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SPECIAL REPORT: Treasures of the Desert Southwest: Sanguinetti House Museum

Learn the story of the “Merchant Prince of Yuma” in this 'Treasures of the Desert Southwest' special report.

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA/KECY) - The heart of downtown Yuma is home to many local gems but none like the Sanguinetti House Museum.

Eugene Francis Sanguinetti, or "E.F." was a simple man with a go-getter attitude even telling the people of Yuma he can take care of them from “cradle to grave”.

In the late 1800’s Sanguinetti arrived at just 16-years-old to find work at a grocery store.

Almost 20 years later he bought that store and the building still stands.

At a time in history when Yuma’s name was just changed from “Arizona City", Sanguinetti saw the opportunity to help locals by opening different business ventures starting inside his store.

Sanguinetti House Museum's manager, Jenny Pennington describes more of Sanguinetti's character.

“There was a mortuary that later was put in because Yuma didn’t have one," said Pennington. "He was very much "see a need, fill a need" kind of guy. So, things like mortuaries or bottling companies or here in Yuma, ice is really really important and he helped start the Yuma ice company that later became an electric company. So, he saw Yuma as a land of opportunity and he just continued to expand on those things.”

Sanguinetti’s grocery store was popular to many and still is if you frequent downtown Yuma.

It’s what we now call our Children’s Museum!

Sanguinetti was described as being content with the basics in life.

Although he didn’t ask for much, he still showed a strong work-ethic and conducted business in house.

“When we think of business people today we think of like the big executive office and with all the big and fancy things. And one of the comments we get from people are like ‘Well if he had all this money and these businesses, why’s his house so small?’ Well this was enough," said Pennington. "This was what he needed. He didn’t want to have a big executive office because that money could be spent elsewhere. So he did a lot of his meetings just from the dining room table over drinks or dinner.”

Sanguinetti was married to a woman who had her own big ties to Yuma.

Her grandfather was José María Redondo, who the Arizona Historical Society calls, “One of Arizona’s most famous and accomplished citizens.”

Redondo was the first grower of Colorado River lettuce in the Yuma area and was a central figure of local irrigation as well.

His daughter and Sanguinetti met while she was employed for him.

“He married a local girl, her name was Lyla. She’s the granddaughter of José María Redondo, who was a huge politician here in Yuma. She actually worked for him at one of his grocery stores as a teller, essentially. There was a 20 year age gap, but they really got along. They had three beautiful children, Francis Jr., Rose Marie and Norman was the youngest," Pennington said. "So, two boys and a girl.”

It takes a village is what many say when it comes to raising kids.

Sanguinetti was very open about needing help with his family after him and his wife separated.

Leaning on his housekeeper for that “motherly” help for his youngest son, Norman, after his wife took the two older kids.

“He didn’t have the “wife” here to cook and clean and do things like that so he hired Paws who lived here with her husband, but Paws was also really important in raising Norman. When Lyla moved to California, she took Francis and Rose Marie with her and then Norman stayed here," Pennington said.

In the 1970s Sanguinetti’s daughter, Rose Marie turned her childhood home into a museum through the Arizona Historical Society.

The home is now used to teach the anyone who enters the history of one of Yuma’s moguls and what life looked like back then.

Weddings are also held at the sanguinetti houseM many are fans of the rose garden which was important to the family.

Even giving the nickname “Roses” to Sanguinetti’s only daughter.

Just like many other historic places in our area, the ghost tales don’t stop at the Sanguinetti House Musuem.

Although there’s not hard proof to share, some say they see the big business man hanging around his home.

“If you take one of our ghost tours, the ghost hostess will tell you a story about a couple that saw Sanguinetti hanging out in the doorway and trying to welcome them into his home because he was a big friendly guy that loved to talk to people and network," said Pennington. "We’ve had people say, ‘Oh I can just feel him sitting at the table.’ and things like that. So there’s stories, I don’t know how true they are, but this is an old house so things go creak and bump and doors open randomly.”

The Sanguinetti House Musuem has been working towards creating more learning programs for our local youth as well as opening another museum.

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Jacqueline Aguilar


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