Historic Mayer, Arizona
Mayer is a historic small Arizona community that rarely receives much attention in modern times. This old town is located on State Road 69 about 25 miles southeast of Prescott. Mayer once was a key hub in the old west, but it is now just another small town that is bypassed by a major highway commuter route. The town of Mayer lies somewhere between the sprawling suburbs of Prescott and the metropolitan Phoenix area, so most commuters on this highway are in so much of a hurry that they hardly take notice of this place. In fact, many people drive by the tall Mayer foundry smoke stack on the hill by the highway their entire life and they never think about stopping to check this area out.
My first trip to Mayer, Arizona was out of necessity. I was working at the Grand Canyon National Park and I needed to do some banking in person. My choice of bank tends to cater to small communities in the west, so finding a branch location while working in a remote resort usually leads to a real road trip venture. Oddly enough, there was a bank site in Mayer and that was all the excuse I needed to set sail on a scenic drive to a little dot on the map that I have never been to before.
My initial impression of Mayer took a little bit of time to figure out. There were a few big businesses along the highway frontage that obviously targeted travelers on the busy commuter route. Just off the beaten path by a block or two on Central Avenue is where the local community of Mayer begins. Central Avenue meets Main Street a short distance away, yet this small town looked like it had not changed in many years. I was wondering why Mayer had not been developed commercially like many other living ghost towns in the Southwest. There were no Route 66 style motels or hotel chains. There were no fast food joints or a high volume local restaurant that could handle busloads of tourists. In fact, other than a general store, a bank and a few local businesses, there was not much more to the town of Mayer.
The answer to my inquiry concerning the lack of tourism related business facilities in Mayer came to light when I looked at one solitary sign across the street from the bank. The sign had a bold statement about water conservation. The water conservation sign that I saw stated something about how the local water aquifer was just about dried up. The lack of water resources was the reason why the local commerce of Mayer could not adapt to suit the needs of the modern tourism industry, like many other living ghost towns have done. This is why a first impression the little town of Mayer might be one of looking at a time capsule from the past.
The lack of water definitely is a limiting factor for development, but in a way the lack of development can be a good thing. For this reason, the community of Mayer has retained its historic small town charm. The shops in the old main street area cater to weekend scenic drive venturers and those who like to hunt for antiques. Many of the old wooden homes have Victorian architectural style, so this small town appeals to home hunter that can afford to commute long distances.
The old brick and mortar business building styles reflect upon a bygone era when Mayer was a center of commerce for ranchers and miners in the late 1800s. The Creekside Preserve Lodge and Cabins offers an escape from the modern rat race that so many people seek. These features of Mayer have survived the test of time and they will do so into the future as long as visitors keep water conservation in mind.
Taking the time to take a side road to a living ghost town like Mayer, Arizona is always a good thing. Spending a little money in a small town that is not featured in travel brochures does have a way a spreading cheer to those who may need help the most. A gift purchased at a small country store has heart felt meaning that will create memories that will last a lifetime. The honest smiles and conversation that go with a small town shopping venture while doing a scenic drive are part of the reward. In this way, Mayer is a nice little historic place to take a break from the road!