Kohl's Ranch Owners Raze Historic Bar

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The old cowboy bar at Kohl's Ranch is history in more ways than one.

The landmark structure once known as the Cowboy Barn a Rim country social center for nearly three-quarters of a century has been demolished. The current owners of Kohl's Ranch, Phoenix-based ILX Resorts, plan to use "lumber and other components of the building" in constructing a new building on the site.

The structure was razed just 10 days after Kohl's Ranch manager Dan Albright told the Roundup there were no current plans to tear it down. On the contrary, ILX Chairman Joseph Martori said the project had been "on the drawing board" for 60 days.

Mike Stone, project manager for ILX, said the company plans to build a two-unit residential time share on the site.

"We are preserving what we believe to be the historical elements of the bar," Stone said. "The new structure will house all the pieces we deem historic.

"We were able to save the beautiful knotty pine, the tongue-and-groove wood, the exterior heavy wood siding that is quite attractive," Stone said. "We're going to use that around the windows and doors in the new facility."

The old bar top itself will also be incorporated into the new building.

"The bar with all the names carved in it will be put in the kitchen and dining areas," he said.

In a press release issued by ILX, Martori said the company "is honoring the history of the area and the site by continuing the tradition of incorporating the elements of the past into the foundation of the future."

Besides what can be salvaged from the old cowboy bar, the "luxurious guest accommodations" will also feature "the works of Zane Grey, as well as artwork and objects of lasting interest from the region."

According to Stone, the old bar had to be demolished due to "structural problems."

Payson historian Stan Brown was not pleased to learn that it was gone.

"It's a good illustration of why we need historic districts to preserve truly historic buildings," Brown said. "Otherwise, we can't stand in the way of what is called 'progress' in other words, economic benefits to private corporations."

In a recent Rim Review column, Brown said that the old cowboy bar was originally the Tonto School and was located at the junction of Tonto and Horton Creeks.

"When the Tonto School closed, the Kohl family decided to build a hall for ... Saturday night dances, and included a saloon and cafe as well as a small grocery store," he wrote. "Lew Kohl made a deal with the local school board to purchase the Tonto School building for $40.

"Together with the help of his son Glenn and Richard Haught, they dismantled the school and used the lumber and logs to build the 'Cowboy Barn,' as it came to be called by the ranchers."

Saturday night dances held here and at other old schools in the area would often last "through the night and were a primary source of entertainment for the ranch families," Brown wrote. "Between dances, friends would go out on the long porch, overlooking Tonto Creek behind the building, and visit."

Most recently, part of the structure housed a convenience store, but even that had been closed. The remainder was being used primarily for storage.

Stone said ILX hopes to have the new residential units on the site up and operating by September. When the guest accommodations are not in use, the historical treasures therein "will be available for viewing by the public," according to the press release.

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