This Old $811,000 House

Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs walks along the driveway that loops around her city's latest acquisition--a weather-beaten, 98-year-old Victorian Queen Anne Revival home.

There's actually enough foliage to lower the temperature here, in this little corner of the desert where the tall date palms turn the shaded grass a deep, lush green. Neat rows of citrus trees provide a buffer from 51st and Northern avenues.

Behind the house, which looms like a grand hotel, cattle and sheep graze near a beat-up barn. They are the only residents of 140 acres that will soon be a bustling new neighborhood.

Cheerful roses line a little white fence, but the house itself is tired. It predates Arizona's statehood and Henry Ford's Model T. The house has stood through the Great Depression, the New Deal, the civil rights movement and the administrations of 17 presidents.

From the home's third-floor Sky Parlor, which once overlooked nothing but citrus groves, you can see most of Glendale.

The old home's masonry walls shelter four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a pantry and a full basement. Hardwood floors, paneled doors and 12foot ceilings all reflect the Queen Anne Revival architecture and shame the tract homes that are rapidly defining the 1990s.

On the veranda, you half expect to see women in flowing yellow dresses and matching parasols, taking in the sunset with dapper escorts stuffed into high, starched collars.

Instead, it's the mayor with her cellular phone.
The whole scene fits perfectly into the Back to the Future adventure that Glendale has taken here.

It was an expensive trip.
The Manistee Ranch, as this property is officially known, was ironically built about the time America first discovered urban sprawl. But the city grew around it. A couple of years ago, the Sands family, which has owned the property for nearly a century, decided it was time to develop.

The Sandses envisioned a neighborhood with a park in the center and a grocery store on the corner. It's what most cities in the Valley would kill for--urban infill.

But this isn't most cities. It's Glendale.
It's a place where antique shops, professionals and small businesses have moved in to revitalize a quaint business district, complete with diagonal parking.

And, in the case of the Manistee Ranch project, it's a place where people will preserve the past at any price--even when they could have done it for free.

The Sands family offered to pay to move the house to the other end of the property, adjacent to an existing park that bears its name. But the community wouldn't hear of it.

The community wanted things to stay as they were.
So Glendale spent nearly $1 million, mostly in state and local funds, for the Manistee Ranch property, where the house sits now, essentially making it the most expensive park in recent Valley history.

By real estate standards, it's more than the property is worth. By preservation standards, apparently, it's priceless.

"How much is too much for something that doesn't exist anywhere else?" says Scruggs.

How about $162,000 an acre?

Nearly a century ago, a lumberman named Herbert Hamilton left his home in Wisconsin and headed for the sunshine of the Salt River Valley, where he would invest in agricultural land.

And on this land, he built the house that has been donated to the Glendale Historical Society.

From there, he ran a cattle ranch that stretched south and west for miles--until a great drought brought farming to a near standstill in 1905.

Two years later, Louis Sands bought the ranch and its house for $46,000. He named it Manistee Ranch, honoring his hometown, Manistee, Michigan.

He and his wife had three children in this house. He started several businesses, including the Sands Motor Company--the first car dealership in Glendale and now Sands Chevrolet.

A sister and her husband founded their own agricultural enterprise, Sahuaro Ranch, a few miles away. More relatives came and settled in the area.

Louis Sands died in the Manistee Ranch house in 1941.
His son John moved in with his family and, again, there were children in the house.

Another son, Louis Jr., commissioned Phoenix architect Robert Evans to design a Monterey-style adobe on the property in 1935 (that home is not being saved). There, he and his wife raised two children, Elizabeth and Buzz.

It suffices to say that, at one time or another, the Sands family owned most of Glendale and has since sold or turned its property into something else.

In the mid-1970s, the Sandses donated the northeast corner of 55th Avenue and Orangewood for what are now Sands Park and a fire station.