An iconic mansion owned by the Glendale Arizona Historical Society is steeped in West Valley history.
The Manistee Ranch at Northern and 51st avenues, built in 1897, was owned by only two prominent families before it was acquired by the historical society.
Louis M. Sands, who bought the home in 1907, named the property after his hometown in Michigan. It became home to the Sands family, as well as the center for their ranching and business ventures.
The ranch consists of the main house, a barn or granary and a date orchard, as well as an office building and a small field replete with farming/ranching exhibit.
The green roof, ascending steps and expansive screened-in porch welcome visitors to a graceful home etched in time from a bygone era.
The home underwent two construction updates during Sands’ ownership: adding a bedroom for his daughter, Flora, and extending the living room by incorporating a portion of the porch’s square footage.
The hectic traffic and constant hum of city life is silenced inside the 7,000-square-foot, three-story structure. This speaks to the home’s integrity and the insulation properties of yesteryear. The home, which includes a full basement, is constructed of brick masonry and wood framing, allowing its distinct personality to shine from every angle.
Dubbed the “sky parlor,” a structure rises above the center of the home, providing views of the surrounding acreage. A separate garage, added later, sports its own sky parlor.
A thick bannister in the graceful foyer leads to the upper stories, while dramatic wallpaper descends from ceilings that are at least 14 feet. The formal dining room is poised ahead of the foyer. It features a Webster Dairy whistle that signaled employees to work, for lunch and at end of day and could be heard throughout the community decades ago.
To the left, the large parlor or drawing room carries Sands family art collections, china and original furnishings. The wool area rugs are original and protect the hardwood floors.
Original hardware and remnants of knob and tube electricity is featured throughout the home.
The main bedroom sits right of entry, where all three of the Sands children were born between 1908 and 1916: Louis, John and Flora.
It was common then to build kitchens as separate structures to ensure the entire home wouldn’t burn to the ground in the event of a cooking fire.
In 1947, Sands’ son John and his wife, Marie, enclosed the breezeway between the main house, creating an enclosed kitchen and breakfast room. Some of the original refrigerators, ice boxes and cooling appliances are present in the home today. The kitchen is complete with bright red-checkered curtains against the white painted walls for a fresh slate.
Marie was an artist, and the home is filled with her renderings, as well as the family’s collection of fine art.
A child’s bedroom sits at the rear of the first story, behind the main bedroom and bathroom, with wall art drawn by the Sands. It is a whimsical nod to the innocence of childhood, with many original toys of the era on display.
The bedroom-bathroom suite the elder Sands added for his daughter, Flora, is located at the east end of the first floor. The bedroom is situated atop what was known as the bunk room, which housed ranch workers through an outside entrance/exit.
The property had a pool, but the historical society filled it in because of liability concerns.
A utility room at the back of the home was the working room for laundry, ironing and a myriad of ranch chores.
The basement today holds historical documents and keepsakes.
An extensive arbor complete with vining covers a walkway to the business office, which is also steeped in nostalgia, featuring a walk-in safe, a cannonball safe, business ledgers from yesteryear and a business counter of rich woods.
A 318-acre track surrounded the ranch when Herbert W. Hamilton purchased a modest home and acreage from William and Sara Smith back in 1897. He built the striking Queen Anne Revival home on the property for his family.
Hamilton, a wealthy lumberman from Wisconsin, ventured into cattle ranching and land acquisition in the Salt River Valley prior to moving his family to California. The Hamiltons only occupied the home for six years.
The grand lady sat vacant until fellow lumberman Louis M. Sands purchased the home in 1907, a year after his marriage to Frances Porter of Rockford, Illinois. He paid $46,000, a risky venture at the time.
Sands and his family would become successful and prominent figures in the Valley, both in ranching and in business. His son went on to found the Sands car dealership.
Sands’ ranching efforts harvested feed for a myriad of livestock besides cattle and horses, including sheep, ducks, chickens and turkeys.
The businessman took advantage of his 139-acre ranch property and spearheaded date farming, a lucrative endeavor at the time, bringing in 25 cents a pound. Eleven different types of palm trees provided the date crop. Some, now over a century old, remain on the property.
Sands developed a progressive protocol of rotating cattle between pastures to work within the property’s acreage, as well as across Arizona. It was an important defense during the droughts that were a constant business buster for early settlers, such as one that lasted three years.
Construction of the Roosevelt Dam in 1905 at the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River was a game changer for those settlers, turning profits within a decade of its construction. It created an oasis for desert crops and livestock, transforming the West Valley into a thriving community.
The railroad was critical in moving crops to major cities. The Glendale Ice Plant produced 28 tons of ice daily, mainly to cool rail cars filled with desert-produced crops.
The grounds surrounding the home are open daily to the public until sunset. Pack a lunch and step back in time. Enter the property from 51st Avenue, just south of Walgreen’s.
The Glendale Historical Society holds paid Manistee Ranch tours on the first and third Saturdays of the month from noon to 3 p.m., October through May. Group tours are also available; call 623-435-0072 for additional information.
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