Culture News

Buckhorn Baths Preservation Efforts Continue Despite Owner Alice Sliger's Death

The historic Buckhorn Baths in Mesa, which we visited for a Hidden Valley blog in June, may survive despite the death of owner Alice Sliger last Tuesday.

The sprawling property, known for its natural mineral hot springs, was once a haven for professional baseball players during Cactus League spring training. Buckhorn Baths opened at 5900 E. Main Street (on the corner of Recker Road) more than 70 years ago, when there was nothing else around for miles.

It's been closed and for sale since 1999, but Sliger never accepted any offers. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, and family friends and historians say preservation efforts will continue despite Sliger's death.

Alice Sliger, a Mesa native and former schoolteacher, opened the Buckhorn Baths with her late husband, taxidermist Ted Sliger, in 1939. The property once boasted 27 stone tubs, 15 adobe cottages, and a wildlife museum filled with Ted Sliger's collection of preserved Arizona animals -- many of which were rare or extinct. Famous baseball players who spent time at Buckhorn Baths over the years included Ted Williams and Ty Cobb.

Ted Sliger died in 1984, but Alice kept the baths open until 1999. She lived at the site until about six months ago, when she went to live at a nursing home. Friends and family described her as an energetic woman with a great memory, who could vividly recall stories about Buckhorn Baths from more than 50 years ago. She made contributions to the Mesa Historical Museum and frequently attended events connected with the baths, including the opening of an exhibit at the Arizona Museum for Youth called "Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience" in February of last year.

Last year, Sliger fell and fractured a vertebrae in her back, but by all accounts, she remained sprightly and mentally sharp, even at 103. She died November 9. Funeral services will be held for Sliger at 10 a.m. on November 15 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5350 E. McClellan Road, in Mesa.

Now, the push is on to preserve the Buckhorn Baths. In addition to the baths being on the National Register of Historic Places, it was also recently deemed the "most endangered commercial roadside place in the U.S." by the Society for Commercial Archaeology. Ron Peters, a family friend who lead efforts to get Buckhorn Baths on the NRHP in 2005, also serves on Mesa's historic preservation board. The Mesa Preservation Foundation was formed in March.

No specific preservation plan has been formed, but the East Valley Tribune reports there's talk of turning the Buckhorn Baths into a history center and baseball field complex.