Bisbee A Fascinating Community

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Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

Bisbee was originally an old west mining camp, but has evolved into a fascinating retirement and artist community.

photo

Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

Any visit to Bisbee should include a mine tour as well as a visit to the mining museum.

A short time ago I was visiting with some friends who told me they were from Bisbee, Ariz. I inquired about the town and its history and what Bisbee is today, and found it to be most interesting.

Bisbee is located 90 miles southeast of Tucson. Founded in 1880 and named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee who was a financial backer of the now famed Copper Queen Mine, it has evolved into a fascinating retirement and artist community. Tourists find Bisbee interesting because of its rich history and quaint status today.

This old west mining camp became one of the richest mineral sites in the world. It produced nearly three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper, plus being rich in silver, lead and zinc. In 1908 a fire destroyed most of Bisbee’s commercial district, but by 1910 much of the district had been rebuilt and it remains intact today.

Because of its production of the riches from the earth, the town became the largest city in the southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco, acquiring a population of 20,000. Today, Bisbee’s population is around 6,000.

It’s situated in the mile-high Mule Mountains of southern Arizona.

The former mining town, similar to Jerome, is considered one of the most Victorian relics of the past. Its fortunes were built on a century of mining, and today the buildings stand as a testament to the days when Bisbee’s population outstripped both Phoenix and Tucson.

A walk through Bisbee’s narrow central streets, lined with galleries and antique stores, is a pleasure. Snoop to your heart’s delight. The Chamber of Commerce office will be pleased to give you a walking tour map, which will include Brewery Gulch — in its heyday, that stretch of street boasted upwards of 47 saloons and was considered the “liveliest spot” between El Paso and San Francisco. Other attractions include the Queen Mine Tour, a trip down into the now inactive copper mine, a visit at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, the historic Muheim House, an outstanding example of the 19th century architecture and elegance, and the Lavender Pit Open Mine.

The town is located only 10 miles from the Mexican border. The border town is Naco. There is a Naco on the U.S. side as well as in Mexico. The Mexican town is the larger of the two. In the mining days and during prohibition, workers crossed the border for fun, drink and dining. There have been many skirmishes at this border point and a U.S. military presence was established (known as Camp Naco) just a few hundred yards from the border to give the soldiers presence and to ease fears of American citizens.

Also at Naco is Turquoise Valley Golf Course, the oldest golf course in Arizona, which recently celebrated its centennial. It is the home of the Rattler, a 747-yard, par 6, the only par 6 golf hole in Arizona.

Naco is also known for a 1940s discovery of a Clovis Man kill site, dating back some 10,000 years. Bone of Pleistocene mega fauna, such as the mammoth, were excavated here in the 1950s, one of the first excavations in the country.

In Bisbee, you’ll learn how mining techniques have changed over the years and how environmentalism has changed the process of extracting valued metals from the earth. The mines began closing in the 1970s and a new era dawned to make the process conform to today’s requirements. When you visit Bisbee, be sure to take a mine tour as well as a visit to the mining museum.

The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is a walking tour through the streets, stairways and old alleys of Bisbee. You hear the scary tales of the ghosts which are said to haunt the historic town. The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour begins at 7 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Chamber of Commerce will give you detailed information. Phone (520) 432-3308 or 1-866-224-7233.

There are several pleasant places to stay during your visit. Some would recommend the Bisbee Grand Hotel, while others suggest the Bisbee Inn, Copper Queen Hotel and Canyon Rose Suites. If you are a guest of the Copper Queen Hotel, be sure to take the 4th Floor Haunted Tour. Most of the hotels are full of antiques and furnishings of the past. If you arrive by motor home, try the Shady Dell RV Park.

Dining can be interesting. The Banditos & Lawman restaurant and bar is worth a try on Romero Street, and if you like hot dogs, we recommend Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company, said to be the most typical hot dog in America located at 938 Highway 92 (San Jose St.). If you are in town Friday or Saturday night, visit the Old Bisbee Repertory Theater and Curtain Call Restaurant located at 94 Main St., the phone number is (520) 432-9064 or (520) 234-6732. It also serves breakfast and lunch, as well as dinner.

Bisbee offers unique charm to be enjoyed by all. Only 19 miles away is Tombstone, and Sierra Vista is 23 miles.

From the Valley take Interstate 10 southeast past Tucson to route 90. Head south to Sierra Vista then take Highway 92 into Bisbee. Perhaps it’s the town time forgot.

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