Historical Notes: The Horseshoe Cafe

In 1935, the Horseshoe Café was a small diner located at the present location of today’s Horseshoe Café.

By 1939 the Horseshoe Café had changed very little with only changes to the front facade and a rounding of the upper parapet wall.

The Greyhound Bus Depot was located in a small building two doors down to the west located between the San Pedro Motel and the Texaco service station on the corner of 4th and Patagonia

Early in the 1940s, the Horseshoe Café diner was replaced with a single-story building which is the current lower floor of the Horseshoe Café. The single-story building consisted of a dining area, kitchen and patron rest rooms. The dining area was one big room with a horseshoe shaped counter that wrapped around the center support posts that were branded with local cattle ranch brands.

Still in the early 1940s it was anticipated that Arizona was going to adopt open gambling throughout the state and so a second story was added to allow gambling when the state law allowing gambling was passed. Statewide gambling never came to fruition and the upper floor became the owner’s residence.

Soon afterward the Horseshoe Café got the contract from Greyhound and became the bus stop lasting through the 1970s. The Greyhound busses would park in the back of the Horseshoe Café and travelers would enter the café through the rear of the café to use the restroom facilities and dine in the dining room.

Next door to the west was the San Pedro Motel for those travelers that wished to spend time in Benson or transfer to later busses on another route.

After the second story was added the Horseshoe Café looked much as it does today with only minor changes to the dining area with walls that added a small bar and small separate dining area.

 

Begining with the bypass of Benson by interstate I-10 came the demise of most of the tourist facilities including many of the 18 motels that lined 4th street including the latest victim, the Benson Motel (formerly Camp Benson) in April 2017. Now only the historic Arnold Hotel building circa 1907 which hasn’t been in operation for at least three quarters of a century, a couple of the motels in east Benson, formerly the Monterey and El Cochise motels, the Mountain Air motel and Quarter Horse motel and the Oasis motel in west Benson. The Sahara Motel was built in the 1960s in south Benson, and is still in operation. All the Benson and small town motels were victims of the building of I-10 or the evolution of the modern-day RV traveler.

 

The Greyhound Bus no longer has a depot, only a shaded lean-to on the corner of 4th and San Pedro St next to the caboose. The Amtrak train no longer has a depot, only a shaded lean-to next to the tracks near Patagonia St. The new face of 4th Street is a series of empty lots occupied by the ghosts of motels or gas stations of the past. Many empty store fronts line the south side of 4th Street where thriving mom and pop businesses use to provide the town of Benson with its livelihood.