Broadmoor Early Days: Tucson Golf and Country Club

It was a rough go, both for and on, the Tucson Golf and Country Club

Bonnie Henry
Wed 4 Nov 1987 7B
Arizona Daily Star

“Few people who are not devotees of the game appreciate what a hold golf has on many rich men. They will not consider spending a winter at a resort, no matter how attractive its climate, if it offers no golf course with which they can engage in their favorite pastime.”

Editorial, Tucson Daily Citizen, Feb. 13, 1914.

They said it could rival the amusements of the Riviera – or at least the coast of Florida. And so it came to pass: the old Tucson Golf and Country Club, way out in the middle of nowhere. You know it as what sprawls to the southwest of Broadway and Country Club.

Homes covered up the old course years ago. As for the clubhouse, only a hold in the ground served as reminder of its existence for what seemed like decades. Now that’s also gone, smoothed over by yet another shopping center.

A loftier sort of merchandising was what they had in mind back in January 1914.

“We plan to make this not an ordinary golf links, but one that will make Tucson known all over the country,” said Hugo J. Donau, one of the prime forces behind the country club. As yet, no exact location has been chosen, though the soils of several contenders were being sifted through the fingers of golf course architect William Watson.

One thing already decided was the condition of the greens. Said Donau: “We will have the gravel type, of course. A grass course would, of course, not be feasible.”

Of course.

“It was a skin course,” remembers Roy P. Drachman, who joined the club in 1928. “There was no grass. They dragged the dirt to keep the rocks off.”

Even the “greens” played rough. “They were sand greens, oiled sand 40 feet in diameter,” says Drachman. “They kept it oiled so the sand wouldn’t blow.”

Stuck into the sand of every green was a broom, for smoothing the distance between ball and hold. “Everyone was entitled to a sweep,” says Drachman. “Half of the technique of sinking your putt was knowing how to sweep the sand.

Cottonseed helped stop the golf balls on the ninth hold, says Drachman. “They lowered the green a little and put in cottonseed on and then covered it with sand.”

One hundred eager golfers had signed up by March 1914, each paying $100 for a share in the newly incorporated club. The resort was to be “family-oriented,” with playgrounds promised for the children, afternoon tea “for the ladies.”

By Easter Sunday, the first nine holes were completed, the second nine by August. The clubhouse opened Dec. 19.

The edifice Drachman remembers had hardwood floors, chandeliers, men’s and women’s locker rooms, dining and banquet rooms. “You’d dine very nicely on $1,” he says.

Old tabs from developer John Murphey, who served as the club’s director during the mid-‘30’s, show that on one occasion during September 1931, he ran up a dinner bill of $8.75. For seven. Including cigars. Caddy fees, by the way, were a quarter per bag for 18 holes.

Club doings regularly made the society page: “At the Country club, ladies’ day on last Tuesday brought a goodly number together. Beach pajamas was the popular costume of the day and the time sped merrily.”

Or, for mixed company: “The Country Club members will join in a merry revel New Year’s even on the occasion of the annual costume ball, in which the garb of the gay nineties will be featured. Duplicating entertainment of those colorful days, a program of jollity will prevail.”

Jollity, however, appeared to be on the wane as the ‘30s approached. “In 1929 they built El Rio Country Club,” says Drachman. The new course had grass.

“It was the beginning of the end,” says Drachman, who along with the majority of members, switched to the westside course. Only “a few die-hards” remained.

By 1932, Tucson Country Club had a campaign under way to construct its own grass fairways. But as the Depression ground on, seed money from the remaining members became harder and harder to extract.

Arrangements were made for members to play at El Rio, without additional charge.

Delinquent subscriptions finally forced the club to refinance its $30,000 mortgage. Twenty-six additional lots, held in reserve to protect the club’s eastern flank next to Country Club Road, also had to be mortgaged.

It was not enough. John Murphey took over the valuable corner lot and turned it, in 1939, into Broadway Village, said to be Arizona’s first shopping center.

The clubhouse and golf course were bought up too, with the land becoming home sites for the Broadmoor subdivision.

In the fall of ’42, the old building where the gentlemen smoked their stogies and the ladies cavorted in their beach pajamas became La Hacienda. Otherwise known as the G.I. Country Club.

Run as a recreation center by the American Women’s Volunteer Services during World War II, the popular place offered servicemen everything from table tennis to alterations on their uniforms. Sandwiches and coffee became a specialty of the house.

