If you’re passionate about antiques and vintage collectibles, you won’t want to miss this upcoming auction. 

The contents of Hotel Arnold — built in Benson in 1907 by retired railroad engineer Alexander Arnold McGinnis and his wife, Nora — will be sold in auction on March 22 and 23, 9 a.m. each day, at the old ALCO shopping center, 350 S. Ocotillo Ave. in Benson.

While now in dilapidated condition, the old hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was at one time an upscale hotel for rail-weary travelers. During its heyday in the early 1900s, the hotel provided accommodations for railroad employees, passengers, commercial travelers and salespeople at a time when Benson was the hub city for railroad travel in southern Arizona.

The hotel, which is located on property north of the railroad tracks behind the Benson Visitor Center, has a wrap around porch and 12 rooms, along with a sitting area, kitchen and cellar where pies and cold storage items were kept. For more than a century the building has housed a massive collection of now vintage collectibles that once served the prestigious hotel, to include furniture from the late 1800s to early 1900s, elegant Bavarian and French Limoges dinnerware, period clothing, a Steinway Piano and a vast array of miscellaneous items from years past.

“When I walked in the hotel for the first time and saw what was there, I was completely overwhelmed by the amazing collection sitting there, completely untouched for years,” said Mark Helling, one of three buyers who purchased the hotel’s contents from the property’s current owner Dr. William Deutsch. “After we negotiated the purchase with Dr. Deutsch and started taking things out of the building, we couldn’t believe the magnitude of what was in there,” Helling added. “It’s one of the most incredible collections I’ve ever seen. We found a gold-leaved painted safe in mint condition, a Steinway Piano from 1890, Wurlitzer piano from the mid-to-late 1800s, western relics, railroad memorabilia and period clothing. We have books, old documents, mailboxes made of glass from the hotel lobby, old fixtures, tools, linens and antique toys. The list of items is so massive, there’s no way to put it into words.”

Two huge truckloads of antiques were removed from the property. 

As someone with a life-long passion for vintage items, Helling has been buying, selling and collecting antiques for more than 40 years, even serving as an antique picker for his parents from the time he was a teen. “In all my years of picking, I’ve never seen a more amazing collection of vintage items than what was stored in that hotel,” he said. “From the moment I stepped inside the front door, I felt as though I had been swept back in time, to 1910. Everything was in place, as though the hotel was waiting for its next occupants.”

As an avid collector, Helling frequents yard sales in search of forgotten treasures. He stumbled across the Hotel Arnold when he stopped by a yard sale next door to the property and struck up a conversation about antiques with the hotel’s caretaker, Dan Dickson. “When he knew I was interested in antiques, he told me about the hotel’s contents and asked if I would be interested in seeing them. We got permission from the owner, and I was completely amazed when I saw what was inside that building.”

Once they realized what they had, Helling and his partners decided they wanted to hold an auction in Benson. “We knew we could sell this out-of-state and make double or triple the money, but because of the hotel’s historic significance, we wanted to keep the auction local,” Helling said. “The hotel and its history are near and dear to a lot of people in this area, so we wanted to keep the auction right here.”

Eighty percent of the items that will be featured in the auction are from Hotel Arnold, with about 20 percent of the antiques from private individuals, Helling said. The hotel’s contents were purchased about a year ago and have since been removed from the property, inventoried, categorized and are now stored in another location. There was an urgency to remove the antiques from the building, as vandals had started breaking into the hotel and items were being stolen. According to Deutsch, a large number of the antiques had already been stolen prior to the purchase by Helling and his two partners.

“In fact, there were two break-ins during the week we were pulling antiques out of the building,” Helling recalled. “While it’s sad the antiques have been pulled from the building, we believe it was only a matter of time before the contents would have been completely destroyed or stolen by vandals.”

The Hotel Arnold property is currently for sale.. For information, call the owner, Deutsch, at (520) 444-6798.

 “I hope to see someone come in and restore the old hotel and different buildings on that property,” Helling said. “The property has so much historic intrigue. I think there’s potential for the place to look just as attractive as it did in the early 1900s, back in the day when Hotel Arnold was a thriving establishment.”

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