Catalina Foothills, Arizona

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Catalina Foothills is a census-designated place (CDP) located north of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona, United States. Situated in the southern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Catalina Foothills had a population of 53,794 at the 2000 census. Catalina Foothills is one of the most affluent communities in Arizona and the U.S., with the 6th highest per capita income in Arizona, and the 14th highest per capita income in the U.S. of communities with a population of at least 50,000. The Catalina Foothills community includes some of the Tucson metropolitan area's most expensive homes and land, and has the highest median property value.



The history of the modern development of the Catalina Foothills dates back to the early 1920s. Prior to that time, the Catalina Foothills area was primarily federal trust land and open range for cattle grazing. Beginning in the 1920s, John Murphey, began purchasing property north of River Road in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.[1]

Murphey originally planned to develop 10 housing subdivisions comprised of large lots. Murphey’s vision for the Catalina Foothills community was low-density residential development, on lots designed for maximum privacy, preserving existing desert vegetation, the natural terrain, and mountain views. In 1928 Murphey bought a 7,000 acre tract of land north of River Road between North Oracle Road and Sabino Canyon in a federal land auction.[1]

Around the same time, Josias Joesler, a Swiss architect, was retained to implement John Murphey’s vision. Residential development in the Catalina Foothills began in the 1930s, and Joesler designed a number of the homes.

In 1931, residents of the Foothills organized the Catalina Foothills School District to serve the local school-aged population.[1] Murphey sold the school district the land for the first school building near East River Road and North Campbell Avenue, and Joesler designed the first school building. This building continues to house the school district’s administration.

In 1936, Joesler and Murphey completed the building of St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church at the corner of Campbell Avenue and River Road, which was then the main entrance to the Catalina Foothills Estates.[1] The church is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Spanish Colonial Mission architecture. The land for the church was donated by Murphey, and Joesler donated his services for its design. The congregation paid only for construction.

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