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Bisbee has been in the news a bit lately, from the City Council approving Civil Unions for any couple, regardless of gender, to the Attorney General of Arizona vowing to hold back the tide on marriage equality.  In all the excitement, I've been trying to keep up with telling people what Bisbee is like, and why any semi-sane person would want to live here.  Commonmass suggested that I do a photo diary, and I agreed...that was a good idea.  So here is Bisbee, in all it's glory, and some of the rest, below the coppery cloud of dust.

Bisbee was founded around a copper mine, in a remote corner of Arizona, in a mountain canyon, in 1880.  Like many mining boom towns, it was built quickly, as cheaply as possible, crammed together into the available space, and it was built of wood.  
Like many mining towns, it burned down. And it burned down again.  And again.  By about 1904, it was decided that maybe the principle structures ought to be made of brick.  The good news is, they didn't burn down, and we still have most of them.  This is the heart of downtown Bisbee, in 1909.  Most of these buildings are still here, and still integral to the heart of town.  
One of the most recognizable buildings in Bisbee is the Copper Queen Hotel, built by the mining company to accommodate visiting dignitaries and investors.  Today, it is a popular place for visitors to stay, as it is in the very heart of town, within easy walking distance to all attractions.

In front of and below the Copper Queen Hotel is the building that now houses the Mining Museum.  It had been the company offices for the mine.  Next to that is Grassy Park, a popular place to hang out and watch the people go by, and also a handy and visible place for protest, right in the center of town.  Here is the local Progressive Democrats of America protesting Governor Jan Brewers cuts in education funding.

My favorite building in town is the combination Post Office (bottom floor) and Library (next two floors).
Much of the rest of downtown is three story buildings, with shops and galleries, and food and drink on the street level, and hotel rooms above.  The Bisbee Grand Hotel, to the left, is a popular music venue.  Cafe Roka, easily the fanciest restaurant in town,  is in the center of the picture, and the entire city block to the right is powered by solar panels, selling excess energy back to the utility company.  Not on this day, though, as it was snowing.  Bisbee typically gets a few days of snow each year, with a couple inches of accumulation.  

All of that is pretty normal for a Turn of the Century mining town.  What makes Bisbee special, though, is the influence of all the local artists.  Some of the art is in galleries, some of it is displayed in people's yards, and some of it is just built into the fabric of the town.

Another unusual thing about Bisbee is all the stairways.  Because it is built in the bottom of a steep canyon, with houses stacked up the hillsides, many of those houses aren't on an actual street...they are on a stairway.  People advertise properties, for rent or sale, by how many stairs you have to climb.
Sometimes, it's a lot.

And then, of course, it is a mining town.  We have a really big hole in the ground.  Funny thing is, it's a major tourist attraction.

But it's our little town, and we like it this way.  We don't have a Starbucks, but we have two local coffee roasters...and two local breweries.  We don't have a Walmart, or a Home Depot, or an Olive Garden, or even a McDonalds (!), but we do have our favorite little corner grocery, where we can get fresh baked bread, local produce, a rundown of upcoming events, and all the latest gossip, in one stop.
I've got so many more pictures, but it's so tedious to load're just going to have to come and see the rest of Bisbee for yourself.

Originally posted to Bisbonian on Fri Apr 05, 2013 at 08:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks and Headwaters.

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