Evidence of Van Buren's glory days has just about vanished.
Earlier this month, the Log Cabin Motel, located at 2515 East Van Buren Street, was torn to bits. Of the 200 or so lodging centers that used to reside along Phoenix's most storied thoroughfare, the Log Cabin was arguably the street's most iconic.
The quirky motel opened in 1939 as the Log Cabin Auto Court, and the redwood-hue-painted structures soon gained popularity as a fun place to stay for dog-tired motorists traveling along the old State Route 60.
Beginning in the 1950s, a working water wheel and a gift shop selling cactus candy made the joint a distinct Phoenix attraction, according to an editorial in the Fall 2006 edition of SCA Journal by former New Times contributor Douglas Towne.
However, just like many properties along crumbling Van Buren, which suffered from drug dealing and prostitution, the Log Cabin Motel soon fell into disrepair. (In 1995, ex-New Times staffer Peter Gilstrap spent a night at the Log Cabin ... and barely lived to tell about it.)
But the spot had boutique-hotel potential, especially with the Valley Metro Light Rail and its resulting urban resurgence. The 24th and Washington streets station is located less than a half-mile from the site, and is a five-minute ride from the 44th and Washington streets station, which serves Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
Instead of a warning sign, the Arizona State Hospital for the mentally ill that's located across the street could have been a marketing tool to capture the roadside-oddity crowd or the irony-seeking hipster. And if the Kon Tiki was still around at 24th and Van Buren streets -- the bizarro Polynesian-themed hotel was destroyed in the mid-'90s -- central Phoenix would house two beautifully distinct places to shack up for an evening or two.
But instead, it's just another sad dirt lot in a city chock-full of them.