By Mary Richardson, Editor-in-Chief
The boom-town flavor, the peculiarities, the mystery, the striking landscape. Bisbee, Arizona still has what made it the most cosmopolitan city of the 19th century West. Discovered under the unfortunate circumstances of U.S. army scouts tracking down defector Apaches, the mission came to a pause when one of the civilian trackers came across a hint of minerals in the area and wondered if he had found a fortune. The rough and colorful city continued to have a series of highs and lows, such as boasting the richest mine site in the world at its peak but also witnessing Phelps Dodge orchestrate the Bisbee Deportation of 1917. The current hippie colony’s vibrant past was not always rosy.
For those staying more local during the approaching spring break, Bisbee is close enough to consider diving into its underground world. Here are some ideas for what to see during an upcoming visit:
Queen Mine Tour
Equipped with a hard hat, headlight, and safety vest, visitors of the Queen Mine Tour don’t quite know what they’ve signed up for as they enter Mule Mountain and continue through the historic mine for 1,500 ft. In the mine’s early days, the industry considered this to be the treasure trove that revolutionized the world from rural to industrial with its 8 billion pounds of copper mined there. The tour takes you through the dark passages and crannies that miners toiled away in for years. There’s also a step-by-step demonstration of how to use dynamite to blow through massive amounts of rock. (Remember, you’re not allowed to light anything down there. And please be careful of Headless John, the ghost miners blame for anything that goes wrong or missing.)
The tours book up fast, so make sure to make a reservation before going. While you’re in the area, also stop by the breathtaking yet jarring Lavender Pit. The former Phelps Dodge open pit mine is less than a 5-minute drive south from the Queen Mine Tour.
Old Bisbee Ghost Tours
Bisbee is also known for a side that is perhaps darker than its underground mines. For the past 135 years, the city’s ghost stories have kept a paralyzing paranoia alive in its residents and visitors.
Just kidding, everyone loves the stories that have been passed on through the generations. On the Old Bisbee Ghost Tours, you can take a walk through the worn streets, narrow alleys, and eerie stairway passages to explore the places that ghosts are said to haunt after sunset. You’ll learn about (and perhaps meet) the ghost of Julia, once a prostitute rejected by a client she fell in love. For those who are curious, she’s still said to enjoy the company of married men staying in her room. There’s also the financially and morally bankrupt miner Nat who paid his life for it, and the Lady in White who scared three boys so badly she saved their lives.
Reservations are required, so make sure to book soon if you plan on going in the spring.
Walking down Main St., you can’t throw a rock without hitting an antique shop. At Acacia Art & Antiques, Miners & Merchants Antique Center, and Finders Keepers Antiques, you’ll find collectibles from a range of periods, including modern, vintage, and early to mid century. From gentlemanly pocket watches, to worn-out Nixon campaign buttons, and lightly aged period artwork, these shops will satisfy most niche interests.
If you’re looking for something more brand new and hand-crafted, along the same street you’ll find Bisbee Soap & Sundry, a store started by a husband and wife who wanted to create something of their own. The pair make their products on site with a product portfolio covering from bath bombs and body butter to hand-poured candles and salves. For the cowboys out there, they also sell mustache wax and beard oil.
If you’ve been to Bisbee before, please feel free to comment below what your favorite places are and where you’d recommend T-birds visit during their time there. There’s more than what’s on the surface of the quaint town.