Arizona Historic American Landscapes Survey Efforts
by Helen Walthier, Associate ASLA

The Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) was established with the hope that documentation of significant historic American landscapes will provide a formal record and increase awareness of these threatened national treasures. The Arizona ALSA Chapter became involved in the documentation program in March 2007.

Our initial step was to develop a Fact Sheet focusing on three key sites in Arizona which were representative of the state’s endangered historic landscapes. After reviewing the ASLA HALS materials, selection criteria were developed and Fact Sheets from other states were examined. Landscape architects from around the state were asked to provide at least three sites which they believed were candidates for selection on Arizona’s first Fact Sheet. All thoughts were welcome, and a list of fifty potential sites was compiled from this request.

Research about the current status of each site was compiled, along with information about designation as a National Historic Landmark, current ownership information, and historical information. Information was obtained about the current physical condition of the sites, and whether there was another program or entity which was responsible for management. In some cases private owners were in the process of rehabilitating the site, or a government entity was restoring and preserving the site. Under such circumstances, those properties were given a lower priority for the HALS survey. Information about the sites was presented to a group of six prominent state landscape architects who were asked to choose their top three for inclusion in the Fact Sheet. This process narrowed the selected sites to eleven. Further information was obtained about the status of each site, and following another vote, the top three were chosen.

Arizona ASLA chose Castle Hot Springs, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, and Tombstone and Other Historic Cemeteries around the state. Castle Hot Springs was chosen for a variety of reasons, including its historic significance as a spa destination for the famous and wealthy in the early 1900s, its unique natural feature as a desert hot spring and pool, its role as the first Territorial Winter Capitol of Arizona, and its significance for Arizona’s first phone number, “1.” It is currently privately owned and, unfortunately, is threatened by potential sale. Boyce Thompson Arboretum, established in the 1920s, was selected because it is the first purely botanical institution in the Intermountain states and is Arizona’s oldest arboretum. Tombstone and other state historic cemeteries were selected because they are unique resources that provide an extensive history of the people and character of the state dating from the 1880s. Using information and photos about these three sites and the template provided by ASLA HALS made preparation of the Arizona Fact Sheet an easy process. 

Walthier 1
Arizona ASLA HALS fact sheet. 

Currently, Arizona is ready to move to the documentation process for the three sites.  However, there is limited funding and resources for the effort. We depend on volunteers, but the documentation process demands a professional level of involvement. Arizona ASLA is exploring whether it can provide the needed support, and possibly involve either of the landscape architecture programs at the state universities.

Helen Walthier, Associate ASLA, is employed at SAGE Landscape Architecture & Environmental in Tucson, Arizona, and can be reached at

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Andrew Kohr, ASLA, Chair
(678) 689-2377

Earen Hummel, ASLA, Vice Chair
(970) 484-6073  

Tina Bishop, ASLA, Chair-Elect
(303) 477-5244

David Driapsa, ASLA, HALS Coordinator
(239) 591-2321