The Story of the Buckhorn Baths
Highway 60 is still one of the main roads into Phoenix. Back in the day, it was *the* road if you were coming in from the East. It runs through Mesa Arizona first, and there’s still parts that retain its past of epic sized neon signs and old school road trip memories. The Buckhorn Baths is the king of those places in the area. It just stands out. When I first saw it, it reminded me of Roys in Amboy on route 66. I liked this place immediately, and wanted to know its story.
Ted and Alice Sliger started the Buckhorn Baths. Ted was was an entrepreneur and a Texan, but found his way to Arizona and in the 30s, started a gas station on the corner of the Apache Trail and the bush Highway on the way to Saguaro Lake. A fire later destroyed their business. Ted, ever the opportunist bought a homestead on the far edge of highway 60 into Mesa to start over and try again.
With the brutal desert heat and water a necessity, The couple got tired of hauling in water and put together enough money to drill a well. It didn’t go so well. The results were an undrinkable, hot, odorless Mineral Water. Ted made the most out of it and they started the Buckhorn Mineral wells in 1939.
More and more people were travelling by car, and the Buckhorn started getting more and more business. Ted and Alice’s venture started to grow. They put in a cafe, motel, Curio shop and even a 9 hole golf course. They bought old bricks for $5 per thousand from a local school that was being torn down and built a trading post complete with a greyhound bus station. When local cowboys came through town and needed food and a place to stay, they’d be put to work in exchange for labor to expand his new enterprise. Ted was also a skilled Taxidermist and started a small animal museum to bring in customers.
Arizona seemed like a great place for Baseball spring training, and in 1947 Ted capitalized on an opportunity. His Motel and therapeutic mineral waters were a perfect fit to house baseball players. He cut a deal to have the world champion New York Giants stay there for spring training. He outfitted locker rooms into the facility for the team which are still there. This was the Giants spring training home for 25 years. Ty Cobb, Willie Mays and a list of baseball players all stayed here. Other teams soon followed into Arizona, and the cactus league was formed. Today, more than 1/2 of the Major League Baseball teams train in Arizona. It all started with the Buckhorn.
The Buckhorn continued to thrive through the 60’s and 70’s. The staff of 25 made beds, sold admission to the museum, cleaned and made food. The business had 27 stone tubs, 15 adobe style cottages with attached carports to get out of Arizona sun. The wildlife museum had over 450 animals, some that were extinct in Arizona. Ted and Alice lived on the property and continued the business of hospitality.
When Ted Passed away in 1984, Alice continued to run the place for 15 more years When route 60 was re-routed in the mid 1990’s, traffic all but stopped and Alice finally shut the doors for the last time at the age of 93 in 1999.
There’s been some on and off discussion on what to do with the place: The city of Mesa spent a couple of years trying to acquire the property but they weren’t able to pull it off. The whole 15 acres is currently for sale. Its currently listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Inside its still a time machine:
I busted out the drone and got some Arial shots…
Just a cool old place, with a great Story. God, I love Arizona.