At the turn of the century, the practice of a “gentleman’s farm” was a very popular one for America’s industrial elite. For many Chicago businessmen who made their money off of farm-related industries like cattle, grain, and produce, large farms attached to estates served as both a hobby and a way to experiment with and grow their businesses.
In 1887, Chicago businessmen, Samuel and William Bartlett purchased over twelve hundred acres of land approximately seven miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. Within a decade, water rights were established and the land was under cultivation for grain and fruit production as well as cattle ranching. It eventually became known as Sahuaro Ranch.
William Henry Bartlett had made a fortune as a grain merchant and was head of the firm Bartlett, Frazier & Company. How he began his relationship with architect Joseph Silsbee is not known but he moved into his first Silsbee-designed structure in 1887 as he was one of the first to purchase a home in J. L. Cochran’s Edgewater Development. From that point on, Silsbee seemed to remain a close friend and his architect of choice. He would go on to design a lavish mansion and stable at Evanston and eventually gave Silsbee the largest commission of his career.
Several structures were constructed for ranching and farming purposes at Sahuaro Ranch prior to the 1890’s. They were typically planned for utility and built by local contractors. In 1898, Bartlett decided to make a more permanent settlement at Sahuaro as he was seeking a healthier environment for his son, William, who suffered from tuberculosis.
In 1898, J. L. Silsbee was hired to design a new ranch home that would connect to an existing home on the property with a pergola. Improvements were made on the entire property at the time and the ranch became a showplace with large elaborate rose gardens as their centerpiece. This is one of several similar farm and ranch projects that Silsbee was involved with.
This is one of several similar farm or ranch projects that Silsbee was involved with. They are typically characterized by a vernacular building style and often defy comparison with other works by the architect. The structure that Silsbee designed is two stories and constructed of brick. It is a simple structure with its second story concealed under the mass of a shingled roof. A large gable, punctuated with a double-arched window faces the gardens. This feature, which seems to be derived from early American Italianate structures seems to be the main decorative element on the home.
Sahuaro Ranch has been lovingly restored and is now a public park owned and operated by the City of Glendale. If you are in Glendale, I strongly urge you support a local house museum by visiting the ranch. The tours are free and they offer some great scenery and events.
Special thanks to my friend Kristi for taking the time to photograph and allowing me to use her images of Sahuaro Ranch on my blog.