Letter to the Town of Oro Valley

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The following letter was delivered to the Town of Oro Valley Mayor and Councilmembers (others as noted) on May 26, 2020. (Formatting may be slightly different from the original letter but content has not changed.)

It explains our position regarding the change from the 2015 Master Plan for Steam Pump Ranch with regard to the Garage Building.  We feel obligated to inform our membership what has transpired.

We invite you to read further.


The Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers Town of Oro Valley
11000 N. La Canada Drive
Oro Valley, AZ 85737

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,

It is with concern and dismay that we write this letter. On May 19, we learned via the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB) Zoom Meeting that there is a plan for the restoration of the Garage Building at Steam Pump Ranch (SPR) and that it will be used as offices for the Recreation and Cultural Division. This came as a shock to the Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) Board members especially since just a year ago, a “Steam Pump Ranch Garage Building Needs Assessment” was completed for the purpose of making the Garage a permanent home for the Society (as indicated in the revised Steam Pump Ranch Master Plan 2015). We had not been contacted by anyone from Parks and Recreation (including our liaison, Ms. Lynanne Dellerman-Silverthorn) that a decision had been made to repurpose the space. A courtesy call, at the very least, would have been appropriate prior to the PRAB meeting.

The Parks and Rec shift in focus to Steam Pump Ranch is understandable due to the results of its recent survey. All along OVHS knew the importance of SPR to the community. One of our purposes was to promote activities and events that would keep its historic significance evident to the community. Now with the survey results, it seems Parks and Rec has renewed its focus on SPR. While this is certainly a good thing, OVHS hopes that SPR will not become just a center for community events and lose its historical importance. Parks and Rec’s decision to take over the Garage to the detriment of OVHS leaves us uneasy about our connection to SPR. The non-transparent manner in which the decision was effected concerns us even more.

For Councilmembers who may not know the history of the relationship between the Town of Oro Valley/Parks and Recreation and the Oro Valley Historical Society, the following is a brief synopsis.

Jim Kriegh, founding father of Oro Valley, Pat Spoerl, PhD., and Dick Eggerding established the OVHS in 2005 in an effort to preserve Oro Valley history and landmarks. They were concerned that significant history would be lost to development. A “Memorandum of Understanding By and Between the Town of Oro Valley and the Oro Valley Historical Society” was signed in 2006 establishing a framework for the partnership. Jim and the OVHS were instrumental in advocating for the purchase of Steam Pump Ranch in 2006/2007 with a mind to establish a permanent home for OVHS as well as preserve the property. In 2009 with the help of the OVHS, Steam Pump Ranch was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to our “Memorandum of Understanding”, we have a License Agreement with the Town of Oro Valley. The first agreement was signed in 2009. The 18 point agreement was last signed on February 5, 2018. This revised license allows us to schedule tours, events, and plant in the Heritage Garden among other things.

In 2008 Poster Frost Mirto Associates created the original Master Plan for Steam Pump Ranch with input from the OVHS, the Town and its residents. The Master Plan described the offices in the Proctor-Leiber House intended for use by the Town and OVHS or a “Friends of Steam Pump Ranch” type group. The revised plan of 2015 changed the traffic circulation, the use of the Proctor-Leiber House and moved the OVHS to the Garage as indicated on the Building Legend/Restoration of Historic Precinct A4: Garage: In Partnership with Oro Valley Historical Society, Offices, Gallery, Restrooms and Storage. Town funding never materialized for the restoration of the ranch due to the economic downturn in 2008. The Pusch House is currently the only restored building on the property. Cosmetic landscaping, stabilization of some buildings and staging for events have occurred but the majority of the Master Plan has never been executed.

On May 19, 2019 a presentation was given to the OVHS detailing the results of the Capital Needs Assessment done by Poster Frost Mirto. The study included restoration plans and costs for the Garage Building. The OVHS contributed $5000 to the Town to help fund the assessment. This was to help in the effort toward the restoration and to make it our permanent home.

Since that time, we attempted on numerous occasions to establish an agreement for occupancy for the intended Garage Building. We were told that an agreement would not be forthcoming until we were able to prove we had the funding for the project. That was a “Catch 22” as it would be difficult to, in good faith, seek donors to raise the $450,000 without knowing if we would have a short or long term occupancy lease for the building. We were also told that we would not be able to use “The Ranch” in fundraising promotions unless those funds were used specifically for the restoration, but again, without an occupancy agreement, we could not proceed with “serious” fundraising. Incidentally, we have been trying for the last several years to get a Certificate of Occupancy for the Pusch House (to allow us to use one of the rooms as an office) and to date we still do not have one. There has only been an oral agreement that we may use the space.

