The early years of Big Park
Fannie Belle Gulick, the owner of record of 920 prime acres (known as the Fannie Gulick Estate) in Big Park, died in 1963.
Fannie was a fascinating character, but also an uncompromising character. Her estate was such a mess that it took four years to close it.
Irving Jennings, Jr., a Phoenix-based developer, saw that the land was enchanting--flat, buildable ground surrounded by imposing red monuments and mesas -- a virtual Shangri-La.
Dollar signs danced in his eyes. The area was pristine.
Small homesteads and ranches tried to make it through the '20s and '30s. Ranchers grazed their cattle on the open land, but any large scale farming was limited by the scarcity of readily available water. (See photo dated 1919) .
According to Jennings, when he acquired the acreage he also acquired the Big Park Water Company, which was a boon. For a visual of the area through the decades until 1960 pick up a copy of the film "The Rounders," with Henry Fonda and Glenn Ford. In full color you will see the Village when there was nothing here but what Mother Nature provided.
There were big plans for the property, which Jennings had renamed The Village of Oakcreek.
Of the 920 acres, 160 were being set aside for recreation purposes, including an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones golf course, along with a skeet range, tennis courts, swimming pools, bridle paths, and an upland game club.
There were 3,200 residential sites plotted on the remaining 760 acres, with paved roads contoured to fit the terrain. Underground utilities would be installed throughout.
Water was not expected to be the problem it was to farmers ... Jennings' experts had advised him that there was plenty of water in Big Park at about 600 feet, and there would be no difficulty in providing water for residences, the golf course, swimming pools, and other facilities planned. This would be a prime residential recreation resort.
Now came time for the Big Sell.
On Memorial Day weekend, 1967, the Village of Oakcreek held its official ground-breaking ceremonies.
The celebration lasted four days. It included the governor and a congressman. There were quarter horse races with minimum purses of $200.
There was an air show that included loops and whirls in a P-51. All this to sell year-round vacation and retirement homes.
By November of 1967, the developer had sold a little over 30 homesites.
The first nine holes of the golf course (the current back nine) were opened in September, 1969, with a head-to-head match play game between Miller Barber and Bob Rosburg. They played the nine-hole course twice, with Barber winning $5,000 and Rosburg $3,000.
In late 1971, there were 62 actual residents in the Village of Oakcreek.
In May, 1972, the second nine holes of the golf course (the current front nine) opened without nearly as much hoop-la as with the first nine.
However, all was not well with the developers. 1972 was not a good year for them. The LOL (Lot Owners League, precursor to VOCA) was created to thwart a number of questionable, heavy-handed pronouncements from the developers. The games were on!