Oro Valley, incorporated in 1974, is a suburban town located 6 miles north of Tucson, Arizona, United States in Pima County. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town is 41,011, an increase from 29,700 in 2000 census. Dubbed the “Upscale Tech Mecca” of Southern Arizona by the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, Oro Valley is home to over 10 high tech firms and has a median household income nearly 50% higher than the U.S. median. The town is located approximately 110 miles southeast of the state capital of Phoenix.
Oro Valley is situated in the western foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains at the base of Pusch Ridge. The Tortolita Mountains are located north of the town, and vistas of the Tucson valley are to the south. The town occupies the middle Cañada del Oro Valley. Oro Valley hosts a large number of residents from around the US who maintain second or winter homes in the town.
The area of Oro Valley has been inhabited discontinuously for nearly two thousand years by various groups of people. The Native American Hohokam tribe lived in the Honeybee Village in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains on Oro Valley’s far north side around 500 AD. Hohokam artifacts continue to be discovered in the Honeybee Village that the Hohokam inhabited continuously for nearly 700 years, and studied by archaeologists around the globe.
Early in the 16th century, Native American tribes known as the Apache arrived in the southern Arizona area, including Oro Valley. These tribes inhabited the region only a few decades prior to the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, including Francisco Coronado. The Spanish established forts in the area, including the Presidio at Tucson (1775) beginning in the late 16th century.
Beginning in the 19th century, Americans increasingly settled in the Arizona Territory, following the Mexican–American War and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase including Southern Arizona. George Pusch, a German immigrant, settled in the area of Oro Valley in 1874, establishing a cattle ranch. This ranch was unique because it utilized a steam pump to provide water, eventually popularizing Pusch’s property as the Steam Pump Ranch on the Cañada del Oro. The steam pump was one of only two in the Arizona Territory.
Pusch’s ranch provided respite for settlers and travelers entering and leaving the Tucson area. Pusch Ridge is named in honor of George Pusch.
Ranching in the area continued to flourish as greater numbers of Americans settled in the Arizona Territory. Large ranching families in the Oro Valley area included the Romeros and the Rooneys.
Gold rushers into the American West also were attracted to southern Arizona, where gold was said to be in abundance in and around the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Fueled by the legend of the lost Iron Door Gold Mine in the mountains, those in search of gold trekked through the Oro Valley area focusing their attention along the Cañada del Oro wash-bed.
After World War II, the Tucson area experienced dramatic population growth, impacting Oro Valley as well. In the early 1950s, the Oro Valley Country Club opened at the base of Pusch Ridge, affirming the area’s future as an affluent community. Although one tract housing development was built in the area in the early 1950s, the majority of homes in the Oro Valley area were built by individual landowners on large lots in a low-density residential style.
The community continued to grow gradually, and area residents increasingly desired local control of the land in the area. In the late 1960s, incorporation became a greater focus in Oro Valley. Tucson Mayor James M. Corbett, Jr. expressed great interest in expanding the Tucson city limits to the far north side of Pima County. Corbett vowed to bring the Oro Valley area into Tucson “kicking and screaming,” alluding to the reservations Oro Valley residents expressed in joining Tucson.
A petition to incorporate began circulation in Oro Valley in 1968. The Pima County Board of Supervisors officially refused to allow Oro Valley to incorporate, and litigation followed. Ultimately, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of incorporation, and in 1974 the Town of Oro Valley was incorporated with only 2.4 square miles. The original town limits included the Linda Vista Citrus Tracts, Campo Bello Estates, Shadow Mountain Estates, and Oro Valley Country Club Estates. Activity in Oro Valley centered primarily around the Oro Valley Country Club and Canyon del Oro High School. While originally referred to as Palo Verde, town founders proceeded with incorporation efforts with the official name of Oro Valley to garner support from influential residents of Oro Valley Country Club. The Town began with a population of nearly 1,200.
Through the 1980s and particularly in the 1990s Oro Valley experienced significant residential and commercial growth. In 1990 the town had a population of 6,670, and by 2000 that figure had increased to 29,700 residents. During that time, residential communities of all housing-unit densities were developed in the town, including several master-planned communities. For several years in the 1990s, Oro Valley was the fastest growing municipality in Arizona.
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