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Bisbee
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bisbee1.jpg (26749 bytes)

Photo courtesy of the
Cochise County Historical Society

Photo by
Ingrid deCoville Tucson, AZ

Bisbee is located at an elevation 5,400 feet and is know as the mile-high city.  Located in an area known as Mule Gulch is the Lavender Pit and the Copper Queen.  The town was started in 1877, after discovery of the mines by Jack Dunn, a local prospector.  It is claimed by some that George Watten was the first discoverer of the mine here.  Still others claim that in the fall of 1877, army scouts and cavalrymen found some good rock in Tombstone Canyon.   Anyway a few claims were filed and as in all the mining towns in West, prospectors, speculators and merchants descended upon the area.  First known as Bisbee Camp, it was named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the early stockholders and a brother-in-law of the Williams brothers, for many years managers of operations in these mines."  Claims were staked and digging started all over the hillside and a small smelter was built.  By 1880 Camp Bisbee was declared a town and the Post office established on September 7, 1880.

The town held it's first election that year, and Judge Duncan performed the first marriage.  Slowly the town developed, with most of the growth of buildings being in Tombstone Canyon.  Brewery Gulch was established and as it's name implies it was full of saloons.  Hotels, restaurants, boarding houses and everything associated with civilization started appearing after 1892 when major production of the began and the Phelps Dodge Company built a railroad into town.  Supplies could be brought in, and refined copper taken out, at relatively low costs.  The ore was rich and the money rolled in.  Brick, cement and lumber were railed in, and the Bisbee began to become what it is today.

bisbee1.jpg (59108 bytes)

bisbee2.jpg (59026 bytes)

Photos courtesy of the
Cochise County Historical Society

Most of the fine old brick buildings on Brewery Gulch and Main Street were built in the early 1900's. Well built and set on solid rock, they are still basically sound buildings. Central School, the old hotel, the YWCA and YMCA, the two bank buildings, the post office and many more structures are little changed from the days when Bisbee was a roaring mining town.  By the turn of the century it was a company town. Phelps Dodge built the Copper Queen Hotel, still a grand old hostelry with a wonderful period bar.  In 1908, most of Main Street was destroyed by fire, but the town was rebuilt.

After World War II, a new residential suburb was built, four or five miles from the old town out of the canyon. Many of the residences and most of the businesses moved out of the Canyon, and by 1970 a lot of the town was deserted and falling into disrepair. Mining continued until 1975 and then production was shut down.  The town started dying until in the mid 70's hippies discovered Bisbee and started to turn it into the arts community that it is today.   They bought up some of the old buildings and  started restoration of the old part of town. "Old Bisbee" was established as an official Historic Site, complete with Zoning Commission, Site Plan Committee, and Design Review Board to insure that rebuilding and restoration work was authentic, or at least compatible with original structures. The result is a quite authentic, early twentieth century mining town strung up Tombstone Canyon and perched on the surrounding hillsides.

Mining continued until 1975 when the town turned its attentions to tourism and retirement living.

Old miners' hostels became refined bed and breakfast inns. Saloons have been turned into antique shops and art galleries. Two mines (long closed to mining) have become tourist attractions with an underground mine tour and open-pit viewing

Now the hippies are being replaced by yuppies, but the flavor of the town hasn't changed.  Please read below for places to go and things to do and see.

lavenderpit.jpg (68878 bytes)The Phelps Dodge Corporation's Lavender Pit was based on the results of more than 300 prospect drill holes as well as assays from underground workings to determine the economics of the pit. Material to be mined was originally estimated at 41 million tons of copper ore, 31 million tons of leach material and 70 million tons of waste material, for a total of 142 million tons of rock. Subsequent prospect drilling had increased the original added reserve, and to date approximately 79 million tons of waste has been mined, for a total of 351 million tons of material.  Stripping operations were started in April 1951.

