The Spanish Trail – Tucson ‘Eyesore’ Getting A Facelift?

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History isn’t always pretty, but it occasionally gets a second chance.

This historic structure has long been considered a blemish on the face of this otherwise dusty, hideous wasteland of a city. Over the years, dozens of complaints have been filed for The Spanish Trail motel, a deteriorating mid-century hotel held together by cracked paint and inertia. Conveniently hovering over Interstate 10 along the edge of the city of South Tucson, it gives any newcomers from the east a fairly accurate impression of Tucson. I stumbled across an article today, however, indicating that a couple of investors have purchased the property and intend to breathe some new life into it.

In it’s own time, The Spanish Trail was a well-known destination. In the 1960’s and 70’s, live music & theater – and a Hollywood clientele – drew an eclectic crowd. Professional staff lived on-site in a series of duplexes north of the resort and the property boasted luxurious amenities. Today, of course, the housing has been replaced by a steel yard; the golf course, lagoon, running track, and cactus garden are gone.

This is where movie stars like John Wayne and Michael Landon lived (and visited) while working at Old Tucson Studios. The large area that still survives, a space-aged-looking concrete rotunda, was the Dinner Show Lounge. Time, vacancy, and a structure fire have left little to appreciate.

Despite how unkind the past few decades have been, the new owners have expressed an interest in redeveloping the property into permanent affordable housing, with an emphasis on providing homes for veterans.

There’s no set timeline for the forthcoming renovations, but I’ll be curious to see what happens to the old 70-foot sign. As always, other peoples’ eyesore is, to my twisted eye, a fascinating and beautiful relic.

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June 16, 2017 – Serena Rose

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This hard-working multi-instrumentalist is more than just a musician. She’s woman who performs in multiple bands, makes amazing photographs, and pursues her creative impulses with an elegance and casual calm that causes photographic artists like me to pause, re-hinge my jaws, and ask “how on earth did she do that?” I first met Serena when I became acquainted with Randall Swindell, the front-man of Ensphere, several years ago.

I photographed Ensphere at their rehearsal/performance space downtown and managed to nab some photographs at a few of their performances at venues down on 4th Avenue, the highlight of which was the record release performance at Plush for their album ‘Corpuscle.’ Serena and Ensphere alum Michael Ludovici share a creative and romantic connection, performing together with Ensphere and with a side project as a duo under the moniker Dyadic.

Beautiful, multi-talented, and kind beyond measure, I recommend checking out Serena’s work:
Dyadic
Serena Rose Photos
Ensphere

Here’s one of my favorite photographs from Serena’s “Levitation” series.
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May 26, 2017 – Downtown Tucson

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“Photography is simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express and signify that fact”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Originally known as the Willard Hotel, this property on South 6th Avenue – a stone’s throw away from the heart of downtown – was renamed the Pueblo Hotel in 1944. This weathered sign was installed in the 1950s. The hotel and apartments closed in 1984, when I was only one year old, and is currently home to a law office. The sign remains, though, even if it might be a little misleading. It was restored to like-new condition back in 2012 and I’m really pleased that I photographed it before the change.

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May 21, 2017 – Drifter

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Silver City, New Mexico is a special little town. It’s the kind of town my family would stay the night on the way from one destination to another during vacation. It’s the kind of town that begs you to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and walk around for a while, with a greasy-spoon diner and some art galleries to explore. It’s the kind of town you tell yourself “gosh, if I could only find t he excuse, I’d love to live in a place like this.”

Sadly, it is also a small town and opportunities are scarce.
Sadly, it’s the kind of town that’s easy to talk yourself out of ever moving to.

So, from time to time, I would find an excuse to spend the weekend here. A drive through the Gila National Forest with frequent stops to take photographs of the landscape and wildlife. Coffee shops and leisurely strolls downtown. I’m not sure if “The Drifter” is still there, but I’m guessing it is. I could look it up, of course, but I’d rather just find out for myself the next time I roll into town.

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May 05, 2017 – Riviera Motor Lodge

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The Riviera Motor Lodge opening at 515 W Miracle Mile Road (then called Casa Grande Road) in Tucson, Arizona back in 1953. In 2016, a fabricator was hired to refurbish the vintage sign. During a month-long process the sign’s paint scheme was redone and a red & white neon lighting pattern was added. This image was taken several years before the restoration; it was made with the palladium printing-out process to generate the golden hues and authentic vintage look.

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May 04, 2017 – The Spanish Trial

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The Spanish Trail was a famous hotel during the 1960’s and 1970’s in Tucson, Arizona. Live comedy and music shows drew an eclectic crowd. The professional staff lived on-sight in duplexes north of the main hotel and resort (an area that is currently a steel yard). In fact, most of the northern end of the resort is completely gone. There used to be a golf course, lagoon, running track, and cactus garden.

This was quite the place to see – in its day. I certainly never got to see it with my own eyes.

The Spanish trail is where movie stars often lived – and some visited – while working at Old Tucson Studios. John Wayne and Michael Landon were regulars. The large area that still survives, a space-aged-looking concrete rotunda, was the dinner show lounge. Little else of the complex remains.

In fact, the word ‘Trail’ depicted in today’s photograph is gone, too. The whole tower is just a giant frame now. It isn’t likely many people are going to ever know, or remember, the kind of glamour and grandeur that once existed on this site.

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May 03, 2017 – Enter Here

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If there’s one place you want to see old broken signs in front of defunct businesses, it’s the southwest – Tucson is a treasure trove, if you take the time to drive around and open your eyes. This sign is outside an old auto mechanic, long-abandoned with plywood for windows and newspaper blowing through the car bays like tumbleweeds in an old Spaghetti Western.

Adjacent is an old shuttered hotel – I’ve been told a hotel that was once considered a very posh, must-see place – called The Spanish Trail. This is all right off of I-10 East, five minutes from Downtown Tucson. The highway is screaming, and these creaky old buildings just sit, gathering graffiti and squatters, and an unusual amount of abandoned shopping carts.

I’m not even saying that it’s tragic. I find a beauty in these remnants. I guess the only thing really poignant, to me, is that these places are chilling reminders that things don’t ever stay the same for very long.

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