Santa Fe Style Homes in Tucson: A Little Bit of History Goes a Long Way
We’re Realtors®. We sell houses.
But, just how knowledgeable are we about the properties we sell?
My mother passed away in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. She was my rock, my best friend, my mentor. Recently, I was cleaning out boxes in my garage when I found one labeled, “Floor Plans”. In it were my mother’s professional “treasures”. Its contents told me, once more, about my mother’s love of Tucson architecture over her 28-year career in real estate. I found years and years of photos of homes, floor plans and information of well-known historical builders from the 70s through the 90s. What a piece of nostalgia — and fact! Imagine home prices starting at $33,000!
What I loved most about Mom’s collection, however, was viewing the original architecture of properties at that time.
I’m constantly amazed at how many people — especially Realtors® — do not have a working knowledge of the actual home styles; specifically, the types of architecture — that exist in our community. This applies often to Tucson architecture and, all too often, to homes in the Old Pueblo.
The selection of home styles are generally hampered by a lack of distinction and understanding of the differences and assets of the following styles, which are commonly mislabeled. This causes confusion and frustration among Contemporary, Spanish Mission, Territorial, Mediterranean, Santa Barbara, Tuscan, Ranch, Santa Fe, Modern, Pueblo, or Southwestern.
This problem became clearer to me in a conversation I recently had with an individual relocating to Tucson, trying to navigate the types and styles of local architecture as noted in the selection process on a Tucson multiple listing service and property profile sheet.
The attempt to highlight only the Santa Fe style home was misleading. Most of the time, when a Santa Fe style home was selected the list of homes that showed up on the search were characterized as “contemporary” or “southwestern” which are inaccurate representations.
It was difficult to figure out why a home was labeled as contemporary when it was clearly a southwestern home; or a southwestern when it was an obvious Santa Fe. Although many people these days prefer modern or contemporary architecture, so many others do prefer the traditional Santa Fe style home.
We are privileged to live and work in an area that possesses such authentic architectural and cultural flavor. People love the notion of living in homes in the Sonoran Desert, with its ancient saguaros adorning a landscape that has honored the primal, 3,000-year-old lifestyle of the Anasazi Indians.
The unique Santa Fe architecture is deeply rooted in ancient geographical and cultural history. Simplistic architectural designs of the past employed open floor plans that accommodated natural, open spaces, with a major use of natural lighting and the colors of desert shadows that blended perfectly into the landscape.
The coveted Santa Fe style is legendary for its mere simplicity, while accommodating the natural environmental factors of desert dwelling. Our early ancestors lived simply and formed a robust culture around preserving its lifestyle and adapting to the unique elements of nature.
Signature Spanish and Mexican influences characterize the area’s linear desert landscape with home construction of traditional dry-brick covered with mud or mud-adobe. Today, Santa Fe homes are built with frame stucco or mud-adobe; flat roofs with vigas and large timber beamed ceilings or latillas. These time-honored designs feature an aesthetically prominent, secure Courtyard Gate, which also creates images of mystery and intrigue of days gone by.
Nowhere else will you see the raw colors of nature that bathe Santa Fe homes in such rustic grandeur. They include deep earth tones, as well as steamy, rusty sunset hues and eye-popping, blood-orange reds. Shades of incredible turquoise blue and brassy yellow/gold colors emanate from their natural surroundings.
It’s good to know the history of properties we sell. Knowledge is, indeed, power.