Bisbee, Arizona: copper town. It lies 90 miles southeast of Tucson, tucked into the Mule Mountains. The view of the historic Cochise County seat is something out of a historic painting. Founded in 1880, the town was named for Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial backer of the Cooper Queen Mine.
Historically known as the Queen of the Copper Camps, this true Old West mining camp was one of the richest mineral deposits in the world. It produced around three million ounces of gold and a staggering 8 billion pounds of copper, mean while also yielding significant takes of silver, lead and zinc. By the 1900’s Bisbee was the largest community between St. Louis and San Francisco with a population of 20,000.
Although most famously known for its Brewery Gulch nightlife—Brewery Gulch boasted 47 saloons at its peak. Besides watering holes and women, Bisbee offered more wholesome recreation as well, being home to the state’s first community library, a popular opera house, Arizona’s oldest ball field and first golf course.
In 1908, a fire ravaged most of Bisbee’s commercial district along Main Street, leaving nothing but a pile of ashes, but the residents of Bisbee quickly began reconstruction and by 1910, most of the district had been rebuilt and remains completely intact today.
In the 1970’s the mines became unprofitable and the employees left for better prospects. However, many artists and miscellaneous free spirits found Bisbee to be an inexpensive home in which to pursue their artistic visions. The historic Oliver House, now a fabulous bed and breakfast, hosted a poetry reading series that welcomed such poets as Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Edward Dorn. For many years Bisbee hosted an annual poetry festival (the Bisbee Poetry Festival).
Most recently Bisbee was recognized for another kind of nightlife by the television reality series “Ghost Hunters”. The Atlantic Paranormal Society (also known as TAPS) was invited to investigate the infamous and historic Cooper Queen Hotel. Bisbee offers a variety of ghost hunting activities for braver night owls, including after-hours walking tours and site specific hunts (the Cooper Queen Included). Many guests of the Cooper Queen request specific rooms the hotel claims are haunted.
Bisbee, of course, also offers many mining related activities including a tour of the Cooper Queen mine and the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. There are also many shops, restaurants and vintage saloons to explore in the restored Old Bisbee downtown. The Chiricahua National Monument and Tombstone, Arizona are both within a reasonable distance and offer further recreation. The Chiricahua National Monument offers visitors a chance to explore the natural beauty of Arizona while taking in the breath taking sight of the Hoodoos and other volcanic rock formations, while visitors of Tombstone can further investigate the old west.
Bisbee’s best feature, perhaps, is it truly is a quiet little place off the map, where if all one wants is rest and relaxation all one has to do is fade into the scenery and enjoy.