Douglas, Arizona is a little border crossing town about 50 miles from where we are parked. LeRoy makes a habit of picking up brochures about area attractions, so we had some idea of what we would see when we got there.
Our first stop of the day was the old depot building, which is now the police department. It shares a parking lot with the Visitor’s Information office, where we picked up a driving/walking tour brochure. Douglas was founded as a smelter town to handle the copper ore of the surrounding area. During its heyday, it was visited by a lot of celebrities, especially movie stars since, not surprisingly, many western movies were filmed in the area. While they were in Douglas, they probably stayed at the very elegant Gladsden Hotel. This hotel was built not once but twice. It was destroyed by fire in 1929 and rebuilt to the same design. One of the first things you notice when you walk in is the grand staircase of Italian white marble. What appears to be clear windows at the landing are stained glass panels.
There is an interesting story about the stairs. Supposedly Pancho Villa rode his horse into the lobby and up the steps, chipping the 7th step from the bottom. The chip is still visible, although probably not in this picture!
Four granite pillars run floor to ceiling in the lobby. The size alone is pretty spectacular but the gold leaf overlay on the cast plaster tops provides the real wow factor. The same capitals top the square pillars around the mezzanine.
After we left the Gadsden, we drove 15 miles or so out of town to the San Bernardino or Slaughter ranch. After driving across a distinctly desert setting, we passed through the ranch gate and dropped into an oasis with a natural spring-fed pond. We must have spent a couple of hours wandering around on a self-guided tour of the ranch buildings and the remains of an army encampment on the mesa above it.
It was the home of the legendary sheriff of Cochise County, Texas John Slaughter. More movies were filmed here, including a series of Disney movies about Texas John. He had another home in Tombstone, which was the county seat of Cochise County, but this setting would certainly have been my choice. The broad porch goes all the way around the house and would be a great place to sit outside in the evening.
One thing that we found particularly interesting was that the Mexican border fence was visible from the ranch house and from the road. The ranch manager called it a vehicle fence and as you can see, it wasn’t really designed to keep out foot traffic, just slow it down a bit.
Back in town, we drove through the residential area of Douglas which includes a variety of architecture from early in the 20th century. We would love to have seen the Douglas-Williams House, but it wasn’t open on Friday.
Lest I bore you with details you can find for yourself, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I’ve never been a real history buff, but since Arizona didn’t become a state until 1912, the wild west really comes alive here. It is definitely worth a visit!