Mesa Close To Buying Historic Buckhorn Baths Motel

Mesa Close To Buying Historic Buckhorn Baths Motel

Buckhorn Baths sign

(Photo: Mesa Preservation Foundation)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • For more than a decade, Mesa's historic Buckhorn Baths inn has sat frozen in time, shuttered and deteriorating
  • Mesa says it has worked out the details of an agreement to buy the once-thriving relic
  • Goal is to close by the end of 2014
  • The yet-undisclosed purchase price would be covered using money approved by voters just over two years ago

For more than a decade, Mesa's historic Buckhorn Baths inn has sat frozen in time, its walls and roof slowly deteriorating as the hodgepodge of items inside gathered dust.Soon, the city might be able to turn back the clock.Mesa says it has worked out the details of an agreement to buy the once-thriving relic, and the lawyer representing the original owners' heirs confirmed the deal."Our goal is to have a closing by the end of the year," Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said.The yet-undisclosed purchase price would be covered using money approved by voters more than two years ago. Some residents had stopped holding their breath for a deal in the time since, as family squabbles and related legal actions repeatedly held up the negotiation process.Next came a lengthy inventory phase, to distinguish between historic items that would come with the purchase of the property and others that would leave with the family. The city is still working through that part of the transaction."It's taken us a lot of time to find a way to document those distinctions, because (both types of items) are right now in the same room or commingled," Brady said. "A personal item often looked, to us, like a collectible. We needed to come up with a good document, photographic records and a listing system that could help us identify which was which."Once the property changes hands, Mesa and historic-preservation activists can begin the project's next chapter: securing, restoring and figuring out precisely what to do with the 15-plus acres at Main Street and Recker Road.A colorful historyThe history of Buckhorn Baths goes hand in hand with that of Major League Baseball. Some say the Cactus League might never have been born had the owner of the New York Giants not found the spa to relax and rejuvenate his players after harsh winters.The motel sprung up after newlyweds Ted and Alice Sliger, working to establish a new trading post and gas station at the site in the late 1930s, tapped a warm, mineral-rich aquifer while drilling for what they thought would be cool well water.
1960s view through the Buckhorn Baths lobby toward
1960s view through the Buckhorn Baths lobby, toward the TV room and museum. (Photo: Mesa Preservation Foundation)
  • 1960s view through the Buckhorn Baths lobby toward
  • The Buckhorn Baths wildlife museum which displayed
  • An aerial photo of the Buckhorn Baths in 1949
  • A historic photo of the Buckhorn pool in the 1960s
  • Buckhorn Baths had a special locker room for baseball
  • A historic photo of the pond at Buckhorn Baths
  • A historic photo of the Buckhorn Baths sign when it
  • In this historic photo the New York Giants visit Buckhorn
  • A postcard depicting the old Buckhorn Baths entrance

They soon were operating a bustling compound, with kitchenette cabins, a bathhouse with entrances separated by gender, cooling rooms and massage tables.Tourists came from all over the world to take a dip in the hot baths, later gossiping about the water's supposed healing powers. Giants owner Horace Stoneham was one of them.The Sligers built a locker room for the Giants in the bathhouse, used by the team for decades, and autographed photos and baseball memorabilia eventually filled the walls and closets. Some of those pieces already have made their way to the Mesa Historical Museum's Cactus League collection.The motel also boasted a kitschy collection of taxidermied wildlife, stuffed by Ted Sliger himself, as well as collections of Western and Native American artifacts.Tranquil ponds and towering palm trees still dot the Buckhorn Baths land.Restoring and revivingBoth city and historic-preservation officials say the first order of business following the Buckhorn Baths purchase will involve stabilizing and protecting the property."The longer it sits, the more it deteriorates," said Vic Linoff, Mesa Preservation Foundation president.
Men and women had different sections at the Buckhorn
Men and women had different sections at the Buckhorn Baths. (Photo: Pat Shannahan/The Republic)
  • Men and women had different sections at the Buckhorn
  • This locker room was built for all of the professional
  • Ted Sligers taxidermic animals  will stay at the Buckhorn
  • Bungalows outside the now closed Buckhorn Baths The
  • A dusty attendants bell sits silent inside the now-closed
  • An old cash register sits in the closed Buckhorn Baths
  • The 75-year-old Buckhorn Baths Motel in east Mesa closed
  • Buckhorn Baths in Mesa soothed generations of travelers
  • The Buckhorn Baths Motel an Arizona institution on
  • A hallway leading to baths inside the closed Buckhorn
  • The mens dressing room at The Buckhorn Baths Motel

The city said certain walls and pieces of roofing are vulnerable to rain and other natural elements. Fortunately, the 2012 bond funding provides for some simple repairs.It doesn't allow for much beyond that, however, and Linoff has said restoration costs would be in the millions."It's a multiyear process," Linoff said. "That's why the very first thing is to secure it, so it is (stable) as we do the appropriate fundraising and planning."The Mesa Preservation Foundation began pushing to get residents thinking about what the property could become early on. It has thrown out the idea of using part of the property for Little League ballparks, for instance, to link the site's hand in baseball history with the present.Linoff also has said there's a chance preservationists could get the baths working again, since "the hot water hasn't gone anywhere." Architects have said that would be tricky, given modern environmental-health codes."There are also opportunities for infill on the site that would help provide more activities and amenities," Linoff said. "My guess is, the first thing would be to have some public dialogue to see, what does the community want? What do they expect out of it? And see if we can't match the community's vision for it with the reality of what actually can be accomplished."
 
Maria Polletta, The Republic | azcentral.com11:37 a.m. MST December 11, 2014



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