Historic Preservation and Cultural Resources

 Oro Valley's Historic Preservation Program serves to promote appreciation and understanding of the Town's historic past. Awareness of Oro Valley's cultural and architectural history will help foster civic and neighborhood pride so that future generations can appreciate and understand Oro Valley's unique cultural heritage.

Each year, Oro Valley documents its efforts to preserve Town history in an annual report(PDF, 7MB).

The Historic Preservation Commission provides the historic perspective and review for the Town of Oro Valley. The Commission meets monthly to provide input and direction and also sponsors the annual William H. Adler Historical Writing Contest.

2020 William H. Adler Historical Writing Contest (click here(PDF, 497KB) for information)
Contest began November 1, 2019 and ended February 14, 2020.

2020 William Adler Historical Writing Contest Winners

The 2020 winners are:

1st Place  - Kaiden Shuman Kaiden's Essay(PDF, 101KB)

 Kaiden Shuman photo

2nd Place - Nolan Baer Nolan's Essay(PDF, 71KB)

Nolan Baer photo

3rd Place - Claire Coleman Claire's Essay(PDF, 93KB)

 Claire Coleman photo

 

Honorable Mention - Garett Morales Garett's Essay(PDF, 152KB)

Garret Morales photo

Oro Valley Historic Preservation Brochure(PDF, 3MB)

Learn more about Oro Valley's history by reading the cultural and historic resources guide.

 

Oro Valley Video History

 Determining Our Destiny: Oro Valley's Heritage

 

 Part 1: George Pusch, Steam Pump Ranch, the Early Days

  


Part 2: The Beginnings of a Town

Cultural Resources Inventory


“Rock Art, Ranch, and Residence: Cultural Resources in the Town of Oro Valley and Its Planning Area”(PDF, 12MB) is a comprehensive historic resource survey performed by William Self Associates and completed in 2010. The inventory concludes with general recommendations for long-term planning by the Town of Oro Valley, and specific recommendations for a second phase of the inventory. The second phase will include the preparation of a preservation plan based on the inventory, and the expansion of public outreach to more fully engage the Oro Valley community in the identification and protection of its many cultural resources. The inventory also showed that the study area, which includes the greater Oro Valley area, holds two important examples of architect designed residences from the first half of the twentieth century, and at least four post–World War II subdivisions that may be eligible for the National Register as residential historic districts.

The Historic Preservation Commission is in the process of designing an outreach program to inform residents of older neighborhoods of the benefits of receiving a historic designation as well as providing them with education and information on how to apply.

View more information on Historic Architecture in Oro Valley.(PDF, 2MB)

Native American Culture and History in the Greater Oro Valley Area


View more information about the earliest inhabitants of the greater Oro Valley region.(PDF, 257KB)

The Paleoindian Period includes culture from at least 12,000 years ago. There has essentially been no Paleoindian material recovered in the Tucson Basin, including the Cañada del Oro area.

The Archaic and Early Agricultural Periods began around 10,000 years ago and ended about 4,000 years ago. At least one small Archaic site has been documented in Catalina State Park, just outside the study area.

The defining characteristic of the Formative Period (A.D. 150–1450) has traditionally been a reliance on maize agriculture as the dominant form of sustenance.

The Early Ceramic Period was comprised entirely by the Agua Caliente phase (A.D. 150–450) in the Tucson Basin. It is suggested that the Hohokam culture emerged from Early Ceramic Period farmers.

The Hohokam Culture, A.D. 450, reached its greatest areal extent during the Colonial and Sedentary periods, or A.D. 700–1150. Archaeological evidence of the Hohokam disappears at about A.D. 1450.

There were three very important Hohokam sites in the greater Oro Valley region, Romero Ruin, Sleeping Snake(PDF, 164KB) and Honey Bee Village.

The Pioneer Period in the Tucson Basin consists of two phases: the Tortolita phase (A.D. 450– 700) and the Snaketown phase (A.D. 700–750). Two of the largest prehistoric sites in the study area, Honey Bee Village (Medrano 2008) and Romero Ruin (Elson and Doelle 1987), were both founded during this period.

The Colonial Period began around A.D. 750 and ended about A.D. 950. It consisted of the Cañada del Oro and Rillito phases, each approximately 100 years in length. The three largest prehistoric sites in the study area were: Honey Bee Village, Romero Ruin, and Sleeping Snake Village. These were all sites that have provided important information on these phases. All of these sites had at least one ball court.

