By Nikki Buchanan | Photo by Tim Fuller
When Wendy Stover stumbled upon the 36-acre Guevavi Ranch 11 years ago, she fell in love with the elegant bones of the 1930s-era house (a true hacienda with an interior courtyard), as well as its fabulous folk-art murals painted by Mexican-American artist Salvador Corona in the 1940s and ’50s.
The formerly hard-driving career woman promptly bought the place and created several themed suites, including one for John Wayne, who had visited the ranch often, and another (the elegant La Patrona) for the wealthy ranch wife who once lived there.
Stover transformed the historic property into a lush oasis that pays homage to the Hohokam and Pima people who settled around the guevavi, or “big spring,” hundreds of years before Father Eusebio Francisco Kino built his first mission nearby. Every patio offers its own vignette of graceful trees, primroses, lavender and cactuses, while the swimming pool and its outdoor kitchen/cabana invite swimming, noshing and indiscriminate lolling about.
Two resident chickens cluck and peck around the property, undisturbed by a menagerie of friendly dogs and cats, who can teach you all about relaxation if you’ve forgotten. Stover converted both ends of the old ranch barn to casitas, furnishing them with kitchens, TVs and laundry facilities for the families and groups of gal pals she imagined staying for days, or even weeks, at a time. But for avid readers, her splendid library — stocked with Dickens and Dostoevsky, as well as books on art, interior design, horses, birds and Arizona — makes TV irrelevant. A stack of board games and jigsaw puzzles encourages good old-fashioned social interaction, but, of course, the omnipresent Internet is available for those who just can’t shake the everyday world — even in an otherworldly place where spectacular Arizona sunsets and a velvety night sky strewn with stars are an everyday occurrence.
At 5:30 p.m., Stover and her daughter, Nisa, invite guests to share a glass of wine and an appetizer, offering up fascinating stories about the area’s rich history, as well as suggestions for supper in nearby Tubac, Tumacacori or Patagonia. The place is so homey, the women so warm and welcoming, you’ll feel as if you’re visiting old friends — friends who just happen to be great breakfast cooks and witty conversationalists.