Travels with Two Sisters: A Green Valley legend?

Looking west, this photo shows a view of some buildings in the western Santa Rita Mountains, with Green Valley homes, mining operations and the Sierrita Mountains in the distance.

Shortly after becoming full-time residents of Green Valley, we were informed by friends that Bill Gates lived in the area. We were told, with great pride, that his residence was in the area of Elephant Head.

At that time, we were busy acclimating to our new environment and did not follow up on this information. For the last 10 years, we have explored hundreds of sites throughout Arizona and the surrounding area. Bill Gates, and his residence in Green Valley, was never found during our explorations and in any of our reading materials.

We had completely forgotten about the “famous” residence in the Green Valley area until several weeks ago. At that time, a friend of ours sent us an e-mail with an interesting attachment about the Paul Allen Compound. It included a write-up by the Green Valley Recreation Hiking Club, dated May 2015 and updated in May 2019, that described a housing compound built in the late 1990s in Agua Caliente Canyon, north of Mount Hopkins and FR-183. Reportedly, at that time, it was leaked out that the structure was part of the Paul Allen Compound. We read the attachment carefully and we re-read the title of the e-mail: Bet you haven’t seen this! To us, this was a challenge and the hunt for information began!

Travels with Two Sisters: A Green Valley legend?

A mountainous view in Southern Arizona's towering Santa Ritas.

Three days later we departed, with the Hiking Club write-up in hand, and headed up Mount Wrightson Road to Forest Road 183 toward Agua Caliente trailhead. A short distance down the dirt road, we found the section of road that intersects a parcel of land. The identical fencing and No Trespassing signs are similar, and very visible, along both sides of the road. We looked very carefully along the road for a structure that resembled the picture taken by Lizbeth Lutz in April 2015.

Travels with Two Sisters: A Green Valley legend?

An elevated structure that Sue Poirier and Midge Lemay found during their search for the Paul Allen Compound.

We did not find a compound, but we did locate and photograph two structures within the fenced area: a small, tan structure and a large, circular metal structure which appears to be a viewing tower. While we were examining the area for other structures, a black SUV and a white SUV departed from the circular structure. We finished the first day exploring Agua Caliente Canyon, enjoying the spectacular scenery and breathing in the fresh mountain air.

The hunt continues

That night, we shared with a friend our day’s exploration. She quickly informed us that the Paul Allen Compound was by the side of the road and was identifiable by its green metal roof. On her trip to the Whipple Observatory, the tour guide had pointed out the compound to the tour participants.

Travels with Two Sisters: A Green Valley legend?

No doubt that this white building atop Mount Hopkins is part of the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory.

The following morning, we headed back to the Mount Wrightson Road and stopped at the property at 506 Mount Wrightson Road. The fencing and the “No Trespassing” signs were identical to those found on the Forest Road 183. This structure, however, does not resemble the picture, taken in April 2015, that was included in the Hiking Club write up. Upon further investigation, this property is listed as a single family home valued at more than $1 million dollars. As a precaution, we did take pictures of the structure, the locked gate, and all of the security devices.

Travels with Two Sisters: A Green Valley legend?

Green Valley resident Sue Poirier takes in the view as she and sister Midge Lemay search for the reputed Paul Allen Compound.

Our next plan: heading up the dirt road toward the observatory to see if we could spot the compound from higher ground. We took a lot of pictures that day of the volcanic rock, the valley, Kitt Peak, the narrow dirt road and all of the structures we could find. Alas! When we arrived home, we had successfully taken a picture that is identical to the picture in the hiking club write up. The structure does not have a green roof and is not alongside Wrightson Road. From our vantage point, however, it was difficult to determine the exact location of the house.

Since our outdoor explorations, we have spent some time researching Paul Allen (Vulcan) properties. Here are the results thus far:

In The Wall Street Journal, dated March 25, 2019, we found an article titled “Paul Allen’s Legacy of Extraordinary Homes,” by Nancy Keates. In her article, she lists properties once owned by Paul Allen based on public records of ownership and on interviews. The properties listed and described were from various parts of the country, including: Tetonia, ID; Hawaii; Beverly Hills, CA; Lopez Island, CA; penthouse in New York City; Portland, OR; Mercer Island, WA; Springdale, UT; Atherton, CA; Santa Fe, NM, and a hilltop mansion in France. In the article, she states that the property ownerships are under trusts identified with Allen and/or his company, Vulcan Inc. This makes properties difficult to identify. In the article, no mention of any properties owned by Paul Allen/Vulcan in Arizona.

True compound or not?

In the Business Insider, dated January 9, 2016, we found an article titled “The Incredible Portfolio of Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen,” by Madeleine Stone. In this article, we found all of the properties listed in the above-noted article, including properties in the following locations: Allan Island, WA; “The Enchanted Hill” in Beverly Hills, CA; Malibu Beach, CA; and a home in London’s Holland Park neighborhood. No mention of any Allen/Vulcan property in Arizona.

In the Tucson Weekly, dated May 27, 2004, we found an article by Seth J. Frantzmann about the Campbell Cliffs House, a house in the Catalina Foothills known for its unique setting and famous architect. Within the article, we highlighted this quote: “Tucson is actually home to more money than we realize, including the homes of Paul Allen and the former ranch of Paul McCartney, as well as many other big shots not named Paul.” The article did not refer to the location of the Paul Allen house.

An article titled “Under-Birded Areas of SE Arizona — Agua Caliente Canyon,” written by Tim Helentjaris on Sept. 28, 2016, caught our attention. He describes an odd structure he noticed off the road on the way out of the canyon. He described it as a large prop structure from Mad Max Thunderdome (sounds like the structure we identified as a large metal viewing structure). At the end of his article, he asked for feedback about the structure. He received this response from an unidentified person: “That would be a structure built by one of the co-founders of Microsoft. There are several other strange structures up there on his property.” There was no mention of the compound.

At this point, we are in a dilemma! Do we proudly tell our family and friends that Bill Gates has a compound in Green Valley? Or do we tell them that Paul Allen has a compound in Green Valley? Is there a compound in the area that was built by either man? Is it a legend?

Travels with Two Sisters is a series of adventures in Arizona with Green Valley residents Marie “Midge” Lemay and Suzanne “Sue” Poirier. For more discoveries, check out their first three books: “One Mile at a Time,” “A Gypsy in Our Souls,” and “Connecting Dots.”