Horseriders posing in front of a building next to women in front of a car

By J.J. Lamb 

“Mr. and Mrs. Cleaveland Putnam entertained Sunday for (newlyweds) Mr. and Mrs. Stone at their country home, Rancho del Lago, at Vail. Guests arrived at 5:00 for swimming, followed by buffet tea, dancing and bridge. At midnight, supper was wheeled out on the terrace overlooking the submarine lighted swimming pool. The music for the affair was furnished by Tony Corral’s orchestra.”Social Events column, the Arizona Daily Star, June 1933. 

The article went on to say that the Putnam’s guests included Mr. and Mrs. Charles Beach of Los Ocotillos Ranch, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Steinfield of Tucson, Mr. and Mrs. Ruken Jelks of Casa Blanca Ranch, and Mr. and Mrs. Melville Haskell of the X9 Ranch. If you were a well-to-do rancher, or Tucson elite, you partied at the Putnam’s. 

The Putnam’s married two years earlier, in July 1931. The Arizona Daily Star announced the wedding saying, “One of the many popular University of Arizona girls to be wed this summer is Miss Florence Margaret James, daughter of L.C. James, who was married Saturday evening at Grace Episcopal Church to Cleaveland Putnam of Lake Forest, Illinois. The couple will spend the rest of the summer in Beverly Hills, Calif, sailing for Europe in the fall.” The wedding was touted as ‘the event of the season.’ By December 1931, the newlywed’s new home in Vail was nearing completion. Designed for gracious living by architect H.E.A. Figge, the property – purchased from Alma Monthan Tattersfield – was transformed from a 600-acre farm to accommodate the training and breeding of thoroughbred race horses, raising and training of show-quality Schnauzer dogs, and a home base for the couple’s various business ventures. It included stables and a brand-new practice race track. 

Along with their business interests, the Putnam’s social circle extended nationwide. Their thoroughbreds raced at Santa Anita and Hollywood racetracks in California as well as in the Kentucky Derby. Horses of note included Ladysman, Chupita, Running Heel, and Swain. They employed many Vail residents with expertise in the raising and training of horses. Those horse trainers were often responsible for transporting the horses to and from various racetrack destinations across the country.  

Florence and Cleaveland enjoyed their country estate and the trappings that went with it. February 1934, the Arizona Daily Star reported that, “Mr. and Mrs. Hatch of Detroit, and Mr. and Mrs. Beatty of Los Angeles, guests to El Rancho del Lago, (were greeted by) Messrs. Cleaveland Putnam, F.R. Stock, C.C. White, Santiago Leon, and Jose Morales. Dressed in their cowboy outfits, including big hats, chaps, high-heeled boots, spurs, guns, and riding horses, they gave Mr. and Mrs. Hatch and Mr. and Mrs. Beatty, a true western reception when they arrived at the Vail Station Tuesday afternoon on the train.” 

The Putnam’s were also involved locally. Along with Charles and Caroline Beach, Melville Haskell, Chay Day, and Rukin Jelk, owners of the larger Vail ranches, they supported Vail School programs in various ways. They donated Christmas trees, decorations, and funds that provided gifts and stockings stuffed with fruit, candy, and nuts for each child.,  

On Christmas day 1934, Mr. Cleaveland Putnam hosted a rodeo at El Rancho Del Lago. Ranchers Jelk, Haskell, and Day entered their horses in the stake and the relay races competing along with others in the community. After the races, there was barbecue for all.  

The Putnam’s sold Rancho del Lago to Bliss Flaccus of Pittsburgh in 1937. High society’s connection to Vail withered with the change in ownership. The last of the beautiful buildings that were their country estate were bulldozed in 2006. 

 Heritage Preservation at Work for Vail: We are proud to share that the student preservationists from the Esmond Station K8 Museum Club, Cienega Construction Tech students, and VPS Youth Board member Lily Collins of Andrada High have been invited to present at the Museum Association of Arizona conference in March!   Visit the Vail Heritage Area at Vail Pride Day to learn more about local history and how heritage preservation is impacting our community. 


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J.J. Lamb