The Ox Bow Inn has been declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the nation's official list of properties considered worthy of preservation.
"The fact that (the Ox Bow Inn has) become eligible indicates how important it is to the history of Payson and what a landmark it has become on Main Street," Stan Brown, official town historian and Rim Review columnist, said.
Notification of the Ox Bow's eligibility came last week following months of work researching historical information and photographs of the original and existing structure, Main Street Project Manager Karen Greenspoon said.
"With the help of Stan Brown, detailed documentation was provided," Greenspoon said. "The State Historic Preservation Office also cooperated in expediting the decision so that a prospective buyer could make a decision on the property. Tuesday, March 5, an offer was made and the property is now officially under contract."
While the buyer has not been identified, the Roundup has learned that he is considering re-opening the Ox Bow as a dinner theater.
"It's extremely significant that the property has now been purchased by someone who wants to maintain it and put it back in circulation again," Brown said. "I can't commend them enough for their concern to restore the property and once again put it to good use."
The next step is completion of a 72-page application to actually be included on the register. If accepted the Ox Bow will join such notable state structures as the San Javier del Bac mission near Tucson and the Goodfellow Lodge at Tonto Natural Bridge, the only Rim country building on the list.
"This is just the beginning of a long and involved process," Greenspoon said. "But a listing on the register affords a certain prestige that enhances the property's value and raises community awareness and pride."
The listing does not prevent an owner from remodeling, repairing, altering or selling a building, but encourages rehabilitation and discourages demolition.
Brown said the Payson Hotel, the forerunner to the Ox Bow Inn, was built in 1932 by William and Estelee
Wade. Logs for the structure, which originally had nine rooms upstairs and a kitchen, restaurant and bar downstairs, were cut and hauled from the Mogollon rim. Rooms were $2.50 a
night and meals cost 50 cents.
At the end of World War II, the Wades retired from the hotel business and the new owners, Bob and Thelma Caldwell, expanded the facility to become the Ox Bow Inn. The name, Brown said, comes from Ox Bow Hill, the gateway to Payson named when soldiers in the 1870s found an ox bow on the trail.
The Caldwells purchased Alf Randall's store to the west and remodeled it as the Ox Bow Saloon. A series of rooms were added to form a courtyard in the back, which opened onto a patio and swimming pool.
A gala grand opening for the Ox Bow Lodge was held on May 2, 1954, with a free poolside barbecue.
The Caldwells sold the property in August 1966, after which it had a series of owners. Because of outdated wiring and a failure to meet the newer building codes, it has not been open for long periods since then.
Greenspoon is asking local residents with interesting stories about the inn portion of the Ox Bow to contact the Main Street Office at 468-6074 so they can be documented.
The Main Street Office is in the process of proposing several other Main Street buildings for the register and plans to submit them in the next 60 days.