Remember When: Waxing nostalgic on 50 years of McCormick Ranch memories

Remember When: Waxing nostalgic on 50 years of McCormick Ranch memories

By Joan Fudala

Much has, and will be, written about the “official” history of Scottsdale’s (and Arizona’s) first master-planned community, McCormick Ranch, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this month.

Perhaps most treasured are the personal, unofficial memories made every day throughout the 4,200 acres known as The Ranch.

Let’s walk down that paseo together, and fondly remember:

You’re a Scottsdale old-timer (or heard stories from one) if you remember hunting quail in the area now known as McCormick Ranch from the early 1900s up to the 1940s, particularly in the area of The Slough, the Indian Bend Wash.

Did you know the Jolly family, who had a small farm in the 1920s to 1940s where the railroad park is today, or remember when Merle Cheney sold land to Anne and Fowler McCormick for Angus cattle and Arabian horse ranching in 1942?

Did you attend an early Arabian Horse Show at McCormick ranch in the 1950s or at their Paradise Park horse arena on the southwest corner of what is now Shea and the Loop 101 during the 1960s?

Did you visit Anne McCormick’s Indian Arts & Crafts Center during the 1950s/1960s on Pima Road, now the Hopi post office site?

After Fowler McCormick sold the 4,200-acre ranch to Kaiser-Aetna in 1970 for $12.1 million, the Kaiser-Aetna planning/construction office operated from the McCormick’s former home on the northeast corner of Indian Bend and Scottsdale roads. Did you find an excuse to visit K-A’s general manager Dick Boultinghouse or Planning Director George Fretz to you could marvel at Mrs. McCormick’s beloved rose garden? Perhaps you attended a charity event in the house, like the first annual Fiesta benefit for the Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped in 1973.

Were you a volunteer (or sidewalk superintendent) during construction of the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 1971-75? Did you attend the grand opening of the park October 4, 1975, watching Mayor Bill Jenkins and Guy Stillman ride the Paradise & Pacific train through the ceremonial ribbon?

Have you played The Ranch’s two 18-hole golf courses? McCormick Ranch Golf Course’s Palm Course opened March 16, 1972, the Pine course the following year. Desmond Muirhead was course designer; John Ward the first golf course director/head professional. A temporary clubhouse opened on the north side of McCormick Parkway, just east of Scottsdale Road until the permanent facility could be built. Did you attend some of the major golf tournaments held there, like the 1973 Sun Devil-Phoenix Thunderbirds collegiate tourney in 1973, the American Airlines Celebrity Golf Classic in either 1977 or 1978 that featured major league sports stars or a National Junior College Championship?

How long have you been part of the McCormick Ranch Property Owners’ Association since it was incorporated September 21, 1972? Did you know the first families who moved into homes on McCormick Ranch? Richard and Nikki Kriss and their two children moved into a home on Via del Futuro, followed by Pat and Ted Stump and their two children, who moved into their home on Via del Futuro on January 12, 1973. Suggs and Ponderosa were the homebuilders in Phase I’s Paseo Village. According to the September 1992 Scottsdale Progress, “When the Stumps moved in coyotes were still running wild over the property, there was no postal delivery and no garbage pickup. The Stumps and the Krisses used to take turns picking up each other’s mail at the Osborn Street station.” They also didn’t have telephone service for months.

Did you use the North Branch Library in the ‘bunkhouse’ at the railroad park during the years it was open, 1974 to about 1978? Or have you enjoyed Mustang Library on 90th Street since it opened in 1987.

Have you stayed, attended meetings or enjoyed a meal at what was opened in summer 1975 as The Inn at McCormick Ranch? It has been branded/named a Clarion, Regal, Millennium and is now The McCormick Scottsdale. Remember jazz performances in the lounge and the view of Camelback Lake from The Pinon Grill?

Do you remember the variety of early shops, restaurants and services that were in The Ranch’s first shopping center, Paseo Village? Like Alpha Beta (ABCo), Gentlemen’s Closet, Shrake’s Pharmacy, A Touch of Class, Needle-Mania, Prestige Cleaners (among the longest tenants), Sprouse-Reitz, Town & Country Furniture, The Little Gym, McDonald’s (with historic photos of the McCormick’s cattle/horse ranch on the walls), Trinity Church, and so many others.

The Scottsdale Conference Resort opened on McCormick Parkway in 1976. Did you attend a dinner theater performance (1976), the Kruse classic car auction (1978), play tennis at the resort’s Racquet Club, or, more recently, attend a Scottsdale History Hall of Fame induction dinner there? Perhaps you celebrated a special occasion in the resort’s former Palm Court, where gourmet dinners were prepared tableside, au flambe. The late Marvin Hamlisch and Rosemary Clooney each performed at benefits at the resort, now known as The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch.