We hope you can appreciate the affront we feel, as a “partner,” when we were not given any notice of the change in plans for the Garage. It was only after we contacted our liaison, Lynanne, after seeing the presentation to the PRAB, that a phone response came from Matt Jankowski. Without much explanation as to the change in plans for the Garage, we were told


that we could use the Pusch House (but again, we are waiting for the Occupancy Permit). The Pusch House lends itself as a museum, not an office. It is the facility where the OVHS exhibits its collections and displays and is the only building open to the public on the Ranch. Though we have come before Council on several occasions asking for budgeted money for security and fire suppression in the house, that has not yet happened. As such, we are unable to exhibit significant items in our collections. Last year the Pusch House had a break-in and we don’t feel it meets the necessary requirements to keep our collections safe on a permanent basis. Some of the repairs from the break-in still need to be completed.

Certainly, through time and changes of administrations, boards and staff, some of the partnership commitments may have waned or may have become misconstrued. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the mission of OVHS. We still seek to promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the Oro Valley area. We are a self-sustaining all volunteer organization and receive no money from the Town of Oro Valley or Pima County. We run on a very small budget dependent on membership fees, donations and fundraising. Much of our business community feels their obligation to the town has been fulfilled by the public art requirement and thus, it is difficult to get positive response from them. We do the best we can with what we have. And we have done a lot. On the attached Exhibit A, we’ve listed some of our ongoing projects, events, and activities as well as contributions to SPR and Parks and Rec.

The most important partnerships in life aren’t always based on a formal written agreement. They are based on trust. We strongly feel that the partnership we have with the Town (specifically Parks and Recreation) has been breached. The lack of communication and end run on the Garage Building Needs Assessment are inexcusable and not the stuff of successful partnerships. To say the least, we now have a serious lack of trust as to our position with the Town and Parks and Recreation.

We ask that the Town Council explain the decision for the Garage Building repurposing. We further ask that the Town and Parks and Recreation at least be honest about their intentions regarding our “partnership”. If this is something you would like to dissolve, at least be respectful and courteous enough to tell us so.

We will be happy to arrange a meeting to further discuss the issue and determine how we move forward. We would appreciate a prompt answer as we will likely have questions regarding the money budgeted for the Garage restoration at the upcoming Town meetings. Please contact President Roxy Johnson at orovalleylady@comcast.net.

Yours truly,

Roxana M. Johnson, President

Henry K. Zipf, Acting Vice President      Paul Loomis, Treasurer       Teresa Colmar, Secretary

cc: Chairman of HPC, Chairman of PRAB, Town Manager, Parks and Recreation Director



Exhibit A
Contributions of the Oro Valley Historical Society
to the Community and Town of Oro Valley/ Parks and Recreation Dept.

The following reflects highlights of recent OVHS activities and contributions with regard to our partnership with the TOV and Parks and Rec.

Community Volunteerism: Dedicated members of OVHS act as docents/tour guides, fundraisers, researchers, archivists and administrators. They include; descendants of George Pusch, descendants of early homesteaders, two published historians, a PhD. in Archeology, a renowned meteorite collector, two former mayors of the Town of Oro Valley, a local artist and many others who share their expertise, knowledge and passion for local history.

Exhibits at Pusch House Museum
All of the exhibits/displays are funded by OVHS and its donors. OVHS provides the docents in the Pusch House on Saturdays (when it is open) and for First Friday Concerts. We appreciate the TOV providing staff for cleaning and occasional set-up.

  • Sept: Ranching exhibit
  • Oct: Francisco Romero exhibit (this event brought in many of his descendantswho were in town for a reunion)
  •  Nov/Dec: Pusch Family German Heritage Holiday exhibit
  • Jan: Unveiling of Pusch Family Crest reproduction (painted by Gail Munden), andexhibit/presentation on OV homesteader, Catherine Reidy (Roxy’s mother).
  • Feb: Letters to Home, WWII letters from Henry G. Zipf to Gertrude Pusch Zipf.Items from the collection were donated to OVHS by Henry K. Zipf, current Board member.
  • March – Current: No displays due to Covid shut down.
  • Pusch House may be open for special events and private showings byappointment. OVHS will provide the docents if given sufficient notice.
  • This year we’ve seen a marked increase in visitors to the Pusch House Museum.  On several occasions we’ve had 300+ visitors during Saturday openings.

Heritage Garden

The partnership between Parks and Rec and OVHS has been most successful in the Heritage Garden. We especially commend Board member, Joyce Rychener and TOV Ranch Manager, Joel Woppert and Katie Bubnekovich for their efforts. An increase in volunteer/staff activity has helped tremendously. Archaeology Southwest and input from Mission Gardens has also been a valuable asset.

