The Stories Behind Scottsdale’s McCormick Ranch, Gainey Ranch

Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published July 22, 2001.)

Q: There are so many places around the Valley with “ranch” in the name. How many were ever really ranches?

A: Lots of them. Lots and lots. Despite all the sprawl, you have to bear in mind that the Valley metro area started as a farming community, and until fairly recently, Maricopa County was primarily an agricultural area. So there were a lot of ranches.

ScottsdaleNot all of these spreads were exactly hardscrabble kinds of places. McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale, before it turned into a residential development, was the home of Fowler and Anne McCormick. Fowler McCormick’s two grandfathers were Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the grain reaper, and John D. Rockefeller, so he wasn’t exactly hurting for cash. He later became president and chairman of the board of International Harvester.

In his day, the 4,200-acre site was a working ranch, and theMcCormicks raised Black Angus cattle. After Anne McCormick’s death, the ranch was sold in 1970 to Kaiser-Aetna. That company later sold off 1,120 acres, which is now known as Scottsdale Ranch.

Gainey Ranch, another ritzy Scottsdale address, was once a 640-acre Arabian horse ranch owned by Daniel C. Gainey. In fact, over the years three Daniel Gaineys owned the place. Most of it was sold in 1980 to Markland Properties for residential development, but the family held on to 80 acres to have a place to stable their horses during the annual All-ArabianHorse Show. TheGainey Trust later developed that site for retail and residential use.

In their day, theGaineys entertained lavishly in theirMoorish-style home, movie stars, political bigshots and jet-setters drawn to Scottsdale for the horse show. The home later became the private Daniel C. Gainey Estate Club.


  1. Lester LeMay says

    Thanks for the genealogical information on the McCormick’s; it was new information to me. I really enjoy this column and the things it tells us about. Merry Christmas

    • TerriB says

      I always knew these were LITERAL ranches, I guess you didn’t know that most of Scottsdale WAS actual ranches until relatively recently – but I always wondered exactly WHO owned them and what was ranched on the land. I particularly wondered who owned Scottsdale Ranch, where I live. I did NOT know the land was actually part of McCormick Ranch. Now I know.

  2. Terry Gainey says

    Thanks for some of the history. The first Daniel Gainey was my husband’s – Jeffrey J Gainey – great uncle. I would like to learn more of the history.

    Thanks again

  3. SaraD says

    In the 1960s, you always knew when Mrs. McCormick was about to come back to Scottsdale for the winter season. The pink adobe wall that surrounded her compound (at least on the south and west sides) at the NE corner of Scottsdale Rd. and Indian Bend would be given a fresh coat of paint and, more than once, I saw an artist sitting in front of the Kachina that adorned the wall’s SW corner, painstakingly touching up that image. Shortly thereafter, there would be a little notice in the society section of the newspaper to the effect that Mrs. McCormick had returned.

    Mrs. McCormick is responsible for introducing Arabian horses to Arizona and for establishing the highly respected All Arabian Horse Show that is still a major part of the Arabian horse industry today. Older fans, or knowledgeable young persons, who are interested in the breed, may recognize the names of two of her stallions – Mustafa and Naborr. I am more of a Quarter Horse fan, but even I am aware of the significance of those names.

    I particularly admired Gainey Ranch. I saw it as a tidy oasis in the desert. On most summer afternoons, you’d see a horse standing in a pond beneath a couple of big shade trees. Not drinking, just standing, often hipshot, obviously dozing. I was told by a local farrier that it was the ranch’s aged foundation sire what had foot trouble and found it soothing to stand in the mud, but I don’t know if that was true. Ganey Ranch also raised Hereford cattle that could regularly be seen grazing in pasture that paralleled Scottsdale Rd.

    Just south of the SE corner of Scottsdale Rd. and Indian Bend, where the railroad park is now, was also an Arabian horse ranch that belonged to Mrs. McCormick’s son (Fowler McCormick’s stepson), Guy Stillman. The railroad park that is on the corner today was a project Mr. Stillman built on land that was donated to the city, by the McCormicks, to be used as a park. Naturally, the city (in its typical Who-cares-about-history? mindset) later sold about 2/3 of the land to developers. But, I digress. 😉 The Stillman Arabians were lovely.

    One of my friend’s father was acquainted with someone who was somehow connected with the planning and zoning commission. Through him, he got a copy of Kaiser Aetna’s proposed plan for the development of McCormick Ranch and my friend and I had a chance to examine it, one day. The original proposal consisted of far less development and more open space than what was actually developed. It also included an elaborate network of bridal trails. It was designed to be an equestrian community. It was expected that the All Arabian Horse show would continue to be held on the northeast part of the property (east of the old pre-freeway Pima Rd.) and that many Arabian horse enthusiasts would purchase homes and live in that development, creating a winter home base for many Arabian horse owners. Before those plans could be put into effect, KA sold the property to another developer. All you have to do is drive through McCormick ranch by way of Hayden Rd., McCormick Pkwy., or Via de Ventura to see that the master plan that the city considered originally was something quite different than what was originally planned – more’s the pity. Anyone who has lived in Scottsdale for any length of time ought not to be surprised by that sort of move.

    These people and their vocations, avocations, and properties had a tremendous impact on the development of Scottsdale. People who were not here to see that impact sometimes seem to think that they were just part of the “idle rich” who came to lie in the winter sunshine and throw lavish parties for their rich friends. They were, in fact, people who worked – if not because they needed to make a living, then because they needed to be productive – and who contributed greatly to the community. I am glad to have been able to see many of their accomplishments before “progress” wiped them all away.

    • TerriB says

      I wish I could have been out here in those days. My family almost moved here around 1958 when I was 3, after my father came out here on business, but it never came to be.

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