Saloon Takes Its Place In History

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Like the sturdy trees supporting its walls, the Ox Bow Saloon has grown in beauty over the years. The saloon has seen several owners and an assortment of characters cross its wooden floors, but it has always remained the staple of Main Street.

The Ox Bow Saloon has now received national recognition -- the National Register of Historic Places is giving it a place in the pages of history, pending final approval.

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The Ox Bow Saloon on Main Street was recently admitted into the National Register of Historic Places. The saloon has been a Payson icon since 1933.

The National Register is a listing of buildings and other objects considered significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture.

"It's a slam dunk," said Ox Bow owner Bev Nethkin, who went to Tucson to receive the award.

Nethkin bought the saloon in 2002. It had been closed for two years before then, and required months of renovation.

"It looked like a haunted house," she said. "There were cobwebs everywhere." Nethkin worked to return the saloon to its present condition, and has even bigger plans for the future.

"Little by little we're trying to get this up and going," she said.

She wants to start a kitchen, build an art gallery and possibly rent some extra space to an antique mall.

When the Ox Bow was known as the Payson Hotel in 1933, a cowboy could get a room for $2.50 and a meal for 50 cents.

Today the prices have changed a little, and the saloon no longer offers rooms. But its hospitality is legendary among horse and Harley riders alike.

"She opens her arms up to us," said Barbara Hensler, regular patron and member of the motorcycle organization American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.

Hensler said Payson wouldn't be the same without the Ox Bow.

"It's part of the history," she said. "The older gentlemen and ladies -- I love listening to them tell stories."

Jeff (Uncle Jeffrey) Harris, 63, has been coming to the Ox Bow for 32 years. He said he loves talking to his old friends there, but it isn't what it used to be.

"It's not nearly as rowdy as it used to be," he said. "It's not as much fun as it used to be."

But, Harris said, it's still a great place to get together and talk about old times.

"I don't care if the Boston Strangler opened this place," he said. "People would come here because it is the Ox Bow."

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