Pima County Logo

Building 101 - "The Big House", Howell Manning Sr. House


Building 101, before rehabilitationDesigned by Tucson architect, John Smith in 1935, the 4,700 sq ft adobe house was completed in 1936 for Howell Manning Sr. (1899-1966), and his second wife, Evelyn.

At the time of its construction, the Big House was considered “state of the art” and was featured in the July 1937 issue of Architectural Forum. The award was for the creative use of glass on the eastern façade looking out towards the Santa Rita Mountains. The design combines historical styles from California ranchos and Mexican haciendas, but has a surprisingly modern appearance with an informal open-floor plan, the expansive walls of glass, and a low-slung, horizontal quality.  The exterior was stuccoed, and painted white to match the lime-washed structures in the Ranch Headquarters.

During Manning’s ownership, Canoa Ranch was a social hub of the Santa Cruz Valley, with many events taking place in "The Big House". The house was well-equipped to handle events or all sizes, and besides containing a large, modern kitchen and butler’s pantry, had a walk-in cooler and freezer.  Residents and guests enjoyed the large dining room, and even larger living room with spectacular mountain views. Bedrooms and other private spaces were located in the north-end. Howell died in 1966 and Evelyn passed away in 1970.

  • Excerpt from Poster Frost's Canoa Ranch Master Plan Background Report (April 2006)

Function per 2007 Master Plan

Building 101, after rehabilitationThe rehabilitation of the building's exterior occurred between 2008 and 2009. The rehabilitated building will be used as a Ranching Museum of Southern Arizona/Northern Sonora, 1854 to the present.

Excerpt from the Canoa Ranch Master Plan Final Report, Poster Frost Associates, 2007:

"This building will be used to interpret the ranching traditions of Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona since the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. Exhibits will focus on new patterns of settlement and economic activity that emerged in the Frontier West as homesteaders and land speculators moved into the region. The intersection of different cultures, including interaction with Native Americans inhabitants, will be interpreted.

The impact of national transportation networks (stage coach and subsequent railroad lines) on economic activities, including ranching, will be presented. Likewise, changes in irrigation and agricultural practices, including the development of the Canoa Canal and other irrigation infrastructure will be featured. The evolution of ranching from subsistence farming on several acres to a gentleman’s profession on several hundred thousand acres will be presented. The collection and display of ranch artifacts and equipment will be used to further the story of ranching since 1854.

As an early ranch-style building, this architect-designed (John Smith) structure can be used to interpret the evolution of the ranch house. Other than minor interior modifications and the possible addition of two small rooms near the kitchen, the residence has remained essentially unaltered since 1935. Opportunities to use this building for special events, including exhibits and receptions are presented by its open floor plan and its connection to a landscaped patio and lawn on the east side. As part of the building’s restoration, the kitchen will be made functional for special events and receptions."