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Buckhorn Motel and Wildlife Museum

The 66 year old Buckhorn Mineral Wells Motel and spa appears to be fading away. Our advice is: run, don’t walk, before this unique bit of Mesa history is bulldozed to make way for a fast food franchise or strip mall.

When Mesa pioneers Ted and Alice Sliger discovered a hot spring on their desert property in 1939, they decided to build a motel that offered mineral water baths. While viewing a 1949 aerial photograph of the property, we appreciated what a bold move this was, since the photo showed the motel as a green oasis surrounded by absolutely nothing but barren desert.

Ted Sliger was a taxidermist whose collection of over 400 mounted and stuffed animals is displayed in the original lounge and TV room. For a four dollar entrance fee, we entered the museum and were amazed at the mind numbing display of oddities including furniture made from animal parts, a skull of a four horned sheep, a ceiling covered with a jaw dropping display of longhorns, and memorabilia from the days when it was home to the New York Giants during spring training.

Although the mineral baths were closed in 1999, remnants of the glory days can still be seen. We marveled at the large palm trees, pueblo motor car apartments, expanses of lawns, fountains and ponds, a unique collection of Indian mortars, vintage neon signs, and of course the Wildlife Museum.

We left with the bad feeling that someday this piece of “old Arizona” will vanish when the owners of this vast corner of prime real estate would succumb to the surrounding pressures of commercial development.

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