A Fun New Years Eve In Bisbee, AZ
On our way to Palm Springs for a winter vacation, we decided to take a detour and spend the night and New Years Eve in Bisbee, Arizona - and we thoroughly enjoyed our short visit and wished we had spent a couple nights. Bisbee is an old mining town tucked into the side of the Mule Mountain Range and well known for it's lively bars, great restaurants, cosmopolitan character, friendly folks, and boutique shops. The colorful, rough edges of this mining camp from the 1880's were found in the notorious Brewery Gulch, with its saloons and brothels. In its heyday, the Gulch boasted nearly 50 saloons and was considered one of the liveliest spots in the west. Historic taverns still retain the rich character and boom-town flavor of this period as do the narrow streets that run up and down the hills through town and past colorful and unique period homes. Very picturesque!
The Queen Mine, at the base of Mule Mountain, le 2q d to the growth of Bisbee in the 1880's. The Queen Mine was one of the most productive copper mines in the United States and from the 1880's until the mine closed in 1974, the Queen Mine produced 8 billion pounds of copper, 102 million ounces of silver and 2.8 million ounces of gold along with millions of pounds of zinc, lead and manganese. By the early 1900's, driven by the booming mining industry, Bisbee had become the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco with a population of over 20,000 people by the beginning of the century. Bisbee was also one of the most cultured cities in the west. The town is still home to the the nation’s (arguably) oldest ball field (Warren Ballpark), Arizona’s first golf course (Turquoise Valley), and the state's first community library (Copper Queen).
Our stay in Bisbee was a last minute decision and we were lucky to get one of the few remaining available rooms - the small town was packed with people looking for a fun New Years Eve. We got even luckier with our room at The Bisbee Inn/Hotel La More because we could look out our window and see Brewery Gulch less than a block from the Hotel. Brewery Gulch is still loaded with bars, some restaurants, and shops and from our Hotel it's an easy walk to lots of other things to do in Bisbee.
The Bisbee Inn was originally lodging for the miners’ when it opened in 1912, then it became a Peace Corps training center, and has been a hotel for visitors since 1983. The Inn and it's 20 rooms on two floors have been renovated but all of the original furniture and character was retained for authenticity. As such, all of the rooms have a quaint charm, unique wallpaper, a hand-sewn quilt, oak dressers and tables, period pictures, and copper ceiling fixtures!
New Years Eve In Bisbee
Shortly after unpacking, we were out the door and headed to Brewery Gulch to celebrate New Year's Eve. Over the next several hours we enjoyed:
Queen Mine Tour
The next morning (with a fuzzy head), before continuing on our way to Palm Springs, we went on the Queen Mine Tour for a very enjoyable, informative, and interesting hour and a half tour of the Queen Mine. We put on a hard hat, grabbed a miner's headlamp and a yellow slicker and boarded a miners car and descended 1,500 feet into the mine. Queen Mine has seven levels and 143 miles of passageways. The Mine has natural ventilation due to the many shafts and drifts. The average temperature is 47 degrees year round. Our tour guide, who was 80 years old and had worked in the Queen Mine for several year, was very entertaining and a wealth of knowledge. He explained the mining techniques, the numerous dangers, and the drama of working in a mine for 34 cents an hour - I think the mules that hauled the ore out of the mine got more than that! A fun, informative, and interesting tour and a must do if you're in Bisbee.
Bisbee Lavender Pit
On the eastern edge of Bisbee is the Lavender Pit which began being mined in 1950 and was mined until 1974 - producing 86 million tons of ore averaging, about 600,000 tons of copper, plus gold and silver as byproducts. About 256 million tons of waste was removed created an impressive pit that covers an area of 300 acres and is 900 feet deep. On the edge of the original Lavender Pit was a small mining town called Lowell, which was later incorporated into Bisbee. As the original mining continued many of the buildings in Lowell were destroyed to make space for the open pit of the mine and residents moved away as the city of Lowell slowly disappeared! All that was left was Erie Street which local residents have preserved in order to show visitors exactly how everything looked at that time. The ghost town on Erie Street now has vintage cars (some in good shape, while others are rusty), original buildings, old ads and billboard signs, a gas pump, a Greyhound bus and many more other interesting things.
Bisbee is a great place to visit and we can't wait to come back and explore the unique city again.