Estate in Central Tucson


Built across from the historic El Conquistador Hotel, this home was designed by Arizona Inn architect Merritt Starkweather and completed in 1930. In 2001, the owners completely renovated the structure which had fallen into disrepair. They brought all the systems up to modern code, removed the effects of muddled 1970s remodeling, restored original details, and expanded the property for ease of family living and entertaining. The result is a right-sized, historically-accurate home with clean lines and bright spaces that graciously recalls the heyday of the Spanish Colonial Revival style, but with modern bathrooms, big closets, ample garage space, outdoor entertaining areas, and a cook’s kitchen--all the amenities absent in most historic houses. It is quiet and private, behind a circular drive and mature landscape, in the center of a rare enclave in the midst of central Tucson. 


545 South Avenida de Palmas, Tucson, Arizona 85716

4,724 s.f.

5 bedrooms

4 baths

Two story

Lot size: .85 acre

Year built: 1930

Renovation: 2001

Architects: M.H. Starkweather, Michael Franks

Colonia Solana Historic District







Historic preservation with meticulous attention to detail


"Truly unique revival architecture from the 1920s and 30s cannot be replicated, especially in great locations."

This home is for the lover of historic architecture, the person who appreciates original detail and recognizes materials that are crafted to last a lifetime. It's for the family who wants the character and graciousness of an old house, but wants the renovation work to have already been done. It's for the homeowner who cooks and entertains, who wants a house to be not only turnkey ready to move in, but complete with updated and improved conveniences for the way we live today. The home is energy efficient with a well-designed flow, privacy, and security.

Stucco over solid masonry and double-brick construction with brick cornices.

Terra cotta tile and reflective flat roof.

Floors of solid pegged mahogany, original narrow oak, reclaimed Virginia wide-board oak, and stained concrete. 

Extensive herringbone brick patios front and back.

Solid wood doors with original and reproduction hardware.

Solid wood cabinetry in kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room.

Traditional heavy wrought ironwork designed and crafted in Tucson.

Curvilinear iron staircase railing and newel post crafted by Tucson sculptor David Flynn.

Fortuny silk wall sconces from Italy.

Moorish fireplace with Venetian plaster (and gas line).

Tile-bordered Rumford fireplace.

Triple-pane Pella windows. Restored steel sash windows.

Wood beamed ceilings--original and reclaimed from a Virginia tobacco barn.

Original ceramic and porcelain tile, new reproduction glazed ceramic.

Hand-painted Moorish decorative tile from Malibu Ceramic Works in CA.

Virginia white marble and soapstone countertops.

Double-thick butcher block island.

Two pantries in the kitchen.

Wolf range, Miele dishwasher, GE full-size and beverage refrigerators and microwave.

Three-zone cooling and heating.

Ceiling fans throughout.

Traditional plaster pool, edged in brick, with central cleaning and fenced.

Walk-in closets with built-ins.

Central monitored security system with fire alarms; smoke detectors.

Basement with storage cupboards.

Insulated skylights.

Extensive rear yard with grass lawn, native desert vegetation and citrus along with entertaining patios, covered porches for dining and gathering.

Mature landscaping including shade trees, with multi-zone drip irrigation.

Private, walled, and shielded from neighboring properties by oleander hedges.

Walled meditation garden adjacent to pool.

Chicken coop and run (with four hens).

3-car garage plus gated 1-car carport, both with storage.


Light-filled exercise room.

Covered porches front and rear. 

Circular gravel drive with A-Mountain volcanic rock border.

Grandfathered in-driveway mailbox, across from front door.

This website does not constitute an offer to sell.



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The Neighborhood

colonia solana historic district

Hidden away in the central part of Tucson, Arizona, the Colonia Solana Residential Historic District (1928-1941) is made up of 111 distinctive single family residences which are excellent examples of Period Revival and Contemporary styles within a unique and outstanding centrally located neighborhood. The informal, non-geometric subdivision plat is one of the first in Arizona to incorporate a non-symmetrical, curvilinear layout. The plat includes a natural arroyo which runs diagonally across the southern portion and is an integral part of the neighborhood.

Native desert plants are used in an unusual, naturalistic fashion in specific areas to unify the district and provide rare open desert areas within the city limits. The implementation of early deed restrictions and architectural review controlled construction and helped insure a constant use of the land throughout.

The district originated in 1928 when the Country Club Realty Co. which owned the land on which the neighborhood now stands sold property to George B. Echols who constructed a grad spec house on two lots. In 1929, five houses were built. Between 1930 and 1931, six more were completed. The Depression drastically slowed construction and it was not until 1937 that construction picked up again. As a result, this property is one of the earliest built in Colonia Solana.

