The decade of the 1930s in Tucson saw a small desert town of approximately 32,000 within the city limits draw inward because of the Depression. There was no major industry in the Old Pueblo to collapse, but bank runs and food lines impacted everyone and the culture evolved to the point where everyone owed everyone money. This was also the decade that the desert environment and climate would be recognized as an economic asset for tourism and real estate development. Conservation of the Sonoran Desert would also begin in this decade with Tucson Mountain Park being designated 1930 and the Saguaro National Monument in 1933.
The acknowledged values of the climate and the desert environment would see the development of resort hotels and upscale residential development, even with the ongoing hardships of the Depression. Wealthy tourists and health seekers would come to Tucson in the winter and stay at the recently constructed El Conquistador Hotel and Arizona Inn. Those visitors with the financial means wanted a winter residence in the Old Pueblo and often chose locations near these resort destinations. Those seeking a more secluded residence would select from the residential developments in the Catalina Foothills.
John and Helen Murphey were developing the area north of River Road and Campbell Avenue known as the Catalina Foothills Estates with homes on acreage that featured undisturbed desert vegetation and maximum views. The Ranchos Palos Verdes was located west of Oracle Road on what would become Orange Grove Road. Both areas promoted the concept of a “dust-free thermal belt” which featured less freezing temperatures in the winter months and reduced dust in the air. Pretentious residences of romanticized architecture from the past were also a highlight of both developments. The major difference was that citrus and other imported vegetation would replace the native Sonoran Desert vegetation at Rancho Palos Verdes. Thousands of citrus trees were planted which produced a crop that was in high demand by local residents. A few permanent residents of Tucson would also construct homes in both areas that would highlight past architectural heritage.
An excellent example of this endeavor is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Falvey which featured a courtyard-style home of Spanish traditions with an arcade of arches that greeted the visitor as you entered their home. Mr. Falvey was employed by the Southern Arizona Bank and Trust Company in Tucson proper. Their home was constructed in the locality of the Rancho Palos Verdes development with Mrs. Falvey developing an endeavor as unique for Tucson as the citrus orchard of the development. She began the breeding of game birds including pheasants, peacocks, and partridges that were all contained in pens behind their home. Many would be on exhibit at the upcoming fair and Mrs. Falvey had a vision for commercial development of her hobby.
The economic hardship of the Depression hit most residents in Tucson but many trends for the future were established during the decade of the 1930s. The value of the Sonoran Desert for both preservation and development would begin, along with the establishment of Tucson as a destination resort location for visitors from across the nation.