Josias Joesler: An Architecture Eclectic

When asked to name Tucson's most recognized architect, the first name that comes to most people's minds is Josias Joesler. This website presents Joesler within the context of Tucson’s architectural and community development, his prolific 30-year career with developer/builder John Murphey and his legacy providing lessons for appropriate architecture in Tucson.

Tucson Map 1925

Tucson in the 1920s flourished as a health destination for people seeking a dry environment to recover from ailments of all varieties, the most common of which was tuberculosis. The city was expanding, even then, to finally connect the island of the university to the city limits of Tucson and the downtown business district. Health seekers with their families moved further and further outside the city to accommodate a lifestyle that was considered essential for healthy recovery: chicken farms, citrus groves, sunshine and open space. Hospitals and sanatoriums flourished to accommodate the sick population. Tucson Sunshine Climate Club

Sunshine Club

By the mid-1920s, Tucson enacted a promotional campaign to change its reputation from a health destination for the dying to that of a resort town for the living. Organizations, such as the Tucson Sunshine Climate Club, designed advertising campaigns to encourage people of eastern states to move to Tucson by associating it with other resort communities of Southern California and New Mexico that had become enormously popular with the famous and affluent.

The subdivisions of the early 1920s were amongst the first in Tucson to incorporate deed restrictions to monitor building setbacks, maintain property values, restrict non-residential use and discriminate against non-white residents. Most subdivisions used a traditional gridiron pattern for lot placement causing a flood of similar subdivision designs and characteristics. Developers, responding to an upper class clientele and Southern California precedence, found non-gridiron street patterns, southwestern architecture, comprehensive deed restrictions and landscaped lots to be excellent marketing commodities, creating unique alternatives to the normal subdivision patterns. Competition forced marketing innovations which translated into unique, non gridiron subdivision development such as seen in two of the most prestigious Tucson subdivisions, Colonia Solana and El Encanto in 1928. Colonia Solana, whose design used the natural contours and desert vegetation, and El Encanto, where large lawns, formally landscaped lots and non-native plants are found, are separated by each's definition of a sense of place.

John W. Murphey Helen Murphey

Well aware of the charm invoked by the Southern California revival of Spanish Colonial architecture was John W. Murphey, then a young Tucson builder, and his decorator wife Helen. The Murpheys had dreams of building the kind of residential communities that would attract wealthy clients from the East to the resort desert city of Tucson. John Murphey went to California many times and attempted to solicit the skills of architect George Washington Smith to realize his dream. Smith was designing luxury homes of the Spanish Colonial Revival style throughout Southern California, but primarily Santa Barbara. When Murphey asked Smith to come to Tucson as his company architect, Smith refused, but recommended another architect, then working in Los Angeles, Josias Joesler.

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