“Live Here and Be Forever Young.”
It wasn’t an advertising slogan for Sun City, but related to the marketing of Youngtown, Sun City’s next-door neighbor.
The story of Youngtown begins with a visit of Realtor “Big Ben” Schleifer to a friend in a retirement home. Schleifer was appalled by the restrictions placed on those living there, and had a vision for a more active retirement community for low-income retirees.
The site of today’s Youngtown was a 320-acre cattle ranch owned by Frances Greer. When her husband died in 1949, she hired Elmer Jones to help manage the
operations. Schleifer was a friend of both and the three of them worked on his vision for an active retirement community.
In 1955, 125 homes were built and by 1959 What was called Youngtown had a population of 1,400. Homes were 750 square feet in size and sold for less than $8,000.
Frances Greer’s home became the community clubhouse and the site of many activities — cards, dancing, shuffleboard and more. A ravine was filled with water and became Maricopa Lake for swimming and fishing.
Youngtown achieved national attention in 1957 when David Garroway featured this unusual community on “Wide, Wide World.” The interest it generated came to the attention of Del Webb and set him to researching the viability of a community just for retirees.
The launch of Sun City in 1960 brought economic development to Youngtown as it led to a post office, bank, Bayless Grocery store, gas station and a pharmacy — all in the lower left quadrant of the aerial view.
The community would eventually expand both north and south. In selling the Marinette ranch to Webb in 1959, Jim Boswell held back the land between Alabama and Grand avenues west of 111th Avenue, saying “Youngtown will need it for expansion, and we want to be good neighbors.”
The low cost of houses attracted young families and in 1986 the senior overlay was challenged. The case moved slowly through the courts, but the overlay was
overturned by the Arizona Attorney General in 1998 and Sun City’s neighbor became a multi-generational community.
Editor’s Note: Ed Allen is a local historian and author of a book detailing the history of Sun City West. He is a former president of the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum.