Photo Credit: Amanda Baillie

Douglas: Gateway to Mexico

The City of Douglas, with a history dating back hundreds of years to the 1500’s and the early Spanish explorers, is a small, charming community just across the border from Mexico. Douglas boasts a wealth of attractions for birders, hikers and shoppers.

The Douglas area is home to the San Bernardino and Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuges with over 283 different species of birds, mammals, and other riparian wildlife. And the international border crossing takes you to Douglas’ neighboring city, Agua Prieta, Sonora. It’s a portal to the wonders of northern Mexico. 

Photo Credit: (top) @robertyuribe, (bottom) @mandee-mcnuggets

Explore Douglas and discover historic landmarks including the Hotel Gadsden, the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, the Grand Theatre (currently under renovation), Church Square (the only location in the world where four different churches are housed on the same block), and the first international airport in the U.S.


Douglas has had many “firsts” in aviation history. The one topping the list is that it was home to the first international airport of the Americas. One could fly into Douglas and taxi into Mexico and vice-versa.

Aviation was an important part of the evolution of Douglas and proof of its importance was almost lost if it were not for Richard Westbrook and his wife Irma, who ensured that the aviation history of Douglas can be seen through the many displays at Douglas’ Border Air Museum. The museum includes photos, newspaper articles, original airplane photos, the official letter of President of United States Roosevelt declaring the airport “The First International Airport of the Americas,” a Trojan airplane that was built in Douglas, American Airlines memorabilia, and more.


A museum dedicated entirely to the celebration and preservation of this popular mobile art form, Art Car World is located in historic downtown Douglas, minutes from the Mexican border.

The museum features a permanent collection of more than 35 popular Art Cars, with more on rotating exhibition. The museum is bilingual and international festivities are in the works!

Art Car World will produce special Art Car events throughout the year, culminating in the magnificent ArtCar Fest®.


The Gadsden opened for business in November 1907; the hotel soon became a meeting place for cattlemen, ranchers, miners, and businessmen. Upon entering the majestic lobby the first thing you notice is the impressive staircase made of white Italian marble and the massive pink marble columns. The column capitals are hand layered with 24k gold leafing.

To add to its beauty, the window at the top of the grand staircase was designed and crafted by Ralph Baker. Rumor has it Pancho Villa and his horse Seven Leagues rode up the famous Grand Staircase of the hotel lobby and left a chip in the stairs that can be still be found to this very day. The stained-glass mural depicting the southwest desert runs a full 42 feet long and 6 feet tall. 

Eleanor Roosevelt spent the night in the Governor’s Suite when visiting in 1934 with pilot Amelia Earhart to open the Douglas International Airport, the First International Airport in the Americas.


Take a step back in time as you visit the historic John Slaughter Ranch near Douglas. Texas John Slaughter was one of the Southwest’s most beloved characters and most feared lawmen.

At what was originally known as the San Bernardino Ranch, you can enjoy the scenery, wildlife, and atmosphere that has been left largely untouched since Texas John Slaughter’s time.


Vietnam War Era veterans are permanently commemorated within the Gadsden Hotel. A huge community effort, the Wall of Faces exhibit features photographs and stories of hundreds of men and women from Douglas who served in the military during the Vietnam War Era.

The exhibit was created by Honorable Judge Alma Vildosola, Don Jordan, Dick Keith, Hector Leon, and Ginny Jordan in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. 


The Williams House is a museum hosting displays and exhibits featuring the history of Douglas as a turn-of-the-century copper smelting town.

Run by the Douglas Historical Society, whose mission is to promote research and education about the history of Douglas, as well as to acquire, protect, and preserve property, both real and personal having historical significance and value.

The Williams House is home to one of the state’s most comprehensive photographic collections, chronicling much of the Douglas’ history.


Douglas will enchant you with tales of its mining and ranching past, and its rich Mexican culture. Named after mining pioneer James Douglas, the town of Douglas was settled as a smelter site for the nearby copper mines of Bisbee.

Not too far from town, is the National Historic Landmark, Slaughter Ranch Museum, which was once the San Bernardino Ranch, belonging to John H. Slaughter, Cochise County Sheriff from 1887 to 1890. Marvel at the grandeur of the historic Gadsden Hotel, with its magnificent marble columns and staircase, and Tiffany stained glass.

On the Mexico border, Douglas offers easy access to authentic Mexican shopping and dining in its sister city of Agua Prieta. In the 1700s, the Spanish established the San Bernardino presidio nearby, which is now part of the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge offers an oasis within the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert, providing resting, breeding, and year-round habitat for an amazing diversity of wildlife. Between the San Bernardino and nearby Leslie Canyon Refuge, at least 335 bird species have been recorded, plus 67 mammal, 43 reptile, 13 amphibian, and eight fish species have been documented.


Looking for more information on Douglas? Check out the resources below.


1 The Douglas Visitor Center is a great starting point to learn about all of the area attractions. Visit
2 Visit the City of Douglas website for information on city services, departments, economic development opportunities, and more. Visit


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