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TUCSON REAL ESTATE
El Encanto Estates:
An Historic District
As real estate development continues to change the landscape of Tucson, many neighborhoods face the issue of safeguarding their physical integrity. And although the ax of massive reconstruction may fall less often on districts listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, residents of these areas remain concerned about preserving their quality of life. The tall palm trees in the median of Broadway Boulevard west of El Con Mall alert passersby to El Encanto Estates, an outstanding example of early Twentieth Century community planning. In 1988, it made Tucson real estate news by becoming the sixth Tucson neighborhood to be designated as a Residential Historic District, which has allowed the area to maintain much of its original character. Foundedin 1928 by landowner and developer W. E. Guerin, this was one of the first subdivisions to break from the city’s gridiron layout. Radiating outward from a central park, its architecturally distinctive single-family homes lay on six narrow diagonal and circular streets and cul-de-sacs.
Once beyond the eastern edge of the city, this charming and nostalgic district is now centrally located. The area is defined by East Fifth Street on the north, East Broadway Boulevard on the south, Country Club Road to the west and North Jones Boulevard to the east. Alert to opportunities afforded by the construction of the 200-room El Conquistador Hotel just to the east, [on land now occupied by El Con Mall], W. E. Guerin sought to build a prestigious enclave that would appeal to affluent residents of Tucson and winter guests of the desert resort.
Alterations to the original land plat for the 123-acre development have been minimal and most of the residential lots exceed 16,000 square feet. Although it was once dominated by Spanish Colonial Revival style homes, the area’s architecture also included examples of Pueblo Revival, Eclectic Revival and Sonoran until 1941, when ranch-style residences made their debut. While classic Southwest architecture abounds in the area of Colonia Solana and other neighboring developments, it is the formal landscaping that distinguishes El Encanto Estates.
The distinctive homes of this urban oasis are often featured in fundraising tours for non-profit organizations. Although some of the original lush plantings have been replaced with lower-maintenance features, many of the park’s original 150 saguaros remain, as do date and Mexican fan palms planted along the streets in 1929. Accented with distinctive edging and walling, these majestic trees serve as district boundaries.
If planning a drive-by tour, consider including nearby El Conquistador Water Tower, with its wrought iron weather van featuring a prospector and his donkey. Designed to serve guests of the El Conquistador Hotel and residents of both the El Encanto and Colonia Solana neighborhoods, the tower is the only hotel feature to remain on its original site. Built in 1929 by contractor John W. Murphey, the ornate tower is located across Broadway from El Encanto Estates, near South Randolph Way. After years of uncertainty about its conceptual origins, locally renowned architects Roy Place and Josias Joesler have been credited for working on design elements of the distinctive landmark. The City removed the tower from service in 1970, and tried without success to sell it. The tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, after two efforts to have the tower demolished failed.