the railroad workers as they hacked their way through dense brush. With the early establishment of mining and ranching, it was not until after WWI that Marana became primarily an agricultural center, producing mainly cotton, wheat, barley, alfalfa and pecans.
During World War II, the impact of the rising importance of the military came quickly to Marana. The Marana airfield (1942-1945) was one of the largest pilot-training centers during WWII, training some 10,000 flyers, and Titan missile sites were later located in the area as part of a complex of ballistic missile installations built around Tucson.
In March 1977, the Town incorporated about 10 square miles and, in August of that year, the 1,500 townspeople elected their first Town council. The Town is now a little more than 120 square miles with a population of 35,000.
To learn more about Marana's history, please use the links below
Click the image to take a look at what Marana looked like 75 years ago in an interactive web viewer click on the icon below:
Marana’s Historical Main Street from the 1950’s.
Marana’s main commercial center in the 1940’s and 50’s was located along State Route 84 just South of Marana Road. This commercial center was a real main street with gas stations, food and clothing stores, a barber shop, bars, Greyhound bus station, post office and other storefronts. All of this was displaced by the widening of State Route 84 into Interstate 10 in 1961. This commercial center was not relocated but was displaced throughout the area. The Town is now working to recreate a commercial center in North Marana along Sandario Road and not far from the original location.
Click the image to view an interactive web application showing what Marana’s Historical Main Street looked like.