Signs of the past

Sun Cities history saved by ‘dumpster diver’

Posted 11/5/21

In a little more than a month, it will be 62 years since the opening of Sun City — America’s first, active adult community.

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Signs of the past

Sun Cities history saved by ‘dumpster diver’


In a little more than a month, it will be 62 years since the opening of Sun City — America’s first, active adult community.

The records of those early days would have been lost except for the efforts of dumpster-diving Jane Freeman. She discovered that DEVCO — the Del Webb/Jim Boswell joint venture that built Sun City — was closing its Sun City office in order to oversee development of Sun City West. Photos, sales brochures, newsletters and other Sun City files were being cleaned out and thrown in a dumpster behind the offices. Freeman knew the discarded material would be invaluable in writing the history of Sun City’s first 25 years, and into the dumpster she went!

The records she and her associate, Glenn Sanberg, gathered in the writing of “Jubilee” filled spare bedrooms and took up space in their garages. They formed a non-profit historical society in 1986, but it wasn’t until 1989 that the perfect solution appeared — Sun City’s first model home came up for sale. It was a perfect home to house the history of the community. Donations raised $11,500 and Boswell provided $30,000 to seal the deal.

Originally the Kentworth model, it had 860 square feet and sold for $8,600. A golf course lot was $1,250 additional, and air conditioning a $600 option. The MacDonalds, who lived there for nearly 24 years, added a bedroom, second bathroom and Arizona room across the back. In 1990, the Webb Corp. offered to add a 10’ x 10’ building that had been a sales office back in 1959 when construction began, and later served as a refreshment stand among model homes and as a dressing room for the Sun City Saints, a women’s fast-pitch softball team. That room now serves as “Sundome Jr.,” Arizona’s smallest theater, seating six! But the seats came from the Sundome, formerly in Sun City West, when that structure was torn down.

The house became today’s Del Webb Sun Cities Museum in time for Sun City’s 50th anniversary. Furniture in the 1960 style was found for the living room, a former bedroom was devoted to the life and career of Del Webb and new exhibits were added about Marinette, Sun City West, sports in the Sun Cities and the many performing arts organizations. The kitchen and bathroom remain in their original pink with many accessories from a bygone era.

The Del E. Webb Foundation provided a grant two years ago, which enabled a 700-square-foot. addition to the rear of the building. This not only provides additional exhibit space, but meeting space as well. In preparation for the 2019-20 season, new displays have been added on the “Boswell connection,” how Sun City was sold to America and the history of health care in Sun City and Sun City West. Spring brought a new exhibit on baseball.

In a return to its original glory, the house was repainted its original color — bright pink.

Visit the Museum, 10801 W. Oakmont Drive, in Sun City’s first model home noon-3 p.m. Sundays and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free.

Editor’s Note: Ed and Loretta Allen recently moved to Royal Oaks in Sun City. They have been active in the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum for many years.


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