The pioneering effort to build the Empire Land and Cattle Company in Arizona got underway in 1876 when two Englishmen, Walter Vail and Herbert Hislop, came to Tucson and purchased the Fish Ranch, located about 50 miles southeast of town. This small ranch was destined to grow to become one of Southern Arizona's largest cattle ranches. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Established in 1997, The Empire Ranch Foundation is a non-profit organization that works in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect, restore, and sustain the historical buildings and landscapes of the Empire Ranch. The Empire Ranch was established in 1876 and has been a working cattle ranch ever since, owned by two pioneer families: The Vails (1876-1928) and the Boices (1928-1969). The Empire Ranch was later owned by corporations before being transferred to the Bureau of Land Management, who enforces the preservation of the historic site. In 1997, the Empire Ranch Foundation was established to help the Bureau of Land Management with preservation projects while also making sure the site is still accessible to the general public.