Land History of Fairfield

While enjoying the Pinot Noir wine tasting event at our HOA last year, someone mentioned they thought Howard Hughes may have once owned the land that became our current homes in Fairfield. While I couldn’t confirm the veracity of that, I did recount the history of how Howard had purchased over 23,000 acres south of the airport in 1951 to build Hughes Aircraft’s Falcon Missile. This is now the Raytheon Missile Systems Company, from which I recently retired.

This is a related snippet from an article:

Tucson Citizen Oct.1997- Hughes Co. launched by eccentric industrialist

“A top (Hughes) aide (James Herbert “Herb” Nall) contacted longtime real estate broker (Roy P.) Drachman one night at 11 p.m., saying Hughes wanted options on 10,000 acres of land around the selected site – and wanted them by 2 p.m. at the latest, the following day. Drachman, who began his business career here as a movie theater manager, accomplished the task on time. Eventually, he and others secured options on about 32,000 acres of land. Hughes agents selected 20,000 for purchase.”

See also these articles for more interesting related stories about Howard in Tucson:

Las Vegas Sun May 1997- Hughes land purchaser Nall dies Mar 2008- Howard Hughes builds a missile plant Jun 2011- Tucson Oddity: Rita Ranch named for Hayworth? May 2015- Street Smarts: Tucson’s biggest manufacturing plant was almost built in Phoenix

Aerial photograph of the Hughes Aircraft plant, Tucson, Arizona, 1951 from

But I digress…

I decided to look into the history of land ownership of Fairfield. It turns out that the original owner of the Fairfield property (after the Federal government) was John W. Murphey, who purchased 8,000 acres between Oracle, Sabino Canyon, Rillito River, and Sunrise in 1928. With architect Josias Joesler, they developed the foothills into the affluent suburb of master planned communities which we enjoy today. That development started near Hacienda Del Sol and expanded from there over the next 70 years.

Here are a few links to interesting related articles:

Catalina Foothills Estates No. 8- Pioneer landowner a Tucson legend

Catalina Foothills Associtation- Protecting Our Sense of Place

Through My Parents Eyes- Josias Joesler: An Architectural Eclectic

The History of the Catalina Foothills and Tanque Verde Valley

Historic photo from

Historic photo from