I was bound to get lucky eventually. Travel around the country long enough with a camera and an enthusiasm for the “Old America”, the Route 66 feel, the memory of a tailfin, the black and white pictures of men in fedoras and women in cats-eye glasses and eventually I’d come home with some photos, do a bit of research and sit back in my chair, a bit surprised at what I had found.
I first spotted this motel while taking MsBoyink to a eye doctor visit. I instantly loved the sign - between the 1950’s feel and deteriorating paint I knew I’d have to get a camera aimed at it. On a return visit I did just that, parking long enough to grab a few iPhone photos.
It wasn’t until I randomly Googled the Motel’s name that I found out what a historic place this is.
I’m finding discrepancies in the actual dates, but the general story is that Buckhorn Baths started in 1935 as a trading post at the corner of Main and Recker Roads in Mesa.
Owners Alice and Ted Sliger lived there for 7 years before they could get electricity to the place. In 1939 they went to sink a well for fresh water and it came out at 112 degrees.
The Mineral Baths were born.
But here is where the story gets interesting.
In 1947 the New York Giants discovered the Baths and made the Motel a regular stop. Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry and Ty Cobb were regulars here.
The Buckhorn Baths are considered the birthplace of Spring Training in Arizona.
The owners were considered part of the Giants team. The team made a silver tray with engraved signatures for the Bath’s owners in 1954. They went along with the team on a goodwill tour of Japan in 1960.
And then there are the animals. Ted Sliger was a taxidermist, and the Motel’s “Trophy Room” contains 403 mounted animals - the largest collection of Arizona wildlife taxidermy.
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The Motel is now in the hands of preservationists who consider the Buckhorn Baths an important landmark to be preserved. Plans discussed include Little League Ball diamonds so that players can play where the greats once hung out.
What a fun story to come across after just shooting some photos of an interesting sign!
More about the Motel: