midcentury modern builder of homes in Tucson: Tom Gist

Tom Gist – Builder of Tucson Mid-century Burnt Adobe Homes

Last Updated on February 3, 2023 by Kim Labriola

Do you love the warmth of burnt adobe? Do you prefer the natural character of stained wood? Are you in love with anything vintage or mid-century? Are you looking for a house that feels at home in Tucson? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’d probably appreciate a home designed and built by Tom Gist.

Quintessential Tom Gist designed home in Tucson Arizona. Gist was known to design low slung ranch homes with a desert-modern motif.

Interested in buying or selling a home in Tucson? Contact us to go over your needs. 520-975-8956 or Hello@RealTucson.com

The custom built cabinetry often featured in later Gist homes had long wood pulls integrated into the Philippine Mahogany doors.

Who is Tom Gist?

Tom Gist was a builder who worked in the Tucson area in the post war years up until 1978. He was born and raised in the Chicago area and he initially worked for his father who was a home builder there. After relocating to Tucson, Gist worked for other builders until going out on his own. In addition to building homes of his own design, he also built homes for other Tucson architects including Art Brown and Josias Joesler.

Gist built around 170 homes in the Tucson area over his 30+ year career. After retirement in 1978, Gist and his wife Tish hiked extensively in Saguaro National Park East (then known as Saguaro National Monument) and helped map out the area’s hiking trails. Tom Gist died in 2000.

1959 Tom Gist built home featuring exposed burnt adobe
1959 Tom Gist built home featuring exposed burnt adobe. Windows have the concrete cap, typical of many Gist homes. Also note the gable-end clerestory window above the bed, another Gist signature.

Typical characteristics of Gist homes

Gist built elongated ranch style homes typically of burnt adobe. Often the burnt adobe blocks were left in their natural, un-painted state in both the exterior and interior of the home. He used a lot of custom Philippine mahogany woodwork for doors, paneling, and cabinetry.

The long exteriors of the homes usually featured ribbon windows on the street side, while the walls on the back side of the home often had large plate glass windows encased in the burnt adobe without extra window framing, and usually featured a mountain view. The sill of the windows were typically made of adobe blocks laid on their side or a concrete wall cap. The short walls of the homes, usually located on the east and west of the home to minimize heat gain, featured a gable end clerestory window with a translucent fiber glass type material. Some of his homes featured decorative fascia and eaves. Most of his homes originally had carports and a few later homes had garages.

Gist homes were typically built of burnt adobe. Many had ribbon windows facing the front, with large windows facing a mountain view toward the back of the home. Carports were common to allow homeowners to show off their new Cadillac.
Gist home located in Leonora Annex in Tucson
Gist home located in Leonora Annex in Tucson

Where are Gist homes located?

Early Gist homes were located in Broadmoor-Broadway Village neighborhood. He developed much of Leonora Annex near Broadway and Craycroft. Some of the other neighborhoods with custom Gist homes are in Tucson Country Club Estates, Harold Bell Wright Estates, Wilshire Heights, and Mitman. He also built many custom homes in the Catalina Foothills area, around Tucson’s far east side, near the Tucson Mountains, and a couple in the town of Sonoita.

Tom Gist designed and built home in Leonora Annex
Tom Gist designed and built home in Leonora Annex
Classic burnt adobe Gist home in Leonora Annex
Classic burnt adobe Gist home in Leonora Annex
mid century modern Tom Gist designed home in Leonora Annex, Tucson Arizona
Burnt adobe and ribbon windows with concrete wall cap sills.

Looking to buy a Tom Gist home?

Tom Gist homes are highly sought-after as he’s gained more accolades in recent years. Contact us to find out if any Gist homes are currently for sale. Hello@RealTucson.com or 520-975-8956

Philippine Mahogany closet doors and paneling is a signature material Tom Gist used
Video featuring neighborhoods with Gist built homes
Tom Gist Home Builder Tucson Newspaper advertisement
Tom Gist Home Builder Tucson Newspaper advertisement

Looking to buy or sell a home in Tucson? Contact us to go over your needs: Hello@RealTucson.com or 520-975-8956