O’Connor, volunteers celebrate move of historic adobe home

Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor walks away after painting adobe mud onto the last unfinished wall of her former home, now being preserved by the Arizona Historical Society.(Matt Pavelek | The State Press)
Published On:
Monday, October 19, 2009
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Former ASU President Lattie Coor and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor proved they’re no strangers to mudslinging Sunday evening when they put the final touches on an adobe house.

Volunteers and community members gathered for a mudslinging party at O’Connor’s former home to symbolize the completion of the O’Connor House and celebrate its move to the Arizona Historical Society.

The O’Connor House, a project designed to promote discourse among community, national and global leaders, is also the house O’Connor and her husband built in 1957.

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At the time, the property was in unincorporated territory, but it is now part of Paradise Valley. O’Connor grew up in an adobe house, so when she and her husband decided to build a new home, she wanted it to be adobe, she said.

The former Supreme Court Justice, some of her family members and members of the community gathered Sunday evening to “sling” the final coat of the mud and milk concoction onto the house.

O’Connor and her family lived in this home until she was appointed to the Supreme Court and it was sold. When the family that purchased it wanted to expand the home and tear it down, O’Connor said some of her friends persuaded her to move the home to its new location and preserve it for posterity

“I didn’t think it could be done,” O’Connor said. “But we found the daughter of the man who originally helped us build the house and she actually helped us figure out how to move it.”

Coor, a former ASU president, and his wife Elva Coor helped coordinate the event.

“There’s been a lot of organizing that has gone into this project,” Elva Coor said. “We had to move the roof in 12 parts, and we had to move the house brick by brick. I’m pretty sure the count is they only lost seven original bricks total.”

Coor said the house is supposed to bring people together to discuss issues and solutions, much like it did when O’Connor was in residence.

“It’s very symbolic. The house shows the best of Arizona and it shows how the world views us,” Coor said. “[O’Connor] symbolizes and personifies — and that’s a rare thing, to do both at the same time.”

English junior Steve Pursley volunteered at the event and Pursley called O’Connor a local hero.

“Mostly the older generation are the only ones who recognize her and her accomplishments,” Pursely said. “A lot of the younger generations don’t appreciate her accomplishments, which is why I think it’s important to remember her and what she did for the community.”

As the sun set over the Valley and most of the guests headed to the Arizona Historical Society to eat dinner and listen to music, Elva Coor looked back at the land in front of the house.

“It’s kind of like the house has finally come home,” Elva Coor said. “It’s found a permanent place.”

Reach the reporter at sheydt@asu.edu.