Just before war’s end, the Shriners moved into the building. They would be its last occupants. In 1968, they sold the building.

Not long after, the last vestige of the resort built to keep ‘em away from the Riviera was razed.

Broadmoor Subdivision

Excerpted from 2020 National Register of Historic Places Broadmoor Nomination (for more detail, go to files associated with the Historic Designation Committee on this site)

The Broadmoor subdivision is an early and outstanding example of mid-20th century subdivision design and development. The subdivision was one of the first post-World War II developments in Tucson, and was one of the first to eschew the city’s rectilinear street grid and embrace modern planning concepts for mid- priced residential development. The subdivision was also one of the first cohesive collections of Ranch style houses in Tucson.

The primary character-defining features of Broadmoor are:

  • the development layout, including curvilinear and discontinuous streets, limited access points, inward orientation and landscaping features;

  • the collection of post-World War II Ranch houses.

These forms are associated with local and national trends of the period. The period of significance relates directly with the period of the subdivision’s design and construction, 1944 to 1964.

Property Background and Development History

The Broadmoor subdivision was located on nearly 150 acres of land that was originally homesteaded by Tucson businessman Joseph Durr in 1885.

In 1943, the Broadmoor Realty Company was created to acquire and develop the remaining acreage. Broadmoor was created and developed by the H. C. Tovrea Company, headed by Harold Tovrea (1902-1988). Tovrea, an Arizona native, was involved in real estate and insurance in Tucson for more than 40 years, from the 1920s into the early 1970s.

The plat survey and layout was completed by T. N. Stevens. Stevens was one of a handful of local surveyors, and was involved in subdivision survey, design and layout in Tucson from the mid-1920s into the 1950s.

In 1944, plans for the Broadmoor subdivision were submitted to and approved by Pima County. The plans were lauded for their quality and adherence to the Tucson Regional Plan, which had been developed to implement modern urban planning principles in anticipation of the city’s future growth and expansion. The Tucson Regional Plan was funded by the city to develop long range planning goals during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Areas of concern included zoning, transportation, utility infrastructure, blight, redevelopment and storm water management.

H. C. Tovrea began offering lots for sale in early 1945, in anticipation of the end of the war. Lots were priced from $700, and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) had provided approval for loans equal to 90% of the cost of a house built within the subdivision. Lots were sold to individuals and to small builders.

Broadmoor took its name from a famous Colorado resort hotel, in an attempt to convey an association with a symbol of luxury, recreation, and resort living. The Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs was established in the early 20th century with the intent to provide European elegance in the United States, and was widely known for its golf facilities designed by Donald Ross (Tovrea was an avid golfer). The property also had thousands of acres of landscaped grounds designed by the landscape architecture firm established by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Continuing the theme, Broadmoor’s streets shared their names with distinguished hotels and resorts across the United States, each of which had, in turn, taken the name of an English town, many of which were seaside or spa communities. (These included the Malvern in Maine, the Exeter in New York and Seattle, the Devon in New York and Chicago, the Croyden in Chicago and New York, the Stratford in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, and the Manchester in New York. The Eastbourne was a hotel in Atlantic City but was also the name of a leading seaside resort in England.) The use of English names may have been an attempt to establish an air of British sophistication while at the same time associate with iconic names of travel and leisure. It may also have reflected the kinship felt at the time between the U.S. and Britain during World War II.

Advertising focused on the extensive planning, immediate access to utilities, paved streets, minimum dwelling size, proposed park, community restrictions and plan review. The advertising also highlighted the subdivision’s proximity to downtown, the adjacent Broadway Village shopping center, and neighboring high quality and affluent residential developments.

The CC&Rs for Broadmoor required plans to be submitted to the developer for review and approval prior to construction, and established minimum house sizes of 1000 to 1200 s.f. and minimum home values of $5000 to $6000, depending on location within the development.

Houses built south of the Arroyo Chico were permitted to be smaller in size and less expensive.

Broadmoor was essentially an infill project, in comparison to contemporaneous developments was much closer to Tucson’s downtown business district.

Prior to the end of the war, the developers installed paved streets. Development of the subdivision utility infrastructure also began before the completion of the war.

As the war came to a conclusion, the moratorium on non-essential construction was lifted, and the construction of houses began in earnest in October of 1945 in Broadmoor. Construction volume accelerated quickly, to address the pent up demand in the community. Custom houses were built, as well a speculative homes by small builders. Home prices typically ranged from

$10-15,000, but a few larger houses on larger or combined lots were also on the market and priced up to $25,000. Construction in Broadmoor mirrored the frenzied efforts elsewhere in the city to meet the demand, and by early 1947 more than 85 houses were under construction or already completed.

