A couple of Tucson homes in the Foothills area, one built in 1937, the other in 1963, are the first to have been given historic landmark status by Pima County.
One comes with its own citrus grove and evokes the name of one of Tucson’s most revered building designers, Josias Joesler. The other house was a product of its time and comes with its own indoor bomb shelter.
On Dec. 4, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to rezone and give the status to the Ferguson and Harrenstein houses.
Both buildings went through a county rezoning process to help allow the property owners to achieve the historic status.
The county’s historic and rezoning application process for both residences was completed by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation on behalf of both property owners. Demion Clinco, the CEO of the foundation, presented the applications.
“These first county historic landmarks are important examples of our region’s diverse and unique heritage and embody the stories of our community,” he said.
The landmark designation provides permanent protections for the properties. It is part of a protective overlay, and if any time in the future the properties apply to go through any structural change or even demolition, it has to go through a review process, Clinco said.
“The designations permanently protect these properties for future generations and ensure they will remain an active part of the county for years to come.”
Both structures are private residences and are not open to the public. The owners have asked not to be disturbed.
Once called Hacienda del Bosquito, the Ferguson House, near North Oracle and West Orange Grove roads, is in a forest of citrus trees and numerous date palms and was built between 1936 and 1937.
It’s also known as Desert Treasures and consists of the main residence, guesthouse, swimming pool, cabana and a caretaker house for the orchard’s foreman.
The home, constructed of adobe masonry with a stucco covering, was designed by the well-known architect Josias Joesler and it shows his Regional Eclectic architectural style.
Joesler’s style is noted for his experimentation with the blending of Spanish Colonial Revival and Pueblo Revival Styles along with the influence of Mexican art and architecture.
The property sits on 4.2 acres, according to the application for historic landmark designation.
It was built by the John W. Murphey-Leo B. Keith Building Company for the Rev. George Ferguson, the rector of St. Philip’s in the Hills Church. Ferguson was involved and supported the construction and development of his church as well as the Hacienda del Sol, which was once a ranch school for the daughters of elite American families.
Built between 1962 and 1963, the Harrenstein House, near East Orange Grove Road and North First Avenue, is an example of the Modernist style that became more dominant after World War II.
It was built by engineer Howard Paul Harrenstein, who was with the University of Arizona’s department of civil engineering and in charge of the county’s civil defense program, Clinco said. He built the home with his father, Jacob, who was a contractor.
The obvious feature of this single-family residential building is its wavy, circular concrete roof that is a series of six hyperbolic paraboloids, which is math-speak for a double curved surface that resembles the shape of a saddle.
It divided the interior of the house into six distinct sections.
Harrenstein was an authority on thin-shell concrete construction and the house he designed was meant to withstand a nuclear attack — and nothing quite says early 1960s architecture like a house that can survive a nuclear attack. It even had its own bomb shelter under the center of the house.
Harrenstein was an expert and consultant in bomb-shelter design and incorporated his expertise in civic defense into the building of the house.
During construction and after, the home was recognized for its futuristic innovation, but over the years was forgotten until it was featured in 2016 as part of Tucson Modernism Week.
Over the years, little of the main residence, pool, guesthouse and other features have changed.
Its status on the State and National Register of Historic Places is pending.