The Sedentary Period (A.D. 950–1150), was composed entirely of the Rincon phase and is the best-understood part of the Hohokam chronology in the region. Romero Ruin, Honey Bee Village, and Sleeping Snake Village were all still occupied during this time, but not much beyond.

The Classic Period includes the tumultuous transition from the Sedentary Period to the Classic Period (A.D. 1150–1450). The total population of the region peaked in the early Classic Period (or the Tanque Verde Phase, A.D. 1150–1300), but then declined in the late Classic Period (or the Tucson phase, A.D. 1300–1450).

Native Americans of the Protohistoric and Historic Periods. The demise of the Hohokam and other Classic Period traditions, between A.D. 1450 and the European-dominated historic era, was a transition from the prehistoric cultures documented by archaeology to the modern Native American cultures documented by historical sources and ethnographic studies.

Honey Bee Village

The site of Honey Bee Village is a Hohokam ballcourt village located in Oro Valley. It was initially recorded by archaeologists from Pima Community College in 1978 and was acknowledged by the Arizona State Museum.


Honey Bee Village was first settled near the start of the Hohokam cultural sequence, around A.D. 450, and was continuously occupied up to about A.D. 1250.

This Hohokam village includes a cluster of 19 large mounds surrounding a plaza, a ballcourt and a special-use walled enclosure. As many as 500 to 800 domestic houses are present at the site along with many other cultural features. Desert Archaeology, Inc. indicates that the site has been determined to meet eligibility criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally mapped as covering nearly 80 acres, but a portion of the site was destroyed through earlier road and residential construction. The site area now measures 50 acres.

Located along Honey Bee Wash, east of North Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and south of the Moore Road alignment, Honey Bee Village is the only remaining intact large Hohokam village site in Oro Valley. This large prehistoric village in the Cañada del Oro Valley and is a strong linkage to Oro Valley's past. An implementation plan was initiated due to the interest that the Town, Pima County, the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Arizona State Museum have in preserving the Village intact.

Honey Bee Village is a very important cultural resource whose undisturbed, buried remains contain an important reservoir of information about the prehistory of the northwest Tucson Basin. Equally important, the Tohono O’odham Nation considers Honey Bee Village an ancestral site. The remarkable status of Honey Bee Village as the only large intact Hohokam village remaining in Oro Valley area makes it one of the most significant cultural resources in Pima County.

The 13-acre core of Honey Bee Village is being preserved in situ for future generations. The core contains most of the large mounds, the ballcourt, the large plaza and the rock-walled enclosure. The core will become an archaeological preserve, which will be protected in perpetuity from development.

Access to the Preserve is controlled for preservation and management purposes. A permanent wall was placed on an easement on the adjoining property to avoid disturbance to the Preserve. Public access to Honey Bee Village Archaeological Preserve is along a public easement through the commercial development from Moore Road to the boundary wall gate within the Archaeological Display Area. Limited access to the Preserve by the neighboring residents is through the Archaeological Park, accessible from the Preserve. A public access easement through the residential development allows trail users to access the Preserve through a gate on the northern boundary of the Preserve. Honey Bee Preserve is protected by Arizona state statute, and collection of plants, artifacts, rocks, or any items is strictly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted. Honey Bee Preserve is monitored on a regular basis by Arizona Site Steward program volunteers.

People and animals have the potential to degrade the Preserve in many ways. To minimize any degradation of the Preserve, it is accessible exclusively for pedestrian use. No wheeled conveyances, except for maintenance activities, will be allowed in the Preserve. Equestrian use is not permitted and pets are prohibited within the Preserve. Americans With Disabilities Act requirements will be met, thus service animals, wheelchairs and walkers as defined by the American with Disabilities Act may be used by persons with disabilities.

Arizona Territorial Period

Beginning in the 19th century, Americans increasingly settled in the Arizona Territory, following the Mexican-American War and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase that included the area of southern Arizona. George Pusch, a German immigrant, settled in the area of Oro Valley in 1874 and established a cattle ranch. This ranch was unique because it utilized a steam pump to provide water, eventually popularizing Pusch's property as the Steam Pump Ranch on the Cañada del Oro. The steam pump was one of only two in the Arizona Territory.

Pusch's ranch provided respite for settlers and travelers entering and leaving the Tucson area. Pusch Ridge is named in honor of George Pusch.

