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History of UA presidential homes

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View of UA president's home from the east side with the Tucson Mountains in the background circa 1896. A mature cactus garden can be seen in the right corner.

The University of Arizona recently purchased a $1.3 million home, located just east of campus, to serve as the residence of President Dr. Robert Robbins after approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. 

According to the Office of University Communications, the UA actually has a long history of presidential homes, some of which are the source of mysterious folklore.

Theodore B. Comstock, the university’s first appointed president from 1894 to 1895, built the very first presidential home at the current site of Gila Hall located on Second Street and Park Avenue. When the home was built in 1894, it cost the university $5,499. It was renovated in 1923, and became the residence of several other UA presidents, ending with Homer LeRoy Shantz, the 10th university president, in 1936, according to UA Communications. The home was torn down in February 1937 to make way for a new student dormitory, Gila Hall.

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The sixth UA president, Arthur Herbert Wilde, designed Maricopa Hall in 1914, which was originally meant to serve as his private mansion. Wilde unfortunately retired early due to health conditions before building began. 

The university began construction on Maricopa Hall in June 1918, which cost $174,666. A third story was added to the building in 1921, costing an additional $45,000. 

Rufus Bernard von KleinSmid, the seventh university president, was allegedly supposed to reside in Maricopa Hall during his tenure, which started in 1914. However, according to UA Communications, “he adamantly refused to ever set foot in the mansion again after a mysterious experience while walking by the house late one night after a meeting.” 

Some say this story is connected to the “Haunting of Maricopa Hall,” according to uofamystery.org, which alleges that a young female student hung herself from the pipes of the building in 1919. Another story alleges that two rival dance-hall girls, Diamond Lil and Two Tooth Gertie, got into a bloody altercation one night in the 1860s. The women fought on the land of a Spanish ranch, which now belongs to the UA.

After von KleinSmid’s encounter, Maricopa Hall remained vacant for quite some time before it was slowly turned into classroom space. It currently serves as a UA residence hall.

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The UA’s 14th president, Richard Anderson Harvill, resided at 85 Calle Encanto until he retired in 1971. Built in 1953, the lot was purchased by UA in 1948 and cost $61,824 to build, according to UA Communications. It was sold for $65,000 in 1972.

In 1991, the UA Foundation purchased a home at 100 N. Camino Espanol, which served as the residence of UA’s 17th president, Manuel Trinidad Pacheco.

Peter Likins, UA’s 18th president, also lived in the home at 100 N. Camino Espanol for a portion of his term. The UA Foundation sold the home to the University of Arizona for $470,000 in 1998. Likins purchased a new residence in 2001 and the home was sold again for $780,000 in 2001.  

The newest presidential home, the current residence of President Robbins, was originally purchased by the UA Foundation at the university’s request. With approval from the Arizona Board of Regents, the university will now buy the home from the UA Foundation, along with its furnishings.

Cyrus Norcross
The University of Arizona Foundation purchased this house blocks away from UA for President Robert Robbins. Stairway to President Robert Robbins home.

Originally built in 1936, the house is 3,756 square feet and has four bedrooms, three baths, a pool and a separate office and gym. While the home is being used as a personal residence by Robbins and his family, it will also be used to host a variety of meetings and events for UA employees, community members and visitors.


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