The outside of the original Caviglia Cafe, taken sometime between 1934-1940.

The property has a storied history, beginning with Angelo Caviglia's construction of the 2000 sq. ft. adobe building that he used as a dancehall, saloon, and cafe, plus an adjacent 700 sq. ft livery stable.  Angelo was the only child of Bernardo and Pastora Caviglia, who arrived to homestead in Arivaca in 1887, and he had the dancehall (aka Caviglia's Cafe) built shortly after Bernardo's death.  It opened on June 5th, 1934, and instantly became a very lively gathering place for miners, ranchers, and cowboys throughout the region surrounding Arivaca.  He also hosted many fiestas there for the whole community.  

Similar to many small towns across the old southwest, Arivaca had a Jail Tree where overzealous partiers or outlaws could be tied up for a "time out".  A large Mesquite Tree next to the dancehall served as Arivaca's Jail Tree, though all that's now left standing upright is its stump (see photos below).  

After the Montana mine shut down in 1940 and the population of Ruby and Arivaca plummeted, Angelo shut down the dancehall and moved to Tuscon with his wife Luz and 5 children, where he opened a bar.  Click on this link for more on the Caviglia Family and their importance to Arivaca history, past and present!

There are conflicting anecdotes and theories about what the dancehall property was used for between 1940-1943, including that it was a "house of ill repute" for a while... though this matter could only be settled one way or another if its walls could talk!

However, the following 50 years are very well known.  After Hack and Emma Mae Townsend arrived in Arivaca in early 1943 and bought the dancehall, they converted it into a home and raised their daughter Hacklene there.  Within a few years, Hack retired from his trapping business and they bought the property across Ruby Rd. to open a general store, gas station, and the El Tejano Cafe.   Emma Mae, who had been teaching school for decades, became the last teacher at the Arivaca Schoolhouse, which closed in 1953, and also volunteered in local 4-H and other youth programs.   During their 50 years living in the dancehall, the property appeared in several Hollywood movies and tv shows, most notably "Kid" and "Highway to Heaven".  During this time, their daughter Hacklene and her husband Danny Culling moved into the house next door (which had once been Bernardo Caviglia's general store), and raised their two sons there.  After Hack passed away in 1990 at 90 years old, Emma Mae worked with other Arivacans to open the Aribac Museum inside the gas station building, which was open until around the time she passed away in 1994, also at age 90.  

The dancehall was then a rental home for several years before becoming vacant, and in 2016 was purchased by architect Nell Smets.  She soon began an arduous 3-year project to repair the adobe walls in the dancehall and livery stable (which the Townsends had converted into a garage), replace many of the porch columns, install new electricity and septic systems, work with Pima County to clarify the property lines, and much more.  On January 5th, 2021 she sold the property to us and we completed the restoration work.

Take an online photo tour!

Nell has generously passed along to us many photos, newspaper clippings, and other historical items that were inside the dancehall buildings when she bought the property, some of which date back over 100 years. 

Click on this link to see Historical Photos of the dancehall property, old-time Arivaca, and scenes from all over the desert southwest! When our restoration work is complete, many of these will also be on display inside the dancehall building.  

Click on this link to see photos of the dancehall property and the work done by Nell Smets from 2016-2020, and the fun facts in the information section of each photo.

Click on this link to visit our "restoration tour", with photos of the work done in and around all the buildings since we purchased the property, including the new Pollinator Pathway Garden!

The dancehall property during the time it was owned by Nell Smets.  Note the giant Mesquite that was the "Jail Tree"  during the saloon days, that broke apart in a 2018 storm and had to be cut down.  Its stump remains next to the building, and its trunk is now being used as 3 large seating logs around the dancehall fire pit.  All are festively decorated with chains, locks, and toy handcuffs!

Most of the lumber and flooring that had to be removed  from the buildings during the restoration was reused elsewhere in the project!

All entries plus the restroom building and garden areas are now accessible for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, so that all ages and abilities can participate in events!

The Pollinator Pathway Garden is filled with beautiful flowering plants and other features that attract and nurture native butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other beneficial insects!

After the dancehall closed in 1940, Hack and Emma Mae Townsend turned it into their home for almost 50 years.   We're delighted that this Crape Myrtle Tree and some of their other plants are still thriving!