Ranching in the area continued to flourish as greater numbers of Americans settled in the Arizona Territory. Large ranching families in the Oro Valley area included the Romeros and the Rooneys.

Gold rushers into the American West also were attracted to southern Arizona, where gold was said to be in abundance in and around the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Fueled by the legend of the lost Iron Door Gold Mine in the mountains, those in search of gold trekked through the Oro Valley area focusing their attention along the Cañada del Oro washbed.

Read more information about the early historic settlement of Oro Valley(PDF, 1MB).

Steam Pump Ranch - History

In 1874, two German immigrants - George Pusch and Johann Zellweger - arrived in Arizona and established the Steam Pump Ranch as an important way station in the mercantile structure of the southern Arizona cattle industry and in the transportation corridor to Oracle and points north.

The two entrepreneurial immigrants used a steam engine, both unique and state-of-the-art, to pump water from the shallow aquifer and to make it an oasis in the arid landscape of the region. This steam pump provided the ranch with its moniker. George Pusch and his wife Matilda Feldman were active business people and citizens of the region. The Pusch family operated a downtown butcher shop and ice plant along the railroad in Tucson. George Pusch was also active in Tucson politics and an instrumental voice in the Territorial Legislature during the evolution to statehood. During this era, Steam Pump Ranch figured in the military operations based from Fort Lowell Park in Tucson and in relation to other military encampments.

In 1933, John "Jack" Procter migrated from Pasadena, California to become the manager of the Pioneer Hotel. He made Steam Pump Ranch the breadbasket for his upscale hotel and raised produce and eggs for the enterprise. Jack was an active businessman in Tucson with a seat on the Valley National Bank board and a stint as president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1966. Jack and Elizabeth Procter’s daughter Betty married Hank Leiber, a prominent professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants. As the baseball spring-training industry emerged in Tucson in the 1950s, Steam Pump Ranch became an occasional headquarters for parties and barbeques for professional baseball players training in Tucson. The site remained in the hands of the John and Cheryl Leiber until its acquisition in 2007 by the Town of Oro Valley.

Steam Pump Ranch Today
Today the material remains of Steam Pump Ranch stand mostly intact along the banks of the Cañada del Oro, in the shadow of Pusch Ridge and the Santa Catalina Mountains. The site is tucked away in the midst of a busy modern commercial corridor along North Oracle Road, just north of the contemporary roads of First Avenue and La Reserve. With the acquisition of this property by the Town of Oro Valley, in partnership with Pima County, we now have the means to tell these important Steam Pump Ranch stories in a setting that can preserve its significance and integrity. Of special importance is the key commercial role this site has played in the ranching, water and food production business of Tucson and the region. With appropriate capital investment in historic preservation of the buildings, artifacts and landscape, a plan for creative interpretation, a blueprint for economic sustainability, and a long range vision for stewardship, Steam Pump Ranch can be brought back to life as vehicle for education and inspiration. The Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan is intended as a tool to do precisely that.

Drawing of ruins with example of coveringSteam Pump Ranch Current Project - Historic Pump House Ruins
The historic Steam Pump House Ruins' remaining adobe walls have been stabilized.  Poster Frost Mirto designed a protective cover that will help protect the ruins from further deterioration. This “ghosted” protective cover will also emulate the original form, scale and roofline of the original steam pump building. This project will be a great contribution to enhance this property's designation in its listing in the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

Steam Pump Ranch - Master Plan & Master Plan Update

A goal of the Master Plan process was to develop the overall theme or story for the Steam Pump Ranch, which would form the foundation for overall site design standards, appropriate complementary uses, coordinated infrastructure, and active and passive recreation in a Draft Master Plan.

The scope of the Master Plan project required a multi-disciplinary team with a designated project manager. The Oro Valley Town Council authorized the contract for Poster Frost Associates to begin the Master Plan process on May 16, 2007. Poster Frost Associates, in conjunction with Town staff, lead a citizen committee through development of a vision, opportunities/constraints, identification of complementary uses, and three Alternative Design Scenarios to the creation of the Draft Master Plan.

The Task Force accomplished the mission set forth by Town Council and the Draft Master Plan document was forwarded to the Historic Preservation Commission with their recommendations.

View complete Task Force List of Recommendations(PDF, 73KB).

View Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan Final Draft.(PDF, 24MB)

View Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan Update(PDF, 687KB) (2015).

The Historic Preservation Commission met April 14, 2008, in the Council Chambers. Poster Frost Associates, the consultant for the Steam Pump Ranch Master Planning Process, presented the “Draft
Master Plan”. Public input was requested at this public meeting.

Following the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, their Recommendation on the Draft Master Plan was forwarded on to Town Council, along with the Task Force Recommendation.

The final presentation to Town Council was held on May 21, 2008. A motion was made by Council Member Gillaspie and seconded by Council Member Carter to adopt Resolution (R)08-40, approving the Master Site Plan for Steam Pump Ranch. The motion was passed unanimously.

Construction at the site was completed in April of 2011.

Post-World War II and Founding of Town

Post-World War II Period
After World War II, the Tucson area experienced dramatic population growth, impacting Oro Valley as well. In the early 1950s, the Oro Valley Country Club opened at the base of Pusch Ridge, affirming the area's future as an affluent community. Although one tract housing development was built in the area in the early 1950s, the majority of the original homes in the Oro Valley area were built by individual land owners in a large ranch residential style.

Founding of the Town
The community continued to grow gradually, and area residents increasingly desired local control of the land in the area. In the late 1960s, incorporation became a greater focus in Oro Valley. Tucson Mayor James M. Corbett, Jr. expressed great interest in expanding the Tucson city limits to the far north side of Pima County. Corbett vowed to bring the Oro Valley area into Tucson "kicking and screaming," alluding to the reservations Oro Valley residents expressed about joining Tucson.

A petition to incorporate began to circulate in Oro Valley. The Pima County Board of Supervisors officially refused to allow Oro Valley to incorporate, and litigation followed. Ultimately, in 1974 a group of area residents successfully incorporated the Town of Oro Valley, then only 2.4 square miles in size. Oro Valley was centered primarily around the Oro Valley Country Club and Canyon del Oro High School. The Town began with a population of nearly 1,200.

Historic Architecture

An important goal of the Oro Valley cultural resources inventory has been to gather basic information about the extent and nature of potentially historic architecture. Residential development in the Oro Valley area did not begin until after World War II, and the first subdivisions, though originally platted as early as the 1930s, did not see the construction of significant numbers of houses until the late 1950s.

Learn more about historic architecture in Oro Valley(PDF, 2MB).

The Oro Valley area holds at least two important examples of residential architecture built before the war, and several of the earliest subdivisions in Oro Valley are now of an age to merit consideration as historic districts.

Countess of Suffolk Forest Lodge
In 1935, Margaret Howard, a wealthy American also known as the Countess of Suffolk because of her marriage to the Earl of Suffolk established a winter residence in Tucson. She hired noted Tucson architect Richard A. Morse to design a house for a property she had bought in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The result was the spacious and distinctive Forest Lodge, a pure example of the Modern style.

Joseph E. McAdams House
In 1940, noted Tucson architect Josias Joesler was hired by Joseph E. McAdams of Springfield, Ohio, to design a residence for a parcel McAdams owned just east of Oracle Road, near what is now its intersection with Tangerine Road. The McAdams residence is Contemporary Ranch in style and has a separate garage and guest house in the same style, also designed by Joesler. When the hill where the McAdams house stands was prepared for construction in 1940, the grading unexpectedly exposed a substantial Hohokam archaeological site, including pottery, grinding stones, a human burial, and other features, including possible pit houses.

Today the McAdams house is part of a 120-acre parcel known as Kelly Ranch, which borders Catalina State Park at the eastern limits of the town. The Kelly Ranch property, which also includes many archaeological sites, remains in private ownership, but many Oro Valley residents believe its acquisition by the town is still an important goal in preserving the ecology and heritage of the area between Oracle Road and Catalina State Park

Pre-1974 Subdivisions in the Town of Oro Valley
Following the guidelines of the National Register of Historic Places, the age threshold for historic resources is 50 years. Nineteen subdivisions in the Town of Oro Valley were platted before 1974, with the earliest plat filed in 1930. Seven neighborhoods were the focus of this survey.

Campo Bello
Campo Bello was one of the earliest subdivisions to be platted and developed in Oro Valley. The original plat was filed just after World War II by the owners, Toney and Mabel Hardy, for a 160-acre tract that was formerly part of a homestead patented by Wylie Rudasill in 1935. Campo Bello is notable for its distinctive radial street plan, which is similar to Beaux Arts–inspired street plans known elsewhere before the war, most notably at El Encanto Estates in Tucson.

