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Sometime around the mid-1930s, Texan and amateur taxidermist Ted Sliger and his wife Alice moved from Texas to Mesa, Arizona. There, they built a gas station on the corner of the Apache Trail and North Bush Highway – the latter being a popular route to nearby Saguaro Lake.  However the Sliger’s station soon caught fire and burnt to the ground not long after. What’s more, not only did the fire destroy the gas station, but it also burnt up Ted’s taxidermy collection as well save one piece – a mounted deer head.

Photographof the Buckhorn Baths Motel Sign.
Image courtesy Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection

Nevertheless, Ted was an entrepreneur and apparently not one to sit and mope around about a little setback like a fire. So, Ted and Alice moved a few blocks over to a homestead at 5900 E. Main Street and started all over again.

Still, Mesa is a desert town, which meant that the Ted had to truck water in on a regular basis – a habit he wasn’t too fond of getting into. So, he decided to see if he could drill for water there on his property.  What he actually found, however, was something even more incredible.

In Hot Water

In 1935, while Ted was drilling for water, he unknowingly tapped into a 127° F underground hot spring. In 1939, the entrepreneur and his wife would open up Buckhorn Mineral Springs – named after that stuffed and mounted deer head that had survived the fire.

It didn’t take long for people with all sorts of ailments ranging from arthritis to psoriasis to take advantage of the Sliger’s curative mineral waters. And the Sliger’s were more than happy to oblige.

Between 1935 and 1947 the couple built a café, a curio shop, a motel, a wildlife museum featuring over 450 stuffed animals, 15 cottages, 27 stone tubs, and even a 9-hole golf course. Buying bricks at $5 per 1,000 bricks from a nearby school that was being demolished, they also built a trading post complete with a Greyhound bus station.

Ballpark Figures

Photo of the cabins sometime around 2010.
Cottages at the Buckhorn Baths Motel in Mesa, Arizona. Image courtesy Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection

Starting in 1947, the resort became the Spring Training headquarters for the New York Giants for the next 25 years. Indeed, the likes of Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry and other baseball greats once called the Buckhorn Baths their home away from home.

Today, the “Cactus League” is made up 15 major league baseball teams that hold their Spring Training in 10 stadiums throughout Arizona. However, they all started with the Giants at the Buckhorn.

Like a Phoenix?

Photo of the old office taken in 2021
The office of the Buckhorn Baths Motel c. 2021. Image: Beyond My Ken, CC  by 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ted Sliger would pass away in 1984 and Alice would continue running the resort until she closed the baths in 1999 at the age of 92. The motel would close five years later in 2004 and would be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Alice Sliger would pass away at the ripe old age of 103 in 2010.

In August 2017, the 15.62-acre property was purchased by The Avenue Shoppes LLC bought for $2.15 million. By then, the property had fallen into near ruins and even the famed hot springs are now covered by a wall that has fallen on top of them. Nonetheless, the new owners have talked of restoring the historical buildings into a boutique motel and removing the wall so the 127° F springs could flow and draw visitors once again.

The City of Mesa says the once famous springs have become an eyesore and something needs to be done with building soon. As of this writing, however, the developers and the city still seem to be at an impasse over exactly what should be done with the Buckhorn Baths and Motel. We can only hope that one day soon we will be writing another Motel Monday and telling you how you can stay in this one-of-a-kind historical resort motel.

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