The Inns at El Rancho Merlita Then and Now, a Tucson Ladies’ Legacy

Black and white portrait signed Semper Idem Merle Norman June 1956insert-host-1
Large aquamarine saltwater pool is soft on skin, hair and eyesMerle Norman and Tom Dixon at the pool on a summer afternoon





In the 1950’s, Los Angeles based cosmetics legend Merle Norman came by some land in Tucson, Arizona.  Here she built her guest ranch, her quiet desert getaway, El Rancho Merlita.  In the year 2005, Tucson native Diana Osborne purchased El Rancho Merlita from Merle Norman’s former assistant.  The houses, which have now become the Inns, were exactly as Merle had left them before she passed on.  Merle designed the property so that she could entertain guests in the beautiful, sunny, and at that time relatively unpopulated Tucson valley.  Every year she would hold an employee retreat where she would bring her employees on a bus from LA to Tucson for a weekend of ranch style cooked meals, cots for sleeping out on the extensive porches or on the lawn, playing in the pool, or trying their hands on Merle’s little golf course.  From its inception, El Rancho Merlita was a place of entertainment, enjoyment, and relaxation.

Morning sun brightens the east veranda washing the rust custom wrought iron doors and seating with lightinsert-history-1
When the Ranch passed into Diana Osborne’s hands she took this spirit and ran with it.  Diana has celebrated the unique historical and “Merle” features of the property and glamorously updated these spaces to be of the finest quality possible.  All of these renovations were done to hone the spaces into a more formal Inn setting where El Rancho Merlita could continue as a beautiful oasis to bring guests to enjoy this corner of the Sonoran Desert.
Carved pink rhyolite stone fireplace provides warmth beneath wood beams in livingroom on winter evenings1955 living room and kitchen with covered wagon lamp on mantle
These photos show the original pool, living room, Merle’s bedroom, and the Arroyo House.  Next to each image is the space as you find it today, caringly renovated by Diana Osborne.  This historic property is a unique gem in Tucson.  It was created as the dream of a creative entrepreneurial woman.  It has been renovated and revived by a local Tucson woman, and now it is stewarded by our tremendous lady innkeeper Pattie Bell.

Merle's bedroom with picture window, shag carpet and round bedOriginal stone wall provides wood-burning fireplace, carved book shelves and fine western art flanked by amber mica lamps



So come on down to the Inns at El Rancho Merlita and visit this beautiful place, this lovely legacy of ladies!


All the best!

The ERM Family

Innkeeper Pattie Bell

Innkeeper Pattie Bell




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