Oro Valley Estates
The development of Oro Valley Estates is linked closely with the history of the Town of Oro Valley and was platted in 1959. Oro Valley Estates is an early example of a residential community planned around a professionally-designed golf course. Today, Oro Valley Estates has a total of 216 houses, just 32 of which (14.8 percent) were built before 1965; another 60 were built before 1974. Despite the low number of early houses, Oro Valley Estates has some potential as a historic neighborhood.

Shadow Mountain Estates
Shadow Mountain Estates was platted in 1959. It has a postwar curvilinear subdivision plan, which is also true of three other early subdivisions in the survey: Shadow Mountain Estates-East, Suffolk Hills, and Fairhaven Village. This type of plan became the approved standard of the Federal Housing Administration for sound neighborhood design after World War II.

Suffolk Hills
The Suffolk Hills subdivision takes its name from the Countess of Suffolk, whose distinctive Forest Lodge residence, built in 1937, now forms part of the Immaculate Heart Academy property, in the northeastern portion of the neighborhood. The Suffolk Hills subdivision was built in several phases based on plats from the years 1958–1960, and is a coherent whole. Suffolk Hills has 190 houses and is an excellent, visually-pleasing example of a postwar curvilinear subdivision plan.

Shadow Mountain Estates - East
An extension of the original Shadow Mountain Estates subdivision, Shadow Mountain Estates - East is located on the opposite side of Oracle Road. It also is postwar curvilinear in design. It currently has low potential as a historic district because only 14 percent of the houses were built before 1965. Because 35 of the 57 houses in the subdivision were built before 1974, the historic potential of the subdivision could be reconsidered at a later date.

Linda Vista Citrus Tracts No. 2
Linda Vista Citrus Tracts No. 2 was platted in 1937 by the owners, Lue W. G. and Frieda A. Skinner, the same couple who had platted Linda Vista Citrus Tracts in 1930. Lue Skinner had patented the land covered by these plats as two separate GLO claims in 1926 an d 1929. The smaller Linda Vista Citrus Tracts, located on the north side of Linda Vista Boulevard, was never fully developed and today holds just 14 houses, the earliest of which was built in 1971. Linda Vista Citrus Tracts No. 2 has 44 houses today, just five of which were built before 1965 and just seven before 1974.

Fairhaven Village
Platted in two parts in 1958 and 1960, Fairhaven Village is another minor example of a postwar curvilinear subdivision plan. Only three of the 26 houses in Fairhaven Village were built before 1965, though 22 were built before 1974. The design of the subdivision is intact but simple and undistinguished. Because of the small number of early houses and the average quality of the subdivision, Fairhaven Village has low potential as a historic district.

National Register of Historic Places

Currently, the greater Oro Valley area has two historic properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sutherland Wash Archaeological District
A large area in Catalina State Park that includes the lower portion of Sutherland Wash and the vicinity of its junction with the Cañada del Oro. Listed in 1987, the district consists of 38 mostly undisturbed archaeological sites ranging in age from the Archaic period to the historic period of the late nineteenth century. A portion of the district, including its largest site, Romero Ruin, falls within this area.

Steam Pump Ranch
The home of early settler George Pusch and his family, the Steam Pump Ranch is located along the west side of Oracle Road just north of its intersection with First Avenue. Twenty structures still stand on the property, 13 of which are considered contributing elements of the historic ranch.

Another property listed on the National Register that falls just outside the greater Oro Valley area is the Sutherland Wash Rock Art District This 30 acrea area along Sutherland Wash holds an estimated 1,500 petroglyph elements, one of the largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art documented in southern Arizona.

The entire cultural resources inventory greater Oro Valley area is included in the proposed Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area, which encompasses the portion of the Santa Cruz River watershed from the international border with Mexico to the Pima-Pinal county line. The National Register sites and districts already designated in the study area, along with additional sites and districts designated through future work, will be an important part of the National Heritage Area and contribute to the attraction of the Oro Valley area for both local residents and visitors.

Name of Property Address Registry Year on Registry Owner
Steam Pump Ranch 10901 N. Oracle Road National Register of Historic Places 2009 Town of Oro Valley

See list of archaelogical sites(PDF, 265KB) in the greater Oro Valley area.