Looking for America. Here’s What I Found.

Come with me, won’t you, on a journey where two people go off exploring Arizona’s vast country and find a little slice of heaven.

Bisbee & Lowell, courtesy of Google Maps.

This series of photos focuses on Bisbee, Arizona, an old mining town turned chic artsy community with cafés & ateliers lining the narrow streets.

Today, the original city of Bisbee is known as “Old Bisbee,” and is home to a thriving downtown cultural scene. Old Bisbee is also noted for its architecture, including its Victorian houses and elegant Art Deco courthouse. The town’s hilly terrain is exemplified by the old three-story high school, each floor having a ground-level entrance.
Mt. Bisbee is in the Background.

Much of the old town architecture is still standing including the Copper Queen Hotel which is nestled behind a park and a museum.

The Copper Queen Hotel

Here lies the Bisbee Museum with restored mining artifacts decorating the front garden intimating the town’s historical roots.

The large red brick building front & center is the museum.

This photo provides more detail about these artifacts. Every car you see provided a different function for Bisbee miners.

Bisbee mining carts

The car in the center is called a blower. It is a turbine powered by pressurized gas. These were used to circulate air in the mines. Quite useful when using leaching methods, preventing the build-up of poisonous gases.

Mines are very dangerous places. In addition to unstable geology and structural integrity which result in collapse, gases like hydrogen sulfide or radon can build creating hazardous, even lethal conditions. Air can also grow stale, where carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide reach dangerous levels.

The car to the right of the blower is called the air receiver car. The air receiver car is essential to compressed air systems increasing their efficiency. It stores compressed air for later use when the demand for compressed air outstrips the compressors ability to supply it. Usually, compressed air systems use storage tanks while the compressor fills them when the pressure drops below a certain level.

You will not see it, but there is even a scat car somewhere on this train. The car is known affectionately as the “honey pot” car.

The fore image is the trolley motor. The Copper Queen Publishing Company is in the background.

At the front of this train is the trolley motor. I believe its function is self-explanatory. They pull the extra cars and the miners down into the mine. These trolley motors use actual motors, as in they run on electricity. Electric trolley cars are extremely useful in a mine for one important reason. They produce zero emissions.

This is a mining wheel.

This contraption is called a mining wheel. It was used by miners mostly for lowering and raising ore buckets.

The stinkiest pit you will ever see in Bisbee is called the Lavender Pit Mine. Three cheers for leaching. I don’t know. There is something rather unnerving being this close to concentrated toxic waste.

I have had disturbing dreams about falling into a gulf comprised of corrosive toxic sludge. This pit dredged up those old memories in quite a jarring way. The air was saturated with the smell of rancid eggs and acidic decay.

“[I]n 1974–1975, the Phelps Dodge Corporation finally halted mining operations in its massive Bisbee mine, the Lavender Pit.”

Not so rosy history of Bisbee. When you think of people in cattle cars, your mind focuses on the atrocities of Nazi Germany, not quaint little US mount towns. May I introduce The Bisbee Deportation of 1917.

During 1917, organized labor was in full swing. The big boss of Bisbee, Phelps Dodge, made allegations against a bunch of his miners. He accused them of being members of the Workers of the World after complaints reached his ears about better wages and working conditions. The miners were ready to organize and form their own union to that effect.

The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 was not only a pivotal event in Arizona’s history, but one that had an effect on labor activities throughout the country. The notorious anti-labor crime involved the illegal kidnapping and deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers, their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 members of a deputized posse on July 12, 1917.

The strikers and their associates were sent through the desert some 200 miles without food or water until they reached Tres Hermanas, New Mexico. They had nothing to their name on arrival and received nothing for their trouble except a stern warning never to return to Bisbee.

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Now we are back to Pleasantville.

Right next to the Copper Queen is the Covenant Presbyterian Church. Notice its dignified Victorian design. I am not much of a church goer, but I do love the architecture.

The Covenant Presbyterian Church in Bisbee, Arizona

You cannot say chic, middle class, desert mountain town without “renewable energy.”

Bisbee invests in renewable solar technology.

Bisbee has a modern, upbeat vibe to it, as well, with all sorts of cool shops and interesting galleries.

The best part about our visit to Bisbee was the food, of course!

The High Desert Market & Cafe

The High Desert Market and Café has some of the best food around. The pizza and sandwiches are divine.

And it is such a relaxing experience dining there gazing at the scenery and the public buildings done in art deco.

The fun does not stop there! Very close by is a ghost mining town frozen in time called Lowell. Okay. It is not completely a ghost town. Some locals have banded together to turn the town into an Americana museum for posterity.

Lowell was at one time a sizable mining town located just to the southeast of Old Bisbee. The majority of the original townsite was consumed by the excavation of the Lavender Pit mine during the 1950s. All that is left today is a small portion of Erie Street, along with Evergreen Cemetery, Saginaw subdivision and Lowell Middle School. These days Lowell is considered by most of the local residents to be more of a place name than an actual community.
The old Lowell Police Dept.

Check out that old police car!

Greyhound station with Texaco fuel pumps

Look at this old setup. It is like hopping into a time machine and arriving at 1955. The satellite dish breaks the illusion, though.

Anyone call a cab?

Say hello to Big Red.

Big red fire engine.

“They call me Big T Larrity.” If you are an old geek like me, you have probably seen a campy show called Code Monkeys. I swear this looks like Mr. Larrity’s car.

The town even has an old Harley Davidson bike shop. There is probably a joke in here somewhere about Harley Davidson, but I cannot think of one.

Here is a another sweet picture of the town from a different perspective.

I found this rusty old work truck in a lot beside on the buildings.

That was quite the trip, was it not? I hope you enjoyed perusing through this as much as I have actually visiting the place. Stay tuned for more inspiring journeys and pleasant vistas.

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