Revered icon rides back into Old Town Tavern building

The iconic Porter’s horse statue was lifted back onto the historic Porter’s Tavern building last month, a fully restored icon after it had grown a little weather-beaten over time.

On the morning of May 24, the iconic Porter’s horse returned to the second level of the Old Town building — and with a fresh coat of paint, to boot.

“It needed to be brought up to date,” said Richard Garcia, the owner of the historic Porter’s building, which opened in 1929 and was originally the city’s first full-time post office.

“It’s been up there for a number of years, and it needed some TLC,” he said.

The fiberglass horse over the years acquired a dingy-brown hue, but was revived by southern Scottsdale resident and artist Patty Badenoch.

“I love it. It turned out really great. Patty did a great job, and we’re just very happy with it,” Garcia said.

Longtime Old Town Scottsdale business and property owner Marilyn Atkinson recommended Badenoch be the one to repaint the horse.

In March, the horse was delivered to Badenoch’s home.

She recalled telling Garcia, “‘What do you want me to do with this horse? How do you want it to look? Do you want me to paint it the same way?’ And he says, ‘Patty, do anything you want,” and just walked away, which is kind of a dangerous thing to do,” Badenoch said with a laugh.

Badenoch began painting the horse April 1 after spending a couple of weeks pondering, researching and soliciting help and input from her sister, Suzanne Clair Guard; her neighbor, Larry Felder; and community activists, Susan Wheeler and Darlene Petersen.

“I was a little intimidated and felt challenged by it because this is kind of an icon. It’s like the cowboy, because it’s been there for years and years and years. Lots of people have energy on this, especially the people in the historic Old Town. So, I was a little nervous,” she said. “I got confidence from people talking to me and about which direction to go.”

Badenoch spent about 50 hours repainting the horse, which now has a reddish-brown and white “coat” and more detailed features.

“It was kind of a mess in terms of the eye was not done very well at all, and I really worked on that to give it a little more dimension,” she said, adding that the horse will likely get a new harness to replace the torn and tattered one it originally wore.

Badenoch modeled the Porter’s horse after the popular American paint horse breed.

The American paint horse was both cherished by cowboys for cattle work and revered by Native Americans.

The paint horse is currently one of the fastest growing breeds and is known for its versatility; the horse has been used for trail riding and ranch work.  

A few years ago, Badenoch also repainted Scottsdale’s renowned cowboy sign, which sits on the northeast corner of Main Street and Scottsdale Road.

The cowboy sign was commissioned in 1952 and created by artist Dee Flagg.

The sign was initially installed by the chamber to not only welcome people to Old Town, but to also direct people to chamber offices and list community events that were happening in Scottsdale.

“Patty is well-known in the community. She is an artist and community activist, she’s known by a lot of people, and she does some work for the city, as well," Garcia said.

In a couple of weeks, Garcia plans to open Porter’s Western Saloon in the historic building.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “There’s a lot of history associated with that building, and one of the reasons that we wanted to upgrade it is to make sure that it could live another hundred years. It’s so important to the community.”

Built in 1929, the building was used for 20 years as the town’s first, full-time post office.

Then, from 1949 until about five years ago, Porter’s Western Wear occupied the building.

Porter’s Western Saloon will occupy half of the building — just over 1,600 square feet — with the other half occupied by Tresor Rare, a cosmetics store.

The new bar will be owned by Sean Halpin, who also owns three businesses in Old Town, including the Blue Moose Bar & Grill located just north of Second Street.

According to a city council report in September, the saloon hours will be 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and will include a 700-square-foot bar service area, seating on the first level and a small seated lounge on the second level.

Garcia said the second level will open to the public at a later date.

Phase two of Porter’s Tavern renovations will also include building a new exterior staircase.

“It’s an opportunity to serve Scottsdale’s history, and extend the life of the building and offer people in the future an opportunity to enjoy that history and be aware of it,” Garcia said.

Renovations to the building include replacing windows and boarded-up doors.

Rustic chandeliers were recently installed above the bar area as well.

So far, Garcia does not have plans to update or replace the “Porter’s” sign on exterior of the building.

In the meantime, the iconic Porter’s house is back on Brown Avenue and available anytime for photos and selfies.

Visit him at 3944 N. Brown Ave.