Situated in Sam Hughes neighborhood, at the intersection of Country Club and 6th street, rests a historic gem known as the Villa Catalina Apartments. The property features a twenty-building, 79-unit, mid-century modern, “garden-apartment” complex which was built between the years 1957-1961. Originally advertised as the first own-your-own luxury apartments in Tucson following the war, the community was converted in 1992 to a fifty-five or older, Senior Housing designation.

Lionel Mayell, a prominent California- based designer of cooperative apartment buildings, was the lead in developing the Villa Catalina Apartments.  In addition to cooperative apartment buildings, he was a pioneer in creating “post- war garden apartments” throughout the United States in the mid-1900s. During his career, he developed major projects in Arizona, California, Florida, and New York. Mayell’s designs represent styles of the time, focusing on modern architecture with influences from revival and Mediterranean styles. In 1958, after one year into building Villa Catalina Apartments, Mayell sold his share in the project to the Villa Catalina Cooperatives, a group of local investors and contractors.

  • Villa Catalina Brochure Cover, 1958
    Cabat-Gill Advertising Archive, Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation
  • Villa Catalina, architectural rendering, 1958
    Cabat-Gill Advertising Archive, Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation
  • Villa Catalina Advertising Photograph, 1958
    Cabat-Gill Advertising Archive, Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation
  • Villa Catalina, architectural rendering, 1958
    Cabat-Gill Advertising Archive, Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation

Villa Catalina is an example of a post-war modern design applied to low-rise apartment buildings that focuses on indoor-outdoor living. The buildings on site were added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 12, 1999, due to the significance of its builder, Lionell Mayell and specific features his design. Vital to the design, the landscaping is also considered of significance to the site. The demonstration of shared outdoor spaces and lush plantings throughout the property at Villa Catalina showcases landscaping elements from the 1950s in Tucson.

Villa Catalina and its landscape illustrate Lionel Mayell’s creativity through design and presents the first example of “postwar” garden apartments” in Tucson. This style of design offered residents indoor-outdoor living with floor to ceiling windows, exterior patios, colorful landscaping and shared amenities. Amenities featured on the property include two swimming pools, off-street parking, safe walkways for pedestrians, shuffleboard courts, built-in barbeques, and a putting green.

  • Villa Catalina Apartments
    photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas
  • Villa Catalina Apartments
    photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas

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