Visit to Bisbee Mine and History Museum

Naco, AZ

While we are staying in Naco, a tiny community right on the Mexican border, the main attraction of this area is the nearby town of Bisbee.  Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine, a very productive tunnel mine.  In 1917 open pit mining began nearby due to the high demand for copper in WWI.  Mining continued in Bisbee until 1974.

Above is a picture of the Lavender Pit Mine.  It is #1 on the picture below taken of a display board at a viewing area next to the mine.  The mine was dug in three phases over sixty years: (1) The Sacramento Pit, (2) The Lavender Pit, and (3) The Holbrook Extention,

As the mines declined Bisbee became a destination in the 1960s for artists and hippies.  Today much of the town has been restored and the population is a combination of quirky artists and retirees supported by a thriving tourism business.  One of the most visited places in the town is the Bisbee Mining and History Museum, located in the old headquarters of the mining company right in the center of town.

The first floor is dedicated to highlighting the history of the town.

The main street around 1900

Below is a picture of George Warren who worked as a prospector in the region during the late 19th century.  He is credited with having located a body of copper ore, which later became the Copper Queen Mine.  George had some personal problems (mostly related to alcohol) and never profited from his discovery.  In 1880 a pioneer photographer visiting Bisbee took a photo of Warren posing as a miner. This image was used as a model for the miner posing with long-handled spade in the Seal of Arizona.

In the photo below a high ranking mine official looks over the Brass Board.  When a miner went into the mine he would be given a brass token with his name on it.  The token was used to make sure all miners had exited at the end of a shift, as well as, identify a body in case of a mine accident.  The mines of Bisbee had very good safety records, so the tokens were rarely needed.

A high quality turquoise promoted as Bisbee Blue was a by-product of the copper mining. Many high-quality mineral specimens have come from Bisbee area mines.

Azurite and Malachite on Goethite


Many early mines had their own Ten Commandments. Bisbee was no exception


Diorama of a miner at work

Tire of one of the larger trucks used in the pit mine


After touring the museum we took a walk up into one of the hillside neighborhoods.  Below are pictures of some of the interesting sites.

Below is the main entrance of the old Bisbee High School.  The school was a state-of-the art when it opened in 1914 in the center of town.  It was in operation until overcrowding made the building of a new school necessary in the mid-1950s.

It is the only four story building in the country with a ground level entry on each floor. The entry shown is on the 2nd floor and was the main entry to the school. The first floor is under this and held the shop classes and the bus garage. The 2nd floor held the offices and general class rooms. The 3rd floor also was general classrooms while the 4th floor was the gym/auditorium.  In the picture shown above, if you walk up the hill to the right you pass a  ground level entry half way up for the 3rd floor.  Walk a bit further up the hill and you come to the ground level entry for the Gym (pictured below).

Tiered fish ponds in a back yard near the old high school

And the ponds are active

Hey, anything can be called “art”

In our next blog we’ll check out an event held each year in Bisbee called The Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb.

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24 Responses to Visit to Bisbee Mine and History Museum

  1. Mary says:

    Very cool. We love quirky places like that.

  2. And I’m guessing you guys climbed all 1000 stairs, too! Bisbee is a fun little town to walk around.
    Love that last photo.

  3. Laurel says:

    You guys are finding all the best street art in Bisbee! Isn’t it fun to wander around and discover the colorful quirkiness everywhere? Great tour of the museum — we always enjoy a visit there. Your photo of the Lavender Pit mine looks just like the view out of our RV window when we’re teetering on the edge at Queen Mine RV Park. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      It seems that every time we drive or walk through town we find something new. Every little alley way, house, or set of stairs has its own charm.

      It would have been neat to have the mine as a backyard:)

  4. pmbweaver says:

    Now that is a header photo for sure! But where is the lovely caddie?

    We really enjoyed our visit to Bisbee too. The steps to each house just amazed us. The people were so nice in every store we went in.

    Love the dog sign. Some campgrounds should put those signs up.

  5. Such a neat funky little town. Love the No Trespooping!

  6. First off, that header has beautifully captured Johns winning form!
    Thank you for the historical tour John and showing us what we overlooked when there. All I can remember was the Lavender Pit and the Queen Mine Tour.
    Love that interesting cloud formation hovering over the setting sun.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Mona Liza! That particular hole’s tee is way up a hill from the previous hole. I decided to let John run up there alone to hit the tee shot. Once he was up there, I was glad I waited down below for that photo.

      Glad John could refresh your memory:) Laurel recommended the museum and we are so glad she did.

      It was a very strange evening for clouds. I had trouble doing my job because I had to keep watching things evolve.

  7. Connie Graves says:

    My husband & I will be retiring in June to do exactly what you’re doing. I have lots of questions if you don’t mind.

  8. Janna says:

    Great photos! Our favorite thing in Bisbee–the Breakfast Club!

  9. Jodee Gravel says:

    Very interesting about Warren being the “subject” for the seal – I love stuff like that. The mine official and the miner at work both look quite life-like 🙂 I wonder if all ten of the commandments were as witty? I figured you did the stairs… there a time limit for it to “count”? I’m thinking over a few visits I might get all 1000. Great header!

    • placestheygo says:

      Haha! Thanks goodness climbing those steps didn’t have time limit!! Some of the staircases require a breather in the middle:)

      It is amazing, as you said, how life like that one guy was…haha!

      Glad you enjoyed the headed:)

  10. Gay says:

    I just love quirky little places like Bisbee…thanks for peaking our interest! We have never visited that far south in Arizona.

    • placestheygo says:

      This is our first visit this far south, Gay, and boy are we enjoying it. I’ve thought about Organ Pipe Cactus NM, Bisbee, and the Chiricahua’s for awhile now as I read about others visiting. This has been a great time traveling along here. You and Joe would really enjoy it.

  11. LuAnn says:

    We really must get back to Bisbee! In some ways it reminds me of Jerome. Thanks for the tour. Love the header photo! 🙂

  12. colibabas says:

    Definitely have to visit this area when we return next season. Thanks for the tour.
    Safe travels!

  13. Sherry says:

    Love you pictures of this cool looking place. The history is interesting and the minerals are beautiful. That is one massive tire. Imagine the size of the truck that used it. Love the pensive look on that miner standing outside the neat old museum doorway. Glad to hear the mine had a good safety record. Wish we could say the same these days. Your pictures of Bisbee make it look like a place you could spend a lot of time finding interesting things. Sounds like Bisbee has reinvented itself into a very fun place to visit and hang around for a while. Thanks for putting this little town on my list.

  14. debbiemc14 says:

    I’ve enjoyed your posts on Bisbee. It’s been a few years since I was there. Love the stairs and the quirky nature of the town. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Nice pictures.

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