  • Demonstrations and presentations to local schools, home school groups, and tour groups


  • Published research conducted in the garden with regard to early planting methods
  • Heirloom plantings providing a unique ecological habitat for native wildlife and pollinators
  • Historic planting methods and ancient seeds complement the Tucson Gastronomic UNESCO designation
  • A donation solicited by Joyce on behalf of OVHS funded equipment and plantings to solidify the longevity of the garden.


Community Events and Activities
All of the following events are funded by OVHS and its donors.

  • AZ Archivist Bazaar at AZ History Museum: Participated and promoted OVHS and the TOV at this yearly event.
  • History Hikes: New in 2019/2020. Hikes led by published historian, Jim Williams, to historical sites in Oro Valley. Hikes scheduled in the spring were cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
  • Christkindlmarket: Included German entertainment, sale of holiday ware, tastings of German food, children’s activities in the Heritage Garden and Pusch House. This event tied into an exhibit at the Pusch House featuring the Pusch family and German Heritage.
  • Library Displays: Monthly displays at the Oro Valley Public library coinciding with exhibits at the Pusch House.
  • Speakers Bureau: Speakers presentations of local history topics. Presentations are monthly during the winter at the OV Public Library.
  • Information Booth at Farmer’s Market: Valuable exposure of SPR to the community. We direct visitors to the Pusch House Museum and provide background on the SPR property. We coordinate with TOV employees (and thank them, especially Joel and Katie) for helping set-up the tent and other amenities. This is a valuable introduction point for many residents to SPR, the OVHS and TOV activities.
  • Participation in the TOV planned activities in October.


Fundraising Activities:

  • Z Mansion Event (2018): Produced funding for Map Signage at SPR. To date the sign has not been installed. It took 1 1⁄2 years to come to an agreement with TOV/Parks and Rec as to the design, materials, etc. On May 21 we determined with Lynanne where the sign will be installed at SPR when it is completed.
  • Christkindlmarket booth (2019): In conjunction with the November/December exhibit at Pusch House featuring German heritage holiday celebrations, we set up a German style Christkindlmarket booth selling ornaments and holiday decorative items. Proceeds will fund OVHS continuing programs and exhibits.


  • “Priceless Antiques Event” (2020): An “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal event featuring a local antiques expert. Literally, this took place the day before the Covid shut down. It has not been determined how proceeds will be dedicated until we resume meetings. Thank you to Mayor Winfield and Councilmember Jones-Ivey for their attendance.
  • Grant submissions to AZ Historical Society: In the past we were able to receive small scale funding from this state organization. We were unable to submit a grant this year as we did not meet the requirements for the number of hours the Pusch House Museum was open. We requested Parks and Rec to consider additional hours so we could meet the requirement. It was agreed that Pusch House will be open the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th (when occurring) Saturdays of the month from September through May. In June, July, and August it will be open on Second Saturdays to coincide with Farmer’s Market hours.
  • Ongoing fundraising: Jim Click Raffle, Fry’s Rewards Program for Non-for-Profits, sale of merchandise at our Farmer’s Market booth, online donations, collected donations from tours at the Pusch House. These fundraising efforts help with our operating and exhibit costs.



  • We provide information on OVHS and TOV events, activities, news and historical articles via our Facebook page and website.
  • Emails to our membership inform them of TOV and OVHS activities.
  • We include links to the TOV website and list their events on our website calendar. The TOV has similarly publicized various OVHS events at the Community Center, on the TOV website and Vista publication.
  • The Town has also permitted us to place signage in public places in accordance with TOV rules for posting.
  • OVHS submits reports to the HPC Commission and interacts with the HPC liaison.

Miscellaneous Projects with TOV/Parks & Rec

  •  Zipf family donated to OVHS and then installed three bedrock mortars in the Heritage Garden
  • Participated in adobe workshop to restore walls at Steam Pump Ranch
  • Inventoried Bunk House artifacts for the TOV
  • Presented a display at the HPC Conference at the Hilton El Conquistador (2017) and gave tours of SPR to conference attendees
  • OVHS volunteers have assisted in STEAM summer camp programs
  • Prepared Heritage posters for SPR grounds and buildings


The Pusch Family Crest

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Do you like to sleuth?  Our Collections Committee often has to don their Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hats to get to the bottom of historical mysteries.  Back in 2009 Oliver Pusch of Echzell, Germany corresponded via email to a member of the OVHS.  He shared a photo of the Pusch family crest painted on glass.  Oliver is the grandson of Wilhelm Pusch, who was the brother of George Pusch. (Got that geneologists?)

Fast forward several years later:  OVHS board member, Jim Skalicky, took a detour while touring Germany to Echzell and met Oliver and other Pusch family members, Ottilie Pusch Pfluger (niece of George Pusch), Heinrich and Sigrid Pusch (nephew of George Pusch and parents of Oliver).  Jim shared the Pusch “American” family tree with his German hosts and stories of Pusch ranch life in Arizona.

