Painting derived from original photograph by Patricia Sahertian. 2.5 x 4 inches, acrylic on photo paper.

I am becoming fully immersed in Arizona history (pun intended). The landmark Buckhorn Baths, found on U.S. Route 89, was an oasis in the desert for tired travelers as well as a precursor to the area’s spa culture with the healing powers of its hot spring. Built in 1939 after the owners, Ted and Alice Sliger, accidentally discovered a hot mineral spring while drilling their well. They decided to capitalize on this lucky find and created a series of cabins and a bathhouse with separate quarters for men and women, and hired a full staff of masseuses. Buckhorn Baths became a beacon for weary athletes, especially baseball’s New York/San Francisco Giants.

Jacob and I paid it a visit last week to take some photos in the continuing series I am doing on Arizona’s endangered buildings. It is quite a place. Although it’s been closed for years, it looks like someone could just walk in and turn the lights on and you would step back in time. In place is the collection of “stuffed” animals, post card racks are on the counter, Arizona kitch adorns the interior, along with trophies and old furniture. Swinging doors allowed us to take a peak at the back of the building. Alleyways and water tanks abound. Free standing bathroom buildings, a series of low motel cabins and private courtyards are spread out over the grounds. It seems that someone maintains the space, because the pond is well kept and there was running water. There was no lack of things to photograph. As we walked around to the other side, we found the men’s bathhouse. Its walls are badly peeling, its signs faded, its frosted glass window frames deteriorating.

What fascinated me most, was a peek inside the door to see the rows of numbered doors. To me they were immediately beautiful and bleak and imparted a real sense of loss, all empty and lonely and half opened.

You can read a good article about the fate of the Buckhorn Baths by Gary Nelson here.