Bisbee, AZ

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Streets of Bisbee

Bisbee is a mining city in Cochise County, Arizona, 82 miles (132 km) southeast of Tucson, Arizona. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 6,177.



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.

In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone, Arizona to Bisbee, where it remains.

Mining industry

Mining in the Mule Mountains proved quite successful: in the early 20th century the population of Bisbee soared. Incorporated in 1902, by 1910 its population swelled to 9,019 and it sported a constellation of suburbs, including Warren, Lowell, and San Jose, some of which had been founded on their own (ultimately less successful) mines. In 1917, open pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the heavy copper demand due to World War I.

High quality turquoise was a by-product of the copper mining and has been promoted as Bisbee Blue. Bisbee is noted for the astounding variety of copper-based minerals and the superb specimens that have been taken from its mines. Bisbee specimens can be found in museums worldwide. Cuprite, aragonite, wulfenite, malachite, azurite, and galena are just a few of the myriad variety of minerals that have been found underneath the town.

Bisbee Deportation

In 1917, the Phelps Dodge Corporation deported 1,185 suspected Industrial Workers of the World miners.[1] This followed a similar incident earlier that year in central Arizona, the Jerome Deportation.

Mining decline and closure

By 1950, boom times were over and the population of the City of Bisbee had dropped to less than 6,000, but the introduction of open-pit mining and continued underground work would see the town escape the fate of many of its early contemporaries. However, in 1975 the Phelps Dodge Corporation finally halted its Bisbee copper-mining operations. The resulting exodus of mine employees might have been the end of the town. Bisbee survived and remains as the county seat.

Bisbee, Arizona. 1916.

Modern Bisbee

The sudden flood of real estate onto the market and crash in housing prices, coupled with an attractive climate and picturesque scenery, led to Bisbee's subsequent rebirth as an artists' colony. The rediscovery of Bisbee by baby boomers in the 1990s saw it develop a more polished look, complete with coffee shops and live theater. Many of the old houses have been renovated, and property values in Bisbee now greatly exceed those of other Southeastern Arizona cities.

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 era|Victorian houses and elegant Art Deco courthouse. Because its plan was laid out before the automobile, Old Bisbee has an almost European feel. The town's hilly terrain is exemplified by the old three-story high school: each floor has a ground-level entrance.


The "City of Bisbee" now includes the historic downtown Bisbee, as well as the geographically spaced but administratively combined satellite communities of Warren, Lowell, and San Jose. The Lowell and Warren townsites were founded around their own mining subdivisions before being purchased in large part by Phelps Dodge and then consolidated into Bisbee-proper during the early part of the twentieth century. There are also smaller neighborhoods interspersed between these larger boroughs including Galena, Bakerville, Tintown, South Bisbee, Briggs and Saginaw.

Warren has the distinction of being Arizona's first planned community. Although there were mines operating in the vicinity, it was primarily designed as a bedroom community for the more affluent citizens of the mining district. The centrally located Vista Park and its adjacent downtown area at one time comprised a thriving center of commerce. Warren boasts a fine collection of Arts and Crafts style bungalow houses, many of which are historically registered and can be visited by the public during the city's annual home tour. Since the exit of mining in the 1970s, Warren has seen a steady decline in its standard of living, but its residential district still houses a significant portion of the population and it boasts ownership of many public services including City Hall, Greenway Elementary School, Bisbee High School, and the historic Warren Ballpark.

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, though it houses the town's natural foods market and a highly popular restaurant, known as the Bisbee Breakfast Club.

San Jose, on the southern side of the Mule Mountains, is the most modern of the city's subdivisions, and has seen the most new growth in the last two decades as it is not restricted by mountains. Named after a nearby Mexican mountain peak, it hosts many newer county government buildings, Huachuca Terrace Elementary School, and a large shopping center.

Resurgence of Mining Industry

In 2007, in what has been noted as the world's biggest-ever mining takeover, Freeport-McMoRan bought Phelps Dodge Mining and has begun some preliminary work in the area.

Naco and Bisbee Junction

Naco, Arizona is a small unincorporated border community some three miles south of the San Jose district of Bisbee. It straddles the U.S./Mexican Border and is home to a U.S. Port of Entry. Naco features a U.S. Post Office, elementary school, and several businesses including a small store, garage, and saloon.

Bisbee Junction (formerly Osborn or Osborn Junction) is located four miles south of Warren. It was originally a railroad siding where ore trains from the Bisbee mines joined with the main Southern Pacific rail line. A Southern Pacific depot and U.S. Post Office building originally stood at the railroad junction, but it was closed in the late 1950s and eventually razed soon afterwards. A dance hall, Elks country club and small dry goods store were once located near the depot, and the settlement was once home to several cattle ranches and dairies. The Arizona Cactus Botanical Garden was located in Bisbee Junction.


Bisbee is located at 31.418390, -109.897772.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.8 square miles, all of it land.

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