UA Honored for Restoring Campus-Area Historic Home

The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office praised the University for saving a 106-year-old house that once was home to scientists and students.
June 18, 2012
Cannon-Douglass house
Cannon-Douglass house
Brooks Jeffery on the front porch of the rehabilitated Cannon-Douglass house. Jeffery is part of a team honored by the State Historic Preservation Office for the restoration work.
Brooks Jeffery on the front porch of the rehabilitated Cannon-Douglass house. Jeffery is part of a team honored by the State Historic Preservation Office for the restoration work.

The University of Arizona has been honored for holding onto a piece of property that goes back to the earliest days of the campus.

On June 14, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office recognized the UA School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, or CALA, with its 2012 Governor's Heritage Preservation Honor.

The award was presented at the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office's annual conference, "100 Years of Living History," held in Prescott, Ariz. The conference is for preservationists to meet and exchange ideas and solutions to preservation issues.

Those named in the award included Tucson architect Robin Shambach; CALA Professor R. Brooks Jeffery; May Carr, an architect with UA Planning, Design and Construction; and UA Associate Vice President Edward Frisch.

They were recognized for the UA's work in saving the 106-year-old Cannon-Douglass House on Speedway near the Olive Road underpass. Cannon-Douglass and the George E.P. Smith house next door were the first campus-area homes north of Speedway. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Only three UA buildings from that era still are standing: Old Main, Herring Hall and the first library and museum, now, ironically, called the Douglass Building.

William Cannon, a botanist for the Carnegie Foundation's Desert Botanical Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, built the modest little house in 1906. Not long after, it became the home of astronomer Andrew E. Douglass, the founder of the UA tree-ring laboratory and Steward Observatory.

Over time and through a succession of private owners, the house fell into disrepair before the UA acquired it in 1989.

Jeffery, who also is director of the UA Drachman Institute and coordinates the Heritage Conservation Graduate Certificate Program, assigned architecture students to assess Cannon-Douglass. They found that despite its rundown appearance, the structure of the house was essentially intact. That meant less funding would be required for repairs.

Project workers took out a decrepit sleeping porch and hundreds of pounds of cinders used for insulation in the ceiling. They replaced the roof, termite-damaged wood floors, replastered walls and installed new infrastructure, like air conditioning and new plumbing. There also is handicapped access, and new landscaping has replaced long dead vegetation.

The house is not ornate, and never was intended to be. Jeffery said, though, that it now functions well as desperately needed office space for CALA.

"The award recognizes the cumulative hard work of a host of people – from university administrators and faculty to preservation professionals and students," said Jeffery.

"They all have advocated for more than a decade to not only preserve, but revitalize the Cannon-Douglass house as a viable contribution to UA's history and public face on Speedway. As chair of the UA Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, it's always been my goal that every preservation project on campus be of award-winning caliber, but this is one of which I'm particularly proud."