BISBEE, AZ (ARIZONA HIGHWAYS TV) - If you haven’t been there, you’ve had to at least heard of Bisbee – the quirky and quaint mining town just about 15 miles north of our border with Mexico. To get to Bisbee, from just about anywhere in Arizona, you head south – and up. The town is a mile high, nestled in the Mule Mountains.
Bisbee started out as a mining camp in the late 1800’s. Because it was such a rich mineral site, it quickly became known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps”. At one time, Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. And the city of Bisbee was very cosmopolitan, rivaling New York in both high finance and high fashion. Women could order dresses and hats straight from Paris!
But Bisbee did (and still does) have its Wild West ways. As many as 50 saloons – and several brothels – lined the now infamous Brewery Gulch. While it may not be quite as colorful today, bars and breweries now housed in those historic buildings still guarantee a good time – and offer a few good ghost stories. Did I forget to mention that Bisbee is haunted? That’s for another time.
Copper Queen Hotel
The Copper Queen Hotel first opened its doors in 1902, ushering in Bisbee's heyday. It's considered the the oldest, continuously-running hotel in the state of Arizona. Tt's never shut its door. If you visit the hotel, you'll notice there are no locks on the front doors.
This hotel has been welcoming guests for more than a century and it still has that old-world charm. When it was originally built, it had 72 rooms but only one bath per floor. It has seen a few updates over the years as it now has just 48 rooms. Each one comes with its own private bath.
If you're looking for a fancy hotel, this isn't the place for you. But if you want a boutique hotel that will allow you to step back in time, relax and enjoy, then give the Copper Queen Hotel a try.
Be prepared though. They do have ghosts at the hotel. The most common ghost sighting is Bill, a young boy that is rumored to have drowned in the San Pedro River. As the story goes, him mom most likely worked at the hotel because Billy is there more than anybody else. Guests report hearing a child cry when they turn on the bathwater.
Hotel owners tell guests to observe where they place personal items before bedtime and see if they had been moved by morning.
Other guests have reported seeing flashing lights in their room.
And there are other experiences. A lady of the night and a smoking man with a top hat and a cape.
There are pages upon pages of sightings of spirited experiences at the Copper Queen, all too similar not to be true.
Guests are encouraged to log their ghostly experiences in a notebook at the front desk.
St. Elmo's Bar
As day turns into nighttime, Bisbee really turns into a ghost town, making way for the Bisbee ghost pub crawl in Brewery Gulch.
While the Copper Queen is the oldest hotel in Arizona, St. Elmo’s is the oldest continuously operating bar in Arizona. They served through prohibition. Wow! They just break all the rules here in Bisbee. At St. Elmo's, there's even a ghost that likes to listen to the jukebox. Even when it's unplugged, people can hear music playing.
And there's another St. Elmo's story, a secret escape hatch behind the bar. It's covered up now, but this is where they took the party underground so they wouldn't get busted during prohibition.
Bisbee Coffee Co.
Consider it a way to kick-start a day. Triple latte, peppermint breeze, Oregon chai, Iced mocha latte or Iced coffee.
On ice, flavored, steaming, or just straight up, Arizonans are crazy for their cup of jo, and during our stop in Bisbee, we found the king of the coffee houses. The Bisbee Coffee Co. Walk into this place, or just take a seat outside, and you can practically smell freshness seeping from every nook and cranny.
The coffee here is fresh, roasted within 24 hours of serving it to customers. How's that for fresh? And at the Bisbee Coffee Company, their special roaster means those beans are at their best. They have a 30-pound Deidrich coffee roaster that roasts about 17,000 pounds of coffee a day.
If you're interested in seeing the experts roast the coffee beans, the roasting area is open to everyone. They have video cameras set up and TVs down in the shop so customers can watch what they are doing.
The beans come from around the world, giving customers the choice between a dozen different coffees. And at the Bisbee Coffee Company, you even get a little something extra.
The Bisbee Coffee Company likes to say they serve up a little bit of Bisbeen in every cup.
Stock Exchange Bar
Step inside the Stock Exchange Bar in Bisbee and be prepared to step back in time. The grand building features a high and perfectly crafted ceiling.
A large bar harks back to days gone by. And an original, giant stock exchange board. This is how they used to keep track of everything from metals to cotton in New York and Chicago. The massive board covers one of the walls, and provides a unique and charming feel. The bar often features live music and there is plenty of space to sit and listen while enjoying a cold pint or your favorite drink.
The eclectic yet historical watering hole also has a shuffleboard table and pool tables.
Standing tall, the sturdy structure with some decorative features, has become a fixture in downtown , drawing people here from all over the globe.
The Town of Lowell
Just southeast of Old Bisbee is historic Lowell. During the area’s copper boom, workers moved out of the city to this “suburb.” They built homes, opened shops, saloons and restaurants. They even had their own police station – all lining their own main street. But when the Lavender Pit mine was excavated in the 1950’s, most of the town was taken out. Erie Street is about all that’s left. When the copper mines shut down in the mid-1970’s, Lowell became a skeleton of what was once the center of Arizona’s capitalism.
I hadn’t started out to do a story on Lowell. My crew and I drove through what’s left of the main drag while shooting a story on Bisbee Ghost Tours. We were scheduled to come back the next day and do a piece on the Bisbee Breakfast Club (a must stop, by the way) located at the top of the street. We started poking around the old buildings and businesses and realized they weren’t empty nor abandoned. Vintage cars lined the street, and the storefront windows were all dressed in mid-century fashion. It was like a movie set or a street straight out of Mayberry. Then, like something out of a movie or ‘50s television show - a happy accident. We bumped into not one, but two artists who had “escaped” New York to make a beeline for Bisbee.
So why would a musician and a famous celebrity photographer move to Bisbee? Believe it or not, they read about it in a book. Now they’re helping to bring Erie Street back to its heyday, as they write this historic hood’s next chapter. We call them the Lowell Boys.