Dispatches from the Pit

Industrial tourism has a place in the American landscape. These sites are like train wrecks and natural disasters; you just can’t help but look twice at the horrific results.

From the world’s largest open pit ecological disaster in Butte Montana to the Lavender Pit Open Mine here in Bisbee, the North American continent is full of scenic locations that showcase man’s wanton destruction of the planet through the years.

Some of them make great attractions, while others make you want to turn your head and weep.

We’re here in Bisbee, ground zero of Arizona’s copper, silver and gold mining boom of the late 19th century.

This town once prospered because of man’s awesome ability to cut open the earth and extract riches.

Bisbee was a company town complete with housing, schools and stores for employees who took on this dangerous work to feed their families for a pittance of a salary.

Bisbee Today

There was once incredible wealth here and today many of the oldest buildings still stand.

Bisbee’s narrow streets and twisted pathways lead to houses stacked on top of eachother, perched alongside the steep hills this town was built on.

Funky thrift stores housed in historic buildings and cafes built into mountainsides give it a dusty Southwestern flair that’s attracted tons of creatives.

Soon after the artists arrived, however, so did the art buyers, which meant that real estate prices went sky-high and proprietors figured out how valuable those antiques in their junk stores really were. There are few real deals to be found here.

That’s alright though. Some of the “come here’s” progressive attitudes have really improved this community. There’s recycling on every corner and a true appreciation for public art, not just the kind that hangs over a wealthy person’s mantle.

Relics of Bisbee’s past blend with modern artistic touches that make it an interesting place to amble along on a Saturday afternoon.

While it’s somewhat out of your way to get here unless you’re going to the Mexican border, trust me when I say it’s worth a visit.

There’s no place like Bisbee.

Tags: , , ,

11 Responses to “Dispatches from the Pit”

  1. ars gratia artis !!

  2. Eric Auckerman March 14, 2011 at 11:18 am Reply

    Whoa, so rich people with art over their mantles aren’t people who appreciate art?
    I’m throwing down the glove on this one young missy, but before I do let me offer a wee quote from Frank Zappa “art is just about making something up and seeing if someone will buy it” (not very well paraphrased but you get the idea).

    Art? Rich people? Mantles? What kind of society have we become when we dismiss those of means with such ease? Are peoples with above average jack in the bank just a pack of mean-spirited tyrants who are quick with the lash when their hunched minions step out of line? Methinks not! Are those with cavernous pockets less humane, caring, and compassionate than those with fewer ducats? Methinks double not!

    Poverty of the spirit is the real enemy here cause affluence can help as much as it can hurt. Consider the so-called “eco disaster” strip mine you mention within your missive, to those who toiled on it’s grounds it was an opportunity to provide for oneself and family. Minerals are the resources we as a species depend on, try swapping the plumbing in your RV for bamboo? Pull out all the copper wire while your at it, oh, and strip out all the aluminum, steel while you’ve got your gloves on, well, guess where those precious metals came from? From mines. That’s right, mines.

    Now back to art and wealth, the combination sounds like fun to me so here’s my plan for this evening. I’m going to strap a Birkenstock onto to painted lobster and see who bids highest on eBay, maybe some bohemian with free-wheelin’ tendencies and a mantle (possibly in Bisbee) will buy it…

    Taking one for the team in Newport Beach, CA – Enrico strikes again!

    • Taking one for the Fat Cat’s team again, hey Enrico?

      “Are those with cavernous pockets less humane, caring, and compassionate than those with fewer ducats?”

      Well, perhaps you should ask Larry Kudlow, Fox Turd #1. Seems like his point of view pretty much sums up the attitude of the 10 percent of Americans holding the purse strings.

      I absolutely have to disagree with you on that one.

      And as for:

      “to those who toiled on it’s grounds it was an opportunity to provide for oneself and family.”…..

      Oh yes, sure, if you didn’t mind getting paid in pesos while your Anglo counterparts got paid in dollars. Or sending your kids to the Mexican school in the gulley while the Anglo kids got the nice schoolhouse on the hill.

      The Arizona mining industry was built on the backs of mostly Mexican immigrant workers who worked as slave labor for the wealthy fat cats you defend. This I know is a fact, Jack, because my grandfather was one of them and my Dad went to a segregated school in Jerome. True. Story.

      Take THAT Mister!

      • Wrong. The mining industry was mostly Welsh, Cornish and Irish miners and engineers to go along with the Mexicans. Being poor or artistic is not inherently more “noble” than having money. Oh and that recycling you talk of… it only flies when it makes economic sense. It goes in a landfill when prices fall. Copper for all the green things we like…electric motors for one must be from raw smelted copper, not recycled..wont work, so we can dig for it and put americans to work or pay for the chinese to do it and have there spotless environmental policies on our hands. Oh and I love Bisbee too.

  3. we love bisbee too! and thanks to this post we are *this* close to hitching up and heading that way 🙂

  4. I’ll say Silver City is close to being similar to Bisbee. Bisbee is doing much better economically though! We were headed to Bisbee when we fell in love with Silver!

    • You’re right Kim, they are similar. Silver City is a neat place too, we like it there.

      I wonder if the reason why Bisbee is doing better economically is because there is no WalMart here? Hmm.

      I have to admit though, having a WallyWorld nearby is a definite convenience. Never thought I’d say that.

  5. Incredibly well written post on Bisbee. We were there about a month ago. My words on Bisbee pale in comparison. Great post.

Leave a Reply