Landmark Lands On Historic Register

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The Ox Bow Inn will unveil the bronze plaque designating its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places at 6 p.m. Friday in a ceremony open to the public.

"I'm going to have past owners here for the unveiling," co-owner Beverly Nethken said. "We're going to have light hors d'oeuvres and drink specials."

Inclusion on the nation's official list of properties considered worthy of preservation is a rare honor. The only other Rim country listing is the lodge at the Tonto Natural Bridge.

"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," said former town historian Stan Brown.

According to Brown, 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, according to Brown, comes from Ox Bow Hill, the gateway to Payson -- named when soldiers in the 1870s found an oxbow 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.

The Ox Bow Inn also known as the Ox Bow Saloon is located at 607 W. Main St. (928) 468-9797.

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