The Pit embraces an area of 300 acres and was being mined in 50 ft. benches. The benches were drilled by rotary drills using 12 inch bits. The holes were drilled to a depth of 60 ft. and were normally loaded with a powder charge of 1,200 pounds per hole. Blasts commonly broke about 75,000 tons of rock and were usually shot at 3:25 each afternoon.

The Lavender Pit operations were shut down in December, 1974. All mining operations were closed on 13 June 1975. Currently a leaching processing being used to recover the copper ore.

lavenderpit1.jpg (51255 bytes)

bisbee3.jpg (57594 bytes)

Photos courtesy of the
Cochise County Historical Society

The Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum is located in the former Phelps Dodge General Office, at 5 Copper Queen Plaza. This is one of Old Bisbee's most impressive buildings. The Historical Society Museum, at 37 Main Street (free admission) has displays and artifacts on the pioneer history of the city.

Most of the town's antique stores are located along Main Street, as is the famed One Book Bookstore (38 Main St.). This is the writing and sales office of Walter Swan, who wrote Me 'n Henry, a nostalgic book about a young boy and his older brother growing up on an Arizona homestead. Swan opened his store to sell the book and his unique storefront operation quickly became a national institution. He wrote more books and opened the store next door to sell them -- The Other Book Bookstore. Swan is in his store on most days to swap stories and autograph copies of Me 'n Henry. His other books include The Old Timer's Cookbook and a book of stories for children. 

The Lavender Mine is a large open pit. The main attraction is the Queen Mine, a former Phelps Dodge operation, which now has a guided tour of an underground slope at 118 Arizona Street (520-432-2071). The tour office is located south of the Old Town, off the U.S. 80 interchange. Tours start daily at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 am, at noon, and at 2:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  The temperature is pretty cool, so a sweater is recommended.  A van tour leaves the Queen Mine site for a tour of surface mines and the historic district at 10:30 a.m., noon, and 3:30 p.m.

Then, take a walking tour of Brewery Gulch and the rest of the historic district, following a map which is available at the office of the chamber of commerce.  You can have lunch at the Copper Queen which is located on the corner of Brewery Gulch or enjoy trying on of the other unique restaurants in the area.

Gardeners will enjoy the displays of desert plants at Arizona Cactus & Succulent Research Inc., located 6 miles south of town (8 Mulberry Lane, at Bisbee Junction). The botanical garden contains more than 750 varieties of cacti and other plants of the high desert. The non profit center has an extensive library with photographs and research materials on cacti and succulents. There is a series of greenhouses, and classes on landscaping with desert plants are given on a frequent basis.

There are two old hotels that offer a great glimpse of the 1900-1910 period.  The Bisbee Grand Hotel was built in 1906, promptly burned to the ground, and was immediately rebuilt. Located on Main Street, it was restored to its original Victorian style in 1986. There is a saloon, theater, and Ladies Parlor on the ground floor, with rooms upstairs (nine rooms and two suites). It operates as a B&B. The Copper Queen Hotel, which overlooks Main Street from its perch around the corner from Brewery Gulch, was the mining company hotel, built in 1902. The town is filled with fine bed and breakfast homes and inns, several of them former miners' boarding houses. There are several conventional motels and RV parks.

Bisbee Tourism Flyer Info

For more information call: Greater Bisbee Chamber of Commerce: 520-432-5421

 

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|Bisbee|Black Diamond|Boston Mill|Brunckow's Cabin|Camp Rucker|Cascabel|Charleston|Cochise|
|Contention City|Courtland|Dos Cabezas|Dragoon Springs|Emery|Fittsburg|Fairbank|Fort Bowie|Fort Huachuca|
|Fourrs Fort|Galleyville|Garces|Gleeson|Hamburg|Hilltop|Johnson|Middlemarch|Millville|Palmerlee|Paradise|Pearce|
|Pickemup|Reef|Richmond|Russellville|Stark|Sunnyside|Terreate|Tombstone|Tres Alamos|Watervale|Webb|Willcox|

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