The Community Moves Upward:


As the first tall buildings began changing the skyline downtown, other entrepreneurs were eyeing the bajadas of the surrounding mountains. We call these the 'foothills'. Take a look from the valley some time and see how the terrain changes abruptly where homes give way to the Coronado National Forest. Those who ventured up the trails made by coyotes and other wildlife found the breezes lacking in the valley, where the increasing amount of paving reflected the summer heat. They also enjoyed the panoramic views of the growing city, especially as the 'new' electric street lamps lit the valley at night. As we all know, the sunsets are beautiful and many of the ridgelines off daylong view of the changing landscape.


Tucson, like the rest of Arizona, was laid out according to the U.S. Geologic Surveys done, with the baseline being the Gila river south of Phoenix and a '0' east-west division in the center of the state. The divisions are known as sections (a square mile), townships and ranges (comprising 36 square miles). Flecha Caida, for example, is thus legally described as being a Township 13 South and Range 14 East. Vast tracts of land were open to homesteaders and available for purchase by those who thought this comparative wasteland might have some value.


In the twentieth century, one Tucsonan was particularly astute in buying at least one corner of almost every section surrounding the city, even when there were no streets built. He then went to the half-mile streets and amassed a huge amount of property at very advantageous prices. This was Judge Evo DeConcini, whose son later became a Senator from Arizona and who himself became a Federal judge. The new Federal Courthouse at Congress and Granada is named for him.


Another visionary was John Murphey, who could see the potential of the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, as did several others who concentrated their purchases in the Ina Road and Oracle Road area, now known as the Casas Adobes area. The Murpheys began developing subdivisions of lots of an acre or more to the east, gradually filling in his holdings as far east as Alvernon Way. This became Catalina Foothills Estates, of which there are now ten sections.


Why the Catalinas? The Tucsons were too 'young' - very little bajada area and facing the rising sun. The reverse was true for the Rincons. The Santa Ritas had some lovely foothills areas but were too close to the burgeoning industrial areas on the south side of the city, as well as the mines being developed and the then Papago Indian Reservation.


The Catalinas were ideal. Lots were spectacular views could be carved along the ridgelines, offering each homeowner an incredible view of the city and the mountains. Here the affluent and comparatively affluent could attain privacy, enjoy the flow of cooler air away from the valley floor and gaze at the ever changing desert and its wildlife.


With an eye toward Tucson's Spanish and Mexican heritage, Murphey teamed up with Josias T. Joesler, a Swiss architect who had come to make his home in Tucson. Joesler designed many of the homes in Catalina Foothills Estates, as well as some commercial properties such as Broadway Village at Broadway and Country Club Road. Joesler homes became so coveted that in the early 1980's one devotee purchased a house near the university off Campbell Avenue that was to be torn down for expansion of the University Medical complex. The house was loaded onto the skids, trees were cut along River Road and power lines moved along the route to the destination, which was just off Alvernon Way about half a mile north of River Road. The entire city followed the progress with baited breath as the house moved by inches toward the targeted site. It made it all the way up Alvernon, managed the turn onto San Simeon Drive and collapsed, crashing onto a property just a few feet short of the waiting pad. It was a sad day for the owner and the valley.


Other well-known people were also snapping up old ranches and large parcels of undeveloped land. Howard Hughes, who was renowned for never sleeping in a bed other than one he owned, purchased a large amount of land that included what is now Flecha Caida No. 3. He built a house at the corner of River Road and Camino Sinuoso and was reputed to have slept there when visiting his Hughes Aircraft facility south of the airport. Another owner was Henry Crown, who had built the Empire State Building. He owned a huge number of acres east of Craycroft Road north of the Rillito.


Life along River road was also changing. The area near Dodge and the big bend was once known as Mormon Farms, small agricultural properties of five acres that were homesteaded. Gradually, as water became more scarce, these properties were bought by Tucsonans as small country estates, complete with stables and other amenities.