For perspective, I thought it would be a good idea to start this series on 2nd homes in the Tucson Foothills, by looking in the area and at the homes where the second home movement all started back in the 1930's. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series last week- the 2nd home market in the Tucson Foothills -the second home movement in the Tucson Foothills was started back in the 1930's by John Murphey, the founder and developer of the Catalina Foothills Estates, who in partnership with the architect Josias Joesler, set out to create a lifestyle that would be attractive to wealthy midwestern and eastern families seeking a winter refuge in a desert environment.
These homes, many of which have been carefully renovated to provide the comfort and conveniences that we expect today, while maintaining the essence and character of Joesler & Murphey's vision -are large, expensive homes - 5000 to 7500 sq ft or more, priced at $1,500,000 and Up -and so they are within the reach of relatively few homebuyers. And like a vintage Dusenberg, they're tough to find, expensive when you do, and finicky to maintain.
The original Catalina Foothills Estates is ideally located in the center of the Foothills, bordered by Skyline Dr on the north, River Rd on the south, Hacienda del Sol on the east side, and extending to about a third of a mile west of Campbell Ave on its west side.
Here we are cruising north on Campbell Ave from River Rd, which cuts right thru the original Catalina Foothills Estates.
Up here we're going to turn left onto Calle La Vela -
it's one of the best streets in the Old Foothills for large Joesler estates built in the 30's and 40's. I count 9 Joeslers within about a 1/2 mile of this intersection, including the Lee Marvin residence on 12.2 acres.
In the following pictures, you'll see that these homes are very privately located, up on a hill or tucked back and away from the street, behind gates and desert foliage.
Like this one
or this one up on the top of the hill, a really great Joesler
and another is tucked back there on about 4 acres
Turning north onto Calle Ladero, there's a Joesler behind this entry gate.
Joesler and Murphey's original concept of homes sited on sprawling, hilly lots, surrounded by the beauty and privacy of the natural desert has been somewhat compromised, as many of these estates have been whittled down to a couple of acres, from their original 5 to 15 acre lot sizes. Nonetheless, the acreage that they do occupy is amongst the most desirable in the Foothills today.
In 2002 builders and investors started buying up these large estates and splitting up and subdividing the lots to make way for further development in the Tucson Foothills. There was no other buildable land available that comprised 7, 8 or more contiguous acres , which in turn could be converted into 7 or 8 individual parcels, particularly in the Old Foothills.
Here's a closer look at some of the homes behind the gates and on top of the hill- these pictures are from 4 different Joesler homes
Clay Tile roofs, thick adobe walls, arches, lots of private outdoor areas for recreation and relaxation, all Joesler signatures
Joesler used deep overhanging roofs on the south side to shield the house from the sun
This is the front entrance to this house, and though you can't see it, this large front patio is enclosed by an adobe wall. The big windows are in the living and dining rooms, and look north to the Catalina mountains
Tall Timber beamed ceilings, prominent fireplaces, scored concrete floors, and large windows in the living areas for mountain and city views are all signatures of Joeslers work
Above, is an Arizona Room- a porch really, another signature.
AZ rooms were not heated or cooled and often had screened windows for an indoor/outdoor experience, notice the fireplace
behind the plant.
This one has been converted to year round living space, it's heated and cooled, and closed off from the outdoors.
I don't think you can tell from these pictures, but all the interior walls are also built of thick adobe- these homes are fortresses
This is a bedroom- with a fireplace, wood beamed cathedral ceiling, and stained concrete floors
A kitchen patio with brick flooring,
While many of these homes have been maintained, or carefully updated and renovated over the years, not all of them have been done as carefully and as well as the homes you see here.
I've seen some disasters that are all but unrecognizable as Joeslers, which is very sad if you're a fan of his work, as I am.
And then occassionally I'll come across a more or less vintage Joesler that hasn't been touched in decades, and with those, while the
good bones adage is generally very accurate, you also get to see the quirks of a Joesler. Joesler built these homes as winter retreats for wealthy families, and it was typical for these families to have a cook on staff to prepare meals - these people didn't hang out and entertain friends in the kitchen - or they would dine out regularly, and so the kitchens in many of these Joeslers are tiny, really tiny - like the stereotypical New York apartment kitchen.
Ok, so that's understandable, but the closets are also very tiny. And my vision of that era is of steamer trunks full of clothes with a variety of outfits for every occassion, from lawn tennis to an evening at the symphony. Where'd they put it all.
Nevertheless, Joesler's legacy in Tucson remains without parallel.
70 years later, and his homes remain the prized possessions of their lucky owners and a source of inspiration, and sometimes imitation,
for his followers.
Trying to capitalize on that legacy, I frequently see homes listed for sale that are described as;
'Joesler-esque', 'Joesler inspired', 'a hint of Joesler' and
the clumsy 'Joesler-like-feel'.
Or as this new residential development that's in the works proclaims-
A Joesler Inspired Neighborhood.
For last I've saved the mother of all Joesler's,
Eleven Arches, a.ka. Grace Mansion.
In 1937 Louise N. Grace, heiress to the The Grace Shipping Lines fortune, decided to build a 15,000 sq. ft. house in Tucson, just for herself. It was to be designed by Josias Joesler and built by John Murphey. The story goes, that in order to assure her desire for privacy, John Murphey had her stand on the hilltop where her home was to be built while two workmen walked south carrying poles with pieces of white sheet attached. When she could no longer see the white sheets in the desert, and therefore her privacy assured, that would be the boundary for her land. As a result, Eleven Arches was built on 200 acres of prime Foothills land.
(the information about standing on the hilltop, the workmen and the sheets, comes from an article by Ken Scoville, Privacy in the Catalina Foothills Estates)
This is a picture taken in 2004 from the house, it approximates what Ms. Grace might have seen back then - minus all the city lights
The front view of Eleven Arches
Above is the living room of Eleven Arches
In addition to being very wealthy, Ms. Grace was very well connected socially, and Eleven Arches was a popular gathering place for soirees attended by politicians, movie stars, ambassadors and the like.
After Louise Grace died, Eleven Arches changed hands again and again over the years, and with each new owner some of the acreage was sold off and the house slipped further and further into a state of disrepair. Until 1976, when it was purchased for $275,000 along with the approximately 50 acres of remaining land. At that time it was extensively renovated, to the tune of $1,000,000.
And then it sold again in 2000, this time for $2,800,000, with only 19 acres remaining. Someone made a fat profit on that deal.
But this new owner didn't stay very long, because in early 2004 it was again listed for sale, now for $3,490,000, and with just 5 acres of land remaining.
After languishing on the market for more than a year, the property was turned over to an auction house who ended up selling it 2 days before the auction for $2,200,000, now with just 3 acres of land remaining.
If you drive by Eleven arches today, it's hemmed in on all sides by new $1,000,000 homes built on land that used to belong to Eleven Arches, as it cowers in shame at the top of the hill.