Now fast forward to 2019 when several OVHS Collection Committee members wanted to find out more about the family crest.  Did it have a long history, what did it denote and what did it say?  Sue Chambasian resurrected Oliver’s email address and took the chance that it still might be active.  It was! Oliver related that the crest was designed by his brother, Hans-Jorg Pusch, as a high school project.  The Pusch family ancestors used plough horses for farming until the 1950s.  Thus, the images on the crest depict wheat stalks and a plough.  It was quite difficult to decipher the “old” German spelling and lettering but with a bit more investigating OVHS member, Gail Munden, determined the lettering is old German Frankur.  The word “aus” means “from”.  The word Bisses has a “sharp s” in place of the double “s”.  Bisses was a small village which is now a part of Echzell, Germany (30 miles northeast of Frankfurt). Hence; “Pusch from Bisses”.

Gail then put her professional art skills to work and created a reproduction of the crest on cradled birch board.  It now hangs in the Pusch House at Steam Pump ranch.  A photo of the reproduction was sent to Oliver.  His response?  “The picture is very nice!  I hope to see it in a few years at the ranch.”


Many thanks to Sue and Gail for their persistence and talent!  If you would like to get involved in historical sleuthing, contact us on our website or message us on Facebook.  Who knows what you might find!

It was $$Priceless$$!

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Just before “social distancing” became the norm, OVHS was able to showcase its fundraising event, $$PRICELESS$$, at the Oro Valley Country Club.  Guests brought in their treasures for appraisal.  Catherine Baron and her assistant, David were fountains of knowledge when it came to determining the history and value of each piece.  The audience enjoyed Catherine’s commentary on the pieces as well as seeing what other treasures folks brought in.

Special thanks to Peg O’Connell, event chair and her committee, Sue Chambasian, Roxy Johnson, Anne Munoz, Gail Munden, Anne Keeler, Devon Sloan, Twink Monrad and Teri Colmar for putting together a wonderful event.  Much appreciation for the generous raffle prizes donated by the Oro Valley Country Club, Hilton El Conquistador Resort, Catherine Baron, Gail Munden and Anne Munoz.

To view pictures of the event, go to our Facebook page Oro Valley Historical Society.

Or use this link:


Oro Valley Country Club Estates Hike March 26 – CANCELED

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Did you know that Oro Valley Country Club Estates was one of the first developments that launched Oro Valley into the community that it is today?

Local author, Jim Williams, will be the hike leader for this, the last hike of the season.  Jim will discuss the history of the neighborhood and its influence on the development of Oro Valley.  A perfect way to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and learn a bit about Oro Valley.  Be sure to sign-up by March 24!


Oro Valley Country Club Estates Hike
Thursday, March 26 at 8:00 am.
Meet in Fairfield Inn parking lot, 10150 N. Oracle Rd. 
Contact: Jim Williams at jaswilliams128@msn.com to signup (by 3/24)
Donation: $5 per person (cash) to OVHS
Hike:  5 mile walk on paved streets with 150′ elevation.  Hear about the history of this beautiful neighborhood.
Gear required: Hat, water, sunscreen

Don’t miss this Special Event! It’s $$Priceless$$

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$$Priceless$$ An Antiques Appraisal Event
March 12

So you’ve taken on the task of cleaning out the storage unit and have come across that “thing” handed down from generation to generation.  Is it valuable…who knows?  Now you can find out!  The Oro Valley Historical Society presents, $$Priceless$$ – An Antiques Appraisal event on Thursday, March 12 at 5:00 p.m.

Catherine Baron of Catherine’s Estates and Appraisals (Certified Appraiser and formerly on the Antiques Roadshow) will give a verbal appraisal of your item.  Items must be limited in size to something that can fit on your lap.  Items need not be limited to antiques, but can include jewelry, paintings, pottery, and Native American art.  Catherine’s presentation will include discussion on unique pieces brought to the event.

The event will be held at the Oro Valley Country Club, 300 W. Greenock, Oro Valley.  Tickets are $75 and include dinner.  Cash bar offerings will be available.  To purchase a ticket visit www.eventbrite.com.  Enter Oro Valley Historical Society  in the “Search Event” box at the top of the page.  TICKET SALES END ON MARCH 6! Seating is limited. Don’t want to get tickets via the internet or have a question; then contact Peg O’Connell to buy direct at pegoconnell@ymail.com (yes, ymail)

But wait there’s more!  There will be a raffle with fabulous prizes, including a stay at a Pine Top vacation property and an original oil painting by local artist, Gail Munden!   Raffle tickets will be sold ONLY at the event.

All proceeds will benefit the Oro Valley Historical Society a 501(c)(3) self-sustaining non-for-profit organization, Keeping Oro Valley History Alive!

For further information contact Peg O’Connell at pegoconnell@ymail.com.

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