ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Del E Webb 1899-1974 A Biography of the Man and His Construction Business

Updated on November 16, 2018
mactavers profile image

I've lived in Arizona for 67 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books, and travel.

Del Webb

Del Webb 1899-1974 Founder of The Del Webb Construction Company
Del Webb 1899-1974 Founder of The Del Webb Construction Company

Del E Webb The Early Years

Most Americans, in the Southwest and Florida have seen the name Del E Webb in association with the Sun City Communities or other housing developments, or maybe they remember the Del Webb Highway House motels or Del Webb as a lover of the sport of baseball, who once owned the New York Yankees, or they remember his role in developing some of the early casinos such as the Flamingo that changed Las Vegas gaming history. Del Webb's ideas and construction company had a dynamic impact on America that has continued long after his death.

Webb was born in Fresno California on May 17, 1899. He learned about the mechanics of running a business from his father, Ernest, who owned a sand and gravel company. He also, learned about baseball from his father, and Webb's early ambition was to become a baseball player. When his once wealthy family lost their fortune in 1914, Webb dropped out of high school to help support his family as a carpenter, and he became skilled at estimating the time and money it would take to complete a job. He landed a spot on a semi-pro baseball team but typhoid fever left him in a weakened condition, so on a doctor's advice to move to a warm dry climate, he and his wife Hazel moved to Phoenix Arizona in 1928. He arrived in Arizona with his carpentry tools and a borrowed $100.

Some sources say that Webb got his start in the contracting business by hanging the doors at the Westward Ho Hotel downtown Phoenix, and other sources say not so. At any rate, records do show that Webb met A. J. Bayless of the grocery store chain and Webb was given the job of finishing one of the Bayless stores. Following the completion of the store, Del opened his Del E. Webb Construction Company at 218 N 9th St in Phoenix. One of his biggest jobs during this period was contracting an addition to the Arizona State Capitol in 1938.

Webb's contracts for construction are open to debate about how much he knew about underworld figures in Las Vegas Nevada, when he accepted the contract to build the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. for noted underworld figure Bugsy Siegel. (Bugsey reportedly was killed by the Mob in 1946, the year after opening the Flamingo for "skimming" money from the construction project.) It has been suggested that whenever obstacles were met on labor or materials, someone was able to "influence" the Teamsters to speed things along. I was surprised to learn that Valley National Bank of Arizona, who financed many of Webb's construction projects, had lent somewhere between $600,000 and $900,000 for the completion of the Flamingo. According to Webb, he had consulted with his friend J Edgar Hoover of the FBI, about the gaming industry in Las Vegas, and. Webb would go forward in the 1950s to build the Sahara, and the Mint hotels. Webb's association with the mysterious underworld figures and Howard Hughes continued.

Arizona's growth during World War Two meant a big contract for ten buildings at Ft Huachuca in Southern Arizona, and at Luke Air Force Base located just west of Phoenix. Contracts with Howard Hughes for his aircraft company in California and AZ, a housing development Pueblo Gardens in Tucson, structures for the US Government and commercial building contracts soon followed. During the 1940s Del Webb bought a part ownership of the New York Yankees,and the ownership of several "farm" teams and several baseball stadiums.


The tiny Kentworth House in Sun City Arizona that Changed Retirement

The tiny Kentworth House in Sun City Arizona that changed retirement.
The tiny Kentworth House in Sun City Arizona that changed retirement. | Source

Changing the Concept of Retirement

Webb didn't event the concept of the retirement town, but he did hire a number of people to investigate why the concept hadn't become popular. Florida and Arizona were the logical states to build retirement cities as both states already had a number of people who were retired. Developers who had sold homes in retirement communities and then didn't have the money to complete the golf courses and other amenities had left a sour taste in public opinion. Tom Breen, an employee of the Webb Corporation, coined the phrase that to succeed a retirement community must have, Activity, Economy and Individuality. In Arizona, previous ranch land was purchased, the golf courses, recreation centers and a shopping center were completed before the public was encouraged to buy. Webb donated land for churches. A contest was held to name the new community and the name Sun City was selected. Opening day was set for New Years Day, 1960, and Webb hoped for 1,000 visitors. So many potential buyers clogged Grand Ave from Peoria to Sun City, that Webb had difficulty getting to his own grand opening. Over 100,000 viewed Sun City during the first weekend. Five basic home models were offered ranging from the tiny Kentworth for $8,500 to the Pickford model offered at $11,300. Today, the original Sun City remains a vital, attractive community and Sun City West and Sun City Grand have joined the original community. The Sun City business model for retirement living paved the way for expansion into other states for the Del Webb Corporation and for many other developers to follow suit.

The original Kentworth model, became the Sun Cities Historical Museum and Del Webb's original sales office, early company newsletters and many photos for Sun City are housed there. Two years ago, the Museum changed its name to become the Del E Webb Historical Museum. Outside of his love of sports and the fact that Webb married twice, much of his life was kept very private.

In 1974, Webb died during an exploratory surgery, but his corporation continues as does the Del Webb Foundation.

The First Sun City Community

Sun City Arizona circa 1965.  The first of Del Webb's Sun City communities.
Sun City Arizona circa 1965. The first of Del Webb's Sun City communities. | Source

© 2011 mactavers

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Graig Dickinson 

      4 years ago

      Great story, gives you confidence in the American Dream.

    • mrubiquitous profile image

      mrubiquitous 

      7 years ago from Orlando, Florida. USA

      Interesting story! I am impresse the author took the time to get a personal photo for the hub. Kudos!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)