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“Tucson is not the only city in Pima county which is reaching out for new things in an enterprising manner. Vail is now on the map. Otto Schley, mayor of that flourishing hamlet, is after the Tucson county club.” Vail’s self-appointed boom-time mayor, Otto Schley, wrote a letter to George T. Fisher – a member of the committee appointed to recommend a site for the Tucson country club – imploring him to build the new golf course in Vail.

“I wish to call the attention of the members of the club to the land here at Vail. […] I have more land here than I can ever use, and there would be no trouble about coming to a settlement about the land needed. […] Every motorist who passes through here asserts the newly constructed highway between Tucson and Vail is the finest roadway in Arizona. This would give the members of the club, who, as I see by their names, all own automobiles, a chance for an enjoyable drive, besides enjoying a golf game. There is room here for tennis courts and all sorts of outdoor games. Then there is the extension of the highway now being built from Vail toward Douglas, which would afford a splendid drive through Davidson canyon to those members of the club who do not care to play golf, over a first-class road.” Arizona Citizen, January 31, 1914

Vail’s Mayor, and Postmaster, Otto Schley, is pictured in the photo’s center, wearing a white shirt and sporting a dapper, straw Boater hat with Postmaster J. Knox Corbett in front of the Vail Store & Post Office. Schley, a German immigrant was truly entrepreneurial. He always had multiple business ventures in the works. His plans to promote and grow Vail were visionary but often controversial. Otto was invested in his community and civic affairs. He served on Vail’s School Board, was a justice of the peace, ran for Pima County Sheriff, served as Vail’s postmaster, was active in the Democratic delegation, and in 1908, had his eye on a seat on the Arizona Territorial Legislature. In his mind, Vail was the perfect place to live and think big.  What to fill the, “more land here than I (Schley) can ever use.” In the 1930s, Cleaveland Putnam built a beautiful, sprawling estate designed by Belgian architect, H.E. Figge, who also designed Vail’s Shrine of Santa Rita in the Desert. The Putnam’s also began developing a resort with castle casitas and recreational amenities like tennis, boating, fishing, and a thoroughbred horse track at Rancho del Lago.

Fast forward to the 1970s and 80s, the Horizon Corporation had big plans to build a golf course development in Vail. The flood of 1983, and a lack of insurance, derailed those plans. When new developers finally succeeded in building a golf course in 2001, every historic building at Rancho del Lago was razed during the process. Overnight, Rancho del Lago lost its over century-long connection to its past. Vail needs to keep dreaming of its future, but it need not come at the expense of our heritage. This is our story – let’s write it together.

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