Historic J. Rukin Jelks Stud Farm to be Restored, Opened for Public Eventsby Hot Off The Press (Release) on Apr. 22, 2013, under Press Releases
Rillito Park Foundation
Contacts: Walt Rogers at 520 419-8974 or email@example.com orJaye Wells at 520 360-2049 or firstname.lastname@example.org
RILLITO PARK FOUNDATION TO RESTORE JELKS STUD FARM, ESTABLISH MUSEUM OF THE WESTERN HORSE & RIDER
TUCSON, AZ – The Rillito Park Foundation plans to restore the historic J. Rukin Jelks Stud Farm at Rillito Park and establish a new Museum of the Western Horse and Rider.
The nonprofit foundation’s board of directors committed $100,000 to launch the project in cooperation with Pima County, which owns the home, surrounding buildings, the park and Rillito Race Track. The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved a cooperative agreement with the foundation for management of the Jelks home site on April 16, 2013.
The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in February 2012. Built in 1940, it was designed by Frederic O. Knipe, a local rancher and architect, in the simple Sonoran Revival style.
Initial plans call for a private investment of $300,000 to restore the structures and re-landscape the four-acre site adjacent to the historic race track, and to open it to the public. Ultimately the foundation intends to build gallery space for the new Museum of the Western Horse and Rider on the site.
This agreement is similar to those under which other county-owned properties are managed – including Old Tucson Studios, Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum and Colossal Cave Mountain Park.
The foundation will manage the hacienda, casita and stables at 1090 E. River Rd. It plans to revitalize the courtyard and grounds with a series of adaptive-use gardens appropriate to the era. The site also will be improved with parking, terraces and catering facilities, then opened for home and garden tours as well events, including weddings, acoustic concerts and corporate functions.
J. Rukin Jelks was one of the founders of quarter horse racing in Arizona. The racetrack on his stud farm opened in 1943 where many racing innovations were introduced, including the photo finish.
Jelks sold the property to John and Mary Shoemaker in 1953 and moved to California. Shoemaker raised thoroughbreds and his wife was a champion hunter jumper. The county acquired the home in 2007 following Mary’s death, along with memorabilia left in the home and stables.
Never remodeled, the 1,850-square-foot residence contains a living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway and two bedroom suites, plus an adjacent guest house. The home includes original hand-hewn mesquite beams, saguaro-ribbed ceilings, intricate ironwork from Mexico, brick floors, plastered burnt-adobe walls and hand-painted ceramic tiles.
The stable features a mural by artist Hughlette “Tex” Wheeler, who created the famous sculpture of racehorse Sea Biscuit at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California. Portions of the original retaque-style corral also still stand just north of the stable.
Jelks only child – J. Rukin Jelks Jr. – lives in Southern Arizona and plans to donate family memorabilia to the foundation, including trophies, bronzes, paintings, stud records, photographs and detailed scrapbooks.
The grandson of the architect also supports this project. “Ranch houses of the last century are a record of the migration to Tucson of people of ability whose imaginations were caught by the romance of the west. The Jelks house, ideally situated near the Rillito, is a lovely expression of that time,” said Fredric O. Knipe III.
The Rillito Park Foundation was established as a State of Arizona nonprofit in November of 2011. The directors are:
Frank DeFazio – A local businessman and a former overseas staff member of the U.S. Defense Department and racetrack manager. He is a member of Historic Rillito Racetrack, the nonprofit that initiated the project to list the Rillito Historic District on the National Register.
Walt Rogers – A recognized landscape architect in Tucson and former faculty member at the University of Arizona. He is a founding board member of the Tucson Parks Foundation and served on the Tucson Community Development Advisory Committee.
Russell True – The True family has owned and operated the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson since 1965. Russell is former two-time president of the Dude Ranchers’ Association, former president of the Green Fields Country Day School board and current board member of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Jaye Wells – A designer and developer whose portfolio includes historic preservation projects and museum work, as well as apparel design and manufacturing. He is a former trustee and officer of historic Green Fields Country Day School in northwest Tucson.
The new Museum of the Western Horse and Rider will focus on the influence that the iconic horse and rider had on the American West and the world from the time of the Spanish explorers through its impact on art, agriculture, transportation and culture today.
Plans call for collaborating with other museums to present a series of shows beginning in 2016 with the Smithsonian’s George Catlin’s American Buffalo. Other exhibits in the planning stage include Patton and Pancho: the Mexican Punitive Expedition and Carlota: Empress of Mexico and wife of Ferdinand Maximilian, former archduke of Austria.
Once the small museum is built at Rillito Park, rotating exhibits would be curated by staff or loaned from other museums. Exhibitions could include Allen True’s WEST, displayed at several museums in Denver, and The Art of the Western Saddle, developed by the American Quarter Horse Association for its museum in Amarillo, Texas. The National Museum of Wildlife Art also may exhibit works from its collection.
For more information on the Rillito Park Foundation, the Jelks property or the museum, visit www.rillitoparkfoundation.org or contact Wells at email@example.com or Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.