Joesler Jostle

A Salute to Joesler opens the doors of eight Joesler homes around town.

Famous as the architect Josias Joesler has become in his adopted hometown, the private homes he designed here in the 1920s and '30s are a well-kept secret.

His public buildings, including St. Philip's in the Hills Church and Broadway Village, all brick, tile, adobe, arches and niches, are admired for their adaptation of romantic historical styles to 20th-century desert life. But homeowners anxious to protect their privacy have kept his fine domestic architecture hidden from view.

That all changes this weekend, with the first of two Saturday tours to a handful of Tucson's Joesler-designed homes. The Arizona Opera League, which annually stages a benefit tour, this year pulled off the considerable coup of persuading owners to open their houses to the public. Tour-goers will be able to meander around four private houses, different on each of the two tour days. An enterprising architecture lover can tally up eight houses by going both days, though a few of the houses are "Joesler-influenced," rather than Joesler originals.

A couple of the tantalizing attractions are the house Joesler built for his family in Poet's Corner in the flatlands (March 24 only), and the sumptuous foothills residence of novelist Erskine Caldwell (March 17 only), who lived in Tucson in the 1940s and early '50s. Tour-goers can begin their day by taking in a lecture at the starting point, St. Philips' Church, given by Tucson's foremost Joesler expert, R. Brooks Jeffery, the architectural historian who has recently become coordinator of the UA's new preservation studies program. Copies of a book co-authored by Jeffery, Joesler and Murphey, newly back in print, will be available for $15.

Most of the houses on the tour are in the Catalina Foothills Estates, the original foothills neighborhood spearheaded by developers John and Helen Murphey. Originally, says Jeffery, they were marketed as vacation homes to wealthy out-of-towners. Their status as winter residences translated into small kitchens and bad closets, most of which have long since been renovated to accommodate the families who live in them full time. While some contemporary architects are contemptuous of the buildings' false historicism, Jeffery said the houses still have much to teach about building in the desert. Home buyers still clamor for his houses, which are carefully sited for views and climate control, and his shaded patios are a much prized venue for indoor-outdoor living.

The Salute to Joesler tours begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 17 and 24, at St. Philip's Church, River Road and Campbell Avenue. R. Brooks Jeffery will lecture to ticket holders at 9 a.m. and again at 10:30. Self-guided tours begin at 10 a.m. and continue through 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 for one day, and $70 for two days; they're available at the church or by calling 544-2502. Visit

for more info. The Grill at the Hacienda del Sol is offering a lunch for $25, with some proceeds going to Arizona Opera. For reservations call 529-3500.

A pre-tour cocktail party will be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 16 at Joesler-designed Eleven Arches, a 9,950-square-foot foothills palace. Tickets are $75. For tickets and directions call 544-2502.