Builders in Broadmoor included Charles Malowney, Robert Young, Andrew Young, Sewell Yarbrough, JC Carte, KC Construction Services, Sam Witt, Lamar Cotten, AC Building Co., Bill Estes, Tom Gist, Grant Construction Co., John Joynt and Carter Henrisey, among others.

Malowney was the most prolific of these builders, having built at least 20 houses in the first four years of the development, primarily along Stratford, Malvern, and Arroyo Chico streets.

When construction first started, Broadmoor was beyond the city of Tucson’s infrastructure for water and sewer, so the subdivision relied on groundwater pumping and cisterns. In subsequent years, Broadmoor was connected as the city’s infrastructure expanded. Broadmoor was connected to Tucson’s water system starting in the late 1940s, and connection to the city sewer began in 1950. Broadmoor Realty Co.’s water franchise was eventually transferred to the city in 1953. This process was common practice during the city’s post-war expansion.

The Arroyo Chico wash was channeled and rerouted as part of the subdivision development, and was constructed in response to the Regional Plan’s stormwater management guidelines, to address flooding in and around Tucson that was being exacerbated by expanding development and inadequate infrastructure. However, efforts along Arroyo Chico proved insufficient during a flood event in 1948, which inundated many houses in Broadmoor with water, and caused severe flooding downtown.

Most of the lots in Broadmoor were sold by 1950, and more than 300 hundred houses had been built by the end of 1951. The pace of construction slowed during the 1950s, and primary build out continued through 1964. A handful of lots remained vacant, and were built out in the years after 1977. 365 houses were eventually built.

The City of Tucson annexed Broadmoor in 1952. In 1953, citing the inadequacy of the existing infrastructure, the city assessed bonds in the amount of $250 for new paving, curbs and water connections.

The original plan for a 9-acre park at the southwest corner of the property never came to fruition. This may have been because of the subdivision’s proximity to Randolph Park, a large regional facility of 160 acres located just to the southeast of the neighborhood. Instead the property was sold to Tucson Unified School District, which built a school on the site in the mid- 1970s.

Broadway Village

Built in 1939 by Helen and John Murphey at the southwest corner of Broadway and Country Club, Broadway Village remains the most successful and enduring commercial building designed by Tucson’s prolific mid‐century architect, Swiss‐born Josias Joesler, according to the 1994 booklet entitled Joesler & Murphey: An Architectural Legacy for Tucson, published with funding from the National Park Service.

The booklet’s contributors, including local expert R. Brooks Jeffery, Coordinator of Preservation Studies at the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of Arizona, suggest the Murphey’s found inspiration for Broadway Village on a visit to Patzcuaro, a quaint village in Central Mexico. With Joesler’s help, they recreated the village square at Broadway and Country Club, then on the outskirts of Tucson. Using Spanish Colonial Mission Revival forms, low‐pitched clay tile roofs, arched openings, carved niches, arcades, stairways, mortar‐washed brick, and colored ceramic tile, they crafted “a romantic sense of place” for locals and visitors alike to admire and enjoy.

Although cherished for its iconic Mission Revival architecture, historians claim that Broadway Village was also a pioneering retail concept in 1939. Situated far from the downtown shopping district, its plaza‐ style site plan was innovative, featuring parking in the rear. Its sculpted outdoor spaces were exposed to the streetscape of Broadway, inviting neighbors to shop and socialize throughout the scenic plaza.

In the evolution of retailing, Broadway Village was also a forerunner as one of the first grocery, drug, and hardware anchored shopping centers in the United States.

Its original anchor tenant, Broadway Village Market, is still fondly remembered by longtime Tucsonans for its freshly butchered meats and fish. An adjacent drug store with soda fountain was known for serving Green Rivers and Cowboy Burgers. These establishments closed their doors in the 1970s in the midst of Tucson’s mass suburbanization.

From http://broadwayvillagetucson.com/broadway-village-turns-75/

85% of the houses were built between 1947 and 1951

Our neighborhood has been and is home to many incredible neighbors. Their legacy and the stories that still remain are what define the spirit of this neighborhood. Starting in 2020, we began to collect stories to bring to life all of the wonderful things that make Broadmoor-Broadway Village such a wonderful place.