Space Age Lodge

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I think the Space Age Lodge may be the only cool thing left in Gila Bend, Arizona.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gila_Bend,_Arizona,

Gila Bend (/ˌhlə ˈbɛnd/; O’odham: Hila Wi:n), [was] founded in 1872 [and] is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. The town is named for an approximately 90-degree bend in the Gila River, which is close to but not precisely at the community’s current location.[3] According to the 2010 census, the population of the town is 1,922.[1]

Just outside the town is the San Lucy district (O’odham: Weco Cekṣanĭ) of the Tohono O’odham Nation, with a tiny settlement, San Lucy (O’odham: Si:l Mek) bordering the town itself.

The town of Gila Bend is situated near an ancient Hohokam village. When Father Eusebio Francisco Kino visited in 1699, the older site along fertile banks of the Gila River had been abandoned and other tribes, lived in the vicinity.

As late as the 1820s Maricopa were living at Gila Bend. After the 1820s, the Maricopa, under relentless pressure from the Yuma and other tribes, and population loss from epidemics, had been compelled to leave the Gila Bend and join the Pima in the Middle Gila region. By the time of the California Gold Rush the Maricopa villages, were all located east of the Sierra Estrella, on the Gila River, below the Pima Villages.[4]:111-112

From 1857, the place was named Gila Ranch and was a stagecoach stop on the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line and the later more famous Butterfield Overland Mail route to California located 17 miles from Murderer’s Grave Station to the west and 40 miles east of Maricopa Wells Station. After the American Civil War, other stage and freight routes converged here especially after the railroad arrived in 1879. The nickname the “Crossroads of the Southwest” stems from the area having been part of an important transportation route in the settling, development and growth of the Great Southwest. Gila Bend was the “center of a wheel”, with spokes leading in many directions throughout the region.[5]

These days Gila Bend is still a crossroads of sorts. Go west and end up in Yuma. Go east and end up in Tucson. Go south and end up in Ajo. Go north and end up (more or less) in Buckeye, then go a bit east from there to Phoenix.

But the times I’ve passed through Gila Bend on my travels from Ajo to Phoenix, I haven’t seen a whole lot going on in in the town. During the Divine Miss M’s excursion to Gila Bend, she was told there used to be a grocery store within the city limits; the grocery store is now closed. Currently the town boasts a few fast food joints, a few gas stations, a Love’s truck stop, a Family Dollar, a Dollar General, and more hotels/motels than it seems able to support.

The jewel of the hotels there is the Best Western Space Age Lodge. IMG_5758

I have to admit, I’ve never spent a night in the Space Age Lodge. I haven’t seen the inside of a guest room. But if I were passing through Gila Bend and needed a room for the night, the Space Age Lodge is the hotel I would pick.

According to a June 2015 article at  http://www.phoenixmag.com/History/space-age-lodge.html, the motel opened in 1965.

The retro hotel was one of five special “space age” destinations the late [Al] Stovall designed in the early to mid-’60s.

The lodge is now in the care of Bill O’Connell, who first began working with Al Stovall as a 21-year-old in the boss’ hotels in Anaheim, Calif. Every futuristic detail at the Space Age Lodge, from the lamps to room dividers, was hand-designed by Stovall, O’Connell says: “It was all his imagination and creativity that they used to build the hotel.”

Outer space was what “everyone was talking about” in the ‘60s, and the Space Age Lodge remains committed to the theme. In 1998, a fire sparked by a malfunctioning neon light destroyed parts of the lobby and restaurant; the owners took it in stride, stretching a banner outside the burned building that read, “Attacked by Aliens!”

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This photo shows the entrance to the hotel’s lobby. Notice the UFO perched on the roof.

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This shot gives a better view of the UFO on the roof of the lobby.

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Just west of the hotel is the Space Age Restaurant. I didn’t spend any money doing research in the restaurant. I didn’t even walk inside. As with most places serving food, the reviews online are mixed.

I appreciated many of the details I could see from outside, such as the metal screens which help to block IMG_5763the view of the rooms, as well as UFOs showing the room number on each door. The blue and white color scheme is a nice combination.

If I were ever flush with dough while passing through Gila Bend, I might stop to eat at the Space Age Lodge Restaurant or stay the night in a guest room. In reality, I’ll probably just enjoy this blast from the American past from the outside as I roll on down the road.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

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