Levi Z. Leiter was born in 1834 in Leitersburg, Maryland, a village founded by his family. Around 1855, he moved to Chicago and a decade later he and Marshall Field bought controlling interest in a dry goods firm, which they renamed Field, Leiter and Co. In 1881, Leiter sold his share of the company to Field, and the business eventually became department store Marshall Field and Co., which was bought by Macy’s Inc. in 2005.
Leiter invested heavily in land and buildings, including an 8-story building in downtown Chicago known as the Leiter Building, completed in 1893, as well as major holdings in the Pullman Palace Car Co.,, Chicago City Railroad and Illinois Trust and Savings Bank. He also owned, in part, 13,000 acres of ranch land in Wyoming and is likely the namesake of Leiter, Wyoming.
In 1866, he wed Mary T. Carver of Chicago and they had one son, Joseph, and three daughters, Mary, Nancy and Marguerite Hyde (sometimes listed as “Margaret”). The family moved in 1881 to Washington D.C., where the children were “educated, groomed and introduced into society.”
Mary Leiter married English nobleman George N. Curzon, eldest son of the first Earl of Scarsdale, in 1895. When Curzon was appointed viceroy of India and given the title Baron Curzon of Kedleston in 1898, Mary became Baroness Curzon and Vicereine of India. As was the custom, she was called Lady Curzon and is the namesake for Lady Curzon soup, made from sea-turtle meat (sometimes replaced by mussels), curry powder, heavy cream, eggs and sherry.
On a visit to her sister Lady Curzon, Marguerite — commonly called “Daisy” — met Henry Molyneux Paget Howard, 19th earl of Suffolk and 12th earl of Berkshire. Upon their marriage on Dec. 26, 1904, at the Leiter mansion in Washington, D.C., Marguerite gained the title countess of Suffolk and Berkshire.
Following the wedding, the couple moved to Charlton Hall, a 10,000-acre estate in Wiltshire, England. They had three sons: Charles (1906), Cecil (1908) and Greville (1909).
Howard served in World War I in present-day Iraq. He was killed in 1917 and buried at the Basra War Cemetery there.
It is unknown when the countess of Suffolk first came to Tucson, but in the early 1930s she purchased land just east of Oracle Road, north and south of Magee Road. A Tucson Daily Citizen article on July 4, 1936 said a large home, designed by Tucson architect Richard A. Morse was being built as her winter home. The article said it would be a “two story home ... being done in ‘International’ ... style. There will be five master bedrooms, servant’s quarters, and a four-car garage. Chauffer’s quarters will be a separate cottage near the garage ... the building will be air-conditioned.”
She modeled the house after her home in England and called the 293-acre estate Forest Lodge.
In 1956, the estate was sold to three men including Herman Rasche, manager of the St. Lukes-in-the-desert tuberculosis sanatorium. The following year, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary bought part of the estate. They turned 20 acres of land and the buildings into a boarding school, kindergarten and nursery, which became part of the Immaculate Heart Academy. The main house is now a convent and the group of buildings is the Immaculate Heart School.
That same year, Lady Suffolk bought a ranch a few miles southwest of the town of Oracle and built a Spanish-style winter home, complete with pool, servants quarters and a garage. The house, originally called Casa Del Oro but now known as Suffolk House, is adjacent to Biosphere 2.
By 1958, the Lusk Corporation, founded by Robert Lusk, developed the Suffolk Hills subdivision on 320 acres, most of which was Lady Suffolk’s former Tucson estate. The subdivision name and its main street, Suffolk Drive, were named in honor of the American-born noblewoman. Other streets have names related to England: Royal Court, Cambridge Drive, Arundel Drive, Andover Drive, Eton Drive, Chelsea Court and Sussex Court.
In 1968, while flying to Los Angeles to visit her son, Lady Suffolk complained about feeling faint. After an emergency landing in Lancaster, California, she was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Note: Village Avenue, which runs north and south through Suffolk Hills, was named during the development of the Catalina Village No. 3 subdivision, south of Suffolk Hills, in 1953.