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Steam Pump Ranch - History

Collage of photos of Steam Pump Ranch in earlier years

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 as the unique and state-of-the-art power to pump water from the shallow aquifer and to make it an oasis in the arid landscape of the region. This “Steam Pump” gave its name to the ranch itself. George Pusch and his wife Matilda Feldman were a 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 that same era, the 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 Procter migrated from Pasadena, California to become the manager of the Pioneer Hotel. He made the Steam Pump Ranch the breadbasket for his upscale hotel and raised produce and eggs for the enterprise. “Jack” Procter was 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 1950’s, the 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 the 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 longrange vision for stewardship, the 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.