Remember Monterey Jacks, which opened on McCormick Parkway in 1976? It became the Monterey Whaling Company and has been the Chart House for decades. Or how about these restaurants that have been around The Ranch over the years: McCormick Ranch Restaurant, Rick’s Café Americana, Buster’s, Paradise Pinata del Pueblo, Sydney’s Pizza, El Paso BBQ (where Terry Bradshaw cut the ribbon in 1996), The Brioche at The Registry, Sunday brunch at The Registry’s Phoenician Room, Royal Barge Thai Cuisine, Eddie Chan’s, The Gourmet Pizza Co., The Anderson House, Spaghetti Company, Roy’s, Marilyn’s First, Franco’s Trattoria, Hops! Bistro and Brewery, Nello’s, Chevy’s, Applebee’s, Foster’s Seafood, Chili’s, Royal China?

Were you surprised when The Registry Resort (rebranded as a Radisson), which opened in December 1977, was razed for redevelopment in 2005? Countless community events were held there, from the Scottsdale Chamber’s tradeshows and annual luncheons, to City Council candidate forums, a performance by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and numerous charity benefits. The resort’s Racquet Club hosted major tennis tournaments, including several Bert Convy Celebrity Tennis tournaments in the mid-1980s, a Prudential-Bache Securities Grand Champions Tennis Tournament in 1984 and the Butch Walt & Friends Tennis Exhibition (featuring John McEnroe) in 1986. Walt became the resort’s director of tennis.

Have you been a member of one of the many clubs in The Ranch? The Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society since 1971, Kiwanis Club of McCormick Ranch since 1977, McCormick Ranch Women’s Association since 1978, Sunrise Rotary Club since 1983, and many others.

Remember shopping at some of The Ranch’s former stores: Alpha Beta, Reay’s Market, Smith’s, Smitty’s, ProPhoto, Blockbuster Video, Mrs. Fields, Famous Amos, Del Lago Fashions, I Love You Gift Shop, Super X Drugs, CompUSA, Stein Mart, Paddock Pools, the Pima Crossing Antique Mall…or banking at Continental, Valley National or 1st Interstate Banks, just to name a few?

Perhaps you’ve been a patient, visitor or generous donor since HonorHealth has had a presence in McCormick Ranch starting in 1978 when then-named Scottsdale Memorial opened the Kenneth M. Piper Family Health Center on Shea near 90th Street. First Lady Nancy Reagan was the honored guest in January 1984 for the dedication of Scottsdale Memorial Hospital-Shea. The Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center opened in December 2001. HonorHealth’s corporate headquarters is also located in The Ranch at Hayden and Via de Ventura.

Remember reading Hoyt Johnson’s The Rancher (1981-83) which became Scottsdale Scene magazine? Seeing the Prestige Cleaners hot air balloon flying over The Ranch? Sailing on Camelback Lake? Enjoying a Kiwanis pancake breakfast in the Paseo Village shopping center parking lot? Watching the 1978 Fiesta Bowl Marathon runners cross the finish line at the railroad park? Taking the family to the railroad park for a summer concert, RailFair or Holiday Lights? Attending or sending your children to Cochise Elementary School, which opened in 1980? Enjoying Comanche, Shoshone, Zuni, Mountain View city parks? Attending the city’s annual Veterans Day event at the railroad park since 1989? Watching water spew from Public Art’s horse sculptures along Indian Bend Road following a big rainstorm? Shopping at Antigua’s annual parking lot sale when the embroidery company was located on 94th Way? Surviving the disruption of Pima Freeway construction in the late 1990s that closed Pima Road permanently (now we can’t imagine life without Loop 101)?

Watching as real estate values in McCormick Ranch have risen dramatically? In 2012, the average sale price was $419,268 ($170 per square foot). In 2017, the average sale price was $589,035 ($233 per square foot). Over the past 12 months, the average sale price was $1,083,710 ($433 per square foot). During this same 10-year period, the scope of project work has gone from interior remodeling and enhancements to full renovations and new construction projects, with finished values far exceeding $2 million, according to the property owners’ association.

Looking to the future, the McCormick Ranch Property Owners’ Association (MRPOA) is committed to building on the values and principles that have made McCormick Ranch such a desirable location.

• “Our strategic plan was first adopted with the 2012 budget,” said MRPOA Executive Director Jaime Uhrich. “We updated it in 2016 to include strategies to ensure the health and vitality of the Ranch for the next decade. Today, after 50 years, McCormick Ranch remains a thriving community in the heart of Scottsdale. Although changes have been made, the essence of McCormick Ranch remains intact — a neighborly community of people who find the Ranch an exceptional place to live life to the fullest.”

So many memories yet to make around McCormick Ranch; so many opportunities to shop, dine and use the services of today’s McCormick Ranch businesses. Enjoy the next 50 years at The Ranch! 

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