Colonia Solana was designed by Stephen Child, a nationally known and highly respected landscape architect who had studied with Frederick Law Olmstead at Harvard. The plan of Colonia Solana owes much to Olmstead's design of Riverside Gardens (Illinois). Both entail nature features and the topography of the site becomes part of the final design. The shape of the open areas and the streets curve in an organic, responsive manner. In Colonia Solana, the street system doubles as rain water drainage, leading to Arroyo Chico, a natural wash and adjacent walking path which winds through the southern portion of the neighborhood.

It is a precise and cohesive historic district, with a visible sense of time and place, a rare enclave in central Tucson with flat lots and quick access to all corners of the metropolitan area, including the University of Arizona, downtown, and the airport. Parks, shopping, the library, tennis, golf, baseball, and the zoo are all within walking distance.


The Architects

M.h. Starkweather and michael franks

Merritt H. Starkweather (1891–1972) was a Tucson, Arizona, architect and civic leader. A native of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, after visiting the Panama-California Exposition (1915), he moved to Tucson and began working in an elegantly simplified Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture. He designed the original 1930 home at 545 Avenida de Palmas, on spec and advertised in the Arizona Daily Star to sun-seeking visitors from back East.

Starkweather buildings reflect a sophisticated understanding of the Art Deco movement – both the Starkweather Home on Adams Street and in El Encanto Estates are examples of Pueblo Deco Style. Perhaps his most significant building is the Arizona Inn: a series of lush courtyards and pink plastered buildings commissioned by Isabella Greenway. He designed several schools including Carrillo and Doolen, as well as the Tucson High stadium, the Elk's Lodge in Nogales, and the shops at 6th and Tucson Blvd.

Starkweather was a founder of the Tucson Rodeo. In 1937, he founded the Arizona chapter of the American Institute of Architects and in 1968 was named an AIA Fellow. He founded the Tucson Blueprint Company before World War I. Starkweather married Otilia Jettinghoff (Lily) on August 6, 1921 and died in 1972 in Tucson.

Michael Franks of Seaver Franks Architects in Tucson is a native Tucsonan, with a Bachelor of Architecture from Arizona State University and has been in practice for 35 years. He is NCARB certified, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and involved in many community organizations both in and around Tucson. Franks has designed many single family residences in Tucson and is known for his modern adherence to vernacular tradition. He designed the addition and oversaw the restoration of 545 Avenida de Palmas, including the careful demolition of non-historic additions to restore the integrity of the original structure.



original, reclaimed, restored

From the newly sculpted light sconces at the entry to the 90-year old mahogany floors in the dining room, to the new hand painted Malibu ceramic tile, timeless materials of the highest quality were already present and then added during the year-long renovation. When the current owners purchased the property it was a 2,856 s.f. duplex, having been converted from its original form to a partial rental property. During the renovation, 500 s.f. of a 1970s era addition that did not match the original structure was demolished and additional square footage was added in the original Spanish Colonial Revival style with attention to melding with the historic, but not attempting to falsely replicate it, consistent with National Historic Preservation guidelines.

The new addition includes a 3-car garage, a master bedroom suite, a full bathroom, two additional bedrooms, one of which is currently used as an office. In other areas an open porch was enclosed to make the exercise room and open patios were transformed into dining and entertaining areas with tile-covered roofs. Front and back, they provide substantial shaded outdoor living.

The result is not only 4,724 square feet of comfortable living space but an additional 1,105 square feet of garages and storage and 1,277 square feet of outdoor covered porches.

The total 7,016 square feet under roof provides a balance between old world charm and the way we live today in Arizona.

View the as-built architecture plans.

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Spanish Colonial Revival

an enduring vernacular

The home is an accurate example of an architecture style found across California, the Southwest and Mexico, which ranged from ornate examples bearing resemblance to Moorish traditions, to spare and simple interpretations, sharing much with the Shaker tradition. 

The Spanish Colonial Revival Style as an architectural stylistic movement arose in the early 20th century based on the Spanish Colonial architecture of the Spanish colonization of the Americas and found its way into public buildings such as those in Santa Barbara, as well as single-family residences of all sizes.

The Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in San Diego, highlighting the work of architect Bertram Goodhue, is credited with giving the style national exposure. Embraced principally in warm climates, the Spanish Colonial Revival movement enjoyed its greatest popularity between 1915 and 1931.

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