Rancho de los Cerros: A unique estate on the auction block

Unique ranch for sale in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Thirty five years ago, David Hoffman and a friend were riding a horse in the Catalina State Park in 1985 when they happened upon an abandoned camp.

Hoffman turned his horse to the right and rode in to the camp to check it out.

“There were bunk beds everywhere,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was looking at.”

What he was looking at was a YWCA camp which had been abandoned for 18 months.

For Hoffman, the chance encounter changed his life.

“I’ve loved the place,” he said.

He found out the camp and the ten acres that went with it was for sale.

He bought it for $285,000.

“I stole it,” he said.

The ranch was homesteaded in 1906 by Jesus Ellias who built the first small structures. It expanded over the years to a full working ranch and later a dude ranch, where Easterners could stay for $265 a month.

It was later donated to the YWCA in 1961.

When Hoffman purchased it, it was pretty run down.

“It was not dilapidated,” he said. “But it certainly was not move-in-able.”

Hoffman had a vision which fit perfectly into the 1980′s, a time of conspicuous consumption and excess.

“How can I make this work for corporate parties,” he asked.

American Express had the answer.

The company was looking for a large place to hold their corporate party and the 10 acre site was perfect but it need a lot of work.

The booking agent happened to be in Tucson and came to the ranch for a look.

Hoffman laid out his vision.

After the tour, she asked “can you get this done in 18 months?”

Hoffman said with the right deposit, he could.

She wrote him a check for $200,000.

“We finished the very last of it on Wednesday before the party on Thursday,” he said.

A group of 750 people came to the party “and when the Beach Boys came on stage, they went nuts,” he said.

Over the years, they were hold 125 events a year, all catered by his wife, Molly.

“We had some great parties with great headliners,” he said.

And all the while, they added, and added, and added and remodeled.

They added an outdoor waterfall, which cascades behind a large glass wall and where wildlife often stops to take a drink.

A great room was remodeled to add a floor to ceiling movie projector, a circular staircase which leads to a two-story bedroom, a bar, a fitness center which is set in an 1800′s western street scene and 500 pieces of museum quality art work.

Privacy is one of the estate’s most valuable qualities. The ten acres is surrounded by the Catalina State Park, meaning that privacy will always be protected.

When he bought the property, the swimming pool had three feet of fetid water and a crack.

Now its a resort style, free form with a water feature.

A lot has happened in the 35 years since.

A family has been raised and is now gone, age has taken a toll and the parties have ended.

It’s time to move on.

“We don’t need this much space anymore,” he said. “It’s crazy to have this much space.”

But there is a sadness to leaving all those memories behind.

“I’ve enjoyed it, I’ve had it a long time,” Hoffman said. “What the hell, it’s time for someone else to enjoy.”

That someone will need a lot of cash.

The estate will go up for auction on March 25, 2020.

The last list price was $7,000,000. The opening auction bid is $2,750,000.

“It takes a lot of money and a lot of time to maintain it and we’ve done it for 35 years,” he said. “I think that’s enough.”

Anyone interested in making a bid can click here.

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