Superior, AZ

Traveling through time at The Magma Hotel is included in the price of your room

Timothy Rawles
Magma HotelCourtesy of the Magma Hotel

By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(Superior, AZ) Imagine you’re traveling through the desert in 1913. Tired, hungry, and in need of a bit of rest, you happen upon a little town called Superior in Arizona.

You see a large two-story building made, oddly, of concrete. Intrigued, you hitch your horse and walk into the building where you are immediately struck by the grand staircase leading up to the second-floor rooms. It’s quieter than most places you have stayed at before because there are no wooden walls that snap and creak as they shrink from baking in the desert sun all day.

This is the Magma Hotel. It was built in 1912 by Canadian John McPherson, who originally came to Superior in hopes of gaining wealth from the silver mining boom. But the silver rush was replaced by copper at the end of the 19th century. That boom was so successful that in 1915 a railroad linked Superior to the Southern Pacific Railroad in Magma, about 30 miles away.

The Magma Hotel became a boarding house and hotel presumably for the mineworkers, and other entrepreneurs trying to get rich. It was also a social pit stop for people making their way further east or west in their travels.

Today, it serves as a reminder of Arizona history. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Places and is open to the public for anything from dining and lodging, to conferences and weddings.

The hotel has always served the public in many ways throughout its history. It was once home to a pharmacy, a bus depot, and office space. It had Superior’s first integrated lighting system. In the early 1920s a pay telephone system was installed where locals could make long-distance calls. Around that time, a large screened-in porch was added for men not wanting to rent a room.

In 1962, after the death of Mrs. McPherson, the property changed hands. Over time, the Magma began to deteriorate.

Its outer walls were starting to crumble, the brick extension added in 1923 was collapsing and the once stoic building looked decrepit. Vandals and Mother Nature had taken their toll, and finally, in 1993, the hotel shuttered operations.
The Magma HotelCourtesy of Magma Hotel

The interior was used briefly in the 1997 Oliver Stone film “U Turn,” then again in 1998 for the movie “The Prophecy II,” starring Christopher Walken.

In 2010, the Magma was purchased by Miguel A. Sfeir, a Chilean investor who was interested in Superior and its rich history. He decided to breathe new life into the Magma. The project would be an extensive one that included a full restoration. Its innards were completely decimated. Transients and squatters had done their damage while leaky ceilings and walls exposed the interior to the outside elements.

Hundreds of photographs were taken before construction began, and looking upon them now, it’s hard to believe anything could be salvaged. Still, at the hotel’s heart lay the imperial staircase that, by some miracle, had suffered lesser damage. In time, the Magma wasn’t only salvaged, it was brought back to its original glory.

With its polished floors and rebuilt walls, the lobby is now a majestic reception area. The staircase has returned to its lustrous stature with a large floral red and gold runner leading the hotel’s guests upstairs to 21 rooms.

The hotel contains a dining room, bar, rooftop patio, and second-floor veranda. The courtyard has been reclaimed, and there is even a tearoom with a bar salvaged from the action movie “John Wick 2.”

The hotel was finished and re-opened in 2019.
Prop used in "John Wick 2"Courtesy of Magma Hotel

Walking through the doors of the Magma Hotel is like walking 100 years into the past. Turning a century-old hotel into a modern boutique is no small task, but for people who want to get lost in history, The Magma seems to be the perfect gateway to the old west from modern times.

For more information on The Magma Hotel, check out their website.

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Timothy Rawles has been a journalist for over 20 years. He has written for global publications in San Francisco, San Diego, and Phoenix. His favorite stories are features, interviews, entertainment news, and local stories.

San Tan Valley, AZ

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