Tucson, AZ

Old Tucson Crumbles, Quietly Sold

Greyson F

Old Tucson plays an important role not only in celebrating the Old West and the place the city of Tucson played in it, but it’s also the destination of so many school trips and fun activities. It’s the extension and built-in history few other towns have. However, in recent years, parts of Old Tucson, most of which are on the outskirts, have fallen in disrepair. This includes the Mescal Movie Set.

The city has been used for countless Old West movies. When a flick wants that authentic western feel, complete with saguaro cactus (which only grows in parts of Arizona and into Sonora, Mexico) and several dozen buildings. In fact, over the years more than 80 television shows and movies have been shot here. Even though Tombstone is about an hour east, the movie “Tombstone” was filmed in Old Tucson. 

However, one bit of news that passed under the radar was that Old Tucson, as well as the Mescal set (the two put together make up where the public can openly go and parts that are specifically designed for filming), officially closed shop. The owners said COVID played a big part, although it does cost a considerable amount to maintain the entire area and to keep the buildings maintained off of just admission prices to the city. 

In fact, the Mescal set needed so much work that it was scheduled to be demolished. It had reached a point where it was more cost-effective to tear it down instead of maintaining and fixing it. 

All of this took a turn when Kartchner Ventures, based out of Arkansas, purchased the property. Upon purchasing they did find a number of the original buildings had already been destroyed on the film set. This is because many of the buildings, which were constructed for filming purposes, were made to be easily moved about town, so the structural integrity was never something made to stand for decades. Now, with about half of the original structures remaining, Kartchner Ventures wants to repair and rebuild, to help keep this area of Old Tucson alive and well. 

The saloon is the main attraction of the set, and it is in the best shape. It was made specifically for “The Quick and the Dead”. However, other parts of the Mescal Set are not in as good of shape. A cavalry fort, built for the TV movie “Buffalo Soldiers” is starting to break down, and a courthouse used in “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean” has almost completely fallen apart. 

Since taking over, Kartchner Ventures has set out to stabilize the buildings, repair roofs, and ensure the flooring is safe. They wanted to make sure nobody would be hurt while walking around the buildings while also ensuring further destruction wouldn’t take place. Essentially they wanted to stop the bleeding of the dying set.

Upkeep continues with the set, with the help not only for the new owners but also from locals who have just wanted to donate their own time to help with maintaining the town and the set. Kartchner Ventures has said the set will be open for movie and TV shoots, regardless of size, as well as tours, in order to help showcase Old Tucson as well as the set and discuss what movies have been filmed in the historic location as well. Additionally, private events can take place as well, including weddings. 

If you’re interested in seeing the upkeep and how the renovations have been going, feel free to stop by and take a look. It’s just a short drive from current Tucson today, and if you’ve never been it is well worth your time to experience Old Tucson and the movie set. 

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