Filed Under Post War 1950s, 60s

Diving Lady

An iconic blonde in blue swimsuit stands at the heart of Mesa's identity. The 78 foot tall neon light lady lit up the Starlite Motel. Owners Elmo and Richard Kaesler added the sign--now a classic piece of roadside American architecture from the 1960s--in an effort entice passersby to stay and visit the hotel pool. She's lasted for more than half a century, her three-part plunge embedding itself into the community’s memory and hearts. This sign became more than just a symbol for an oasis in the desert, but a literal sign of home for Mesa residents traveling back into town.

In October of 2010 the Diving Lady was tragically destroyed in a storm. Many feared the damage would be irreparable, but the Mesa Preservation Foundation rose to the challenge of restoring and reviving the animated vintage sign. The restoration project was designed to maintain the original metal integrity of the sign utilizing time-consuming methods, while forgoing using less expensive materials. Although a more tenuous process, the dedication to preservation mattered to those involved, and more importantly, to the public who admired the Mesa neon treasure.

The restoration of this staple relied upon more than just tender love and care. Finances were a significant component to the project, with the expected cost of restoring the sign changing significantly from the start to the completion of the endeavor. The East Valley community rallied and raised funds for the project, yet the recession was at the forefront of the struggle to meet the financial goal. Ultimately, through the hard work of the community, neon artist Larry Graham, the Mesa Preservation Foundation, and countless travelers and residences alike, the Diving Lady now continues her nightly plunge on East Main Street.

Video

Preserving the Diving Lady Preservationist and writer Vic Linoff explains how he came to be involved in historic preservation and helped to save the Diving Lady -- a distinctive neon sign that had been felled by a windstorm. Creator: Matt Robinson Date: 2015

Images

Starlite Motel
Starlite Motel A classic piece of American roadside architecture, the Diving Lady was commissioned in the 1960s to entice passersby to stay at the Starlite Motel. Source: Panoramio, terms: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works; http://www.panoramio.com/photo/31319444 Creator: Gerald C. Vogel
The Buckhorn Baths
The Buckhorn Baths The Buckhorn Baths were another distinctive hotel in Mesa, not far from the Starlite. Closed in the 1990s, efforts are underway to preserve this historical set because of its relation to spring training in Arizona. Source: Mesa Preservation Foundation

Location

Metadata

Kristen Rund and Mark Tebeau, “Diving Lady,” Salt River Stories, accessed July 21, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/118.