Monday, February 18, 2008

Ubiquitous Tucson ranch houses gain historic cachet

[Source: Tom Beal, Daily Star] -- Tucson grew up, or rather out, after World War II as the desert was carved into lots and filled with houses that, by and large, had the same basic design. Pour a rectangular slab, sometimes deviating into an L or a U. Stack some block or brick for walls. Cover it and the attached carport with a low-slung roof built atop wooden beams or trusses. Call it a "ranch" — a type of residential construction developed in California that swept across the country as a newly mobile middle class created American suburbia. The ranch had big windows front and back, often with sliding-glass doors inviting an outside-living style. It had a rambling, adaptable interior.

In its many variations, the ranch seemed perfect for the desert lifestyle — especially in fall and spring when the warming sun heated its blocks and kept inhabitants cozy through the mild nights. In winter and summer, with little insulation, it was another story, but, hey, energy was cheap. Just crank up the furnace or that new-fangled central air conditioner. Those were the days when gas stations had price wars, and you could cruise Speedway all night with the pocket change you lifted from your father's dresser caddy. That all changed in the '70s. The energy crisis put a premium on the well-insulated home. Land costs dictated smaller lots and more compact housing footprints. The single carport gave way to the two-car garage. The era of the ranch house passed. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]