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Bisbee, Arizona
Main Street, Bisbee
Main Street, Bisbee
"Queen of the Copper Camps”
Location of Bisbee in Cochise County, Arizona
Location of Bisbee in Cochise County, Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona is located in Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona
Location in Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona is located in the United States
Bisbee, Arizona
Bisbee, Arizona
Location in the United States
Country  United States
State  Arizona
County Cochise
Incorporated January 9, 1902
 • Type Council-manager
 • Body Bisbee City Council
 • Total 5.18 sq mi (13.41 km2)
 • Land 5.18 sq mi (13.41 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
5,538 ft (1,688 m)
 • Total 4,923
 • Density 950.39/sq mi (367.11/km2)
Time zone UTC–07:00 (MST (no daylight saving time))
ZIP Code
Area code 520
FIPS code 04-06260
GNIS feature ID 1436
Website City of Bisbee

Bisbee is a city in and the county seat of Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, United States. It is 92 miles (148 km) southeast of Tucson and 11 miles (18 km) north of the Mexican border. According to the 2020 census, the population of the town was 4,923, down from 5,575 in the 2010 census.


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 to Bisbee, where it remains.

Mining industry

Classic azurite mineral specimen from the Bisbee mines, collected circa 1890

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 had 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 copper demand during World War I.

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 and are to be found in museum collections worldwide. Some of these minerals include: Cuprite, aragonite, wulfenite, malachite, azurite, and galena.

Bisbee deportation

Miners attempted to organize to gain better working conditions and wages. In 1917, the Phelps Dodge Corporation, using private police, transported at gun point over 1,000 striking miners out of town to Hermanas, New Mexico, due to allegations that they were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW); the company wanted to prevent unionization. Earlier that year, industry police conducted the Jerome Deportation, a similar event to expel striking miners.

Mining decline and tourism

Continued underground work enabled the town to survive changes in mining. Neighboring towns had mines that closed, with a resulting dramatic loss of population. But, by 1950, the population of Bisbee had dropped to less than 6,000. In 1975 the Phelps Dodge Corporation halted its Bisbee copper-mining operations.

Bisbee Mayor Chuck Eads, with cooperation of Phelps Dodge, implemented development of a mine tour and historic interpretation of a portion of the world-famous Copper Queen Mine as part of an effort to create heritage tourism as another base for the economy. They worked to compensate for the economic loss due to the end of the mining industry in the area.

Community volunteers cleared tons of fallen rock and re-timbered the old workings. Eventually, this local effort came to the attention of the federal Economic Development Administration. It approved a large grant to the City of Bisbee to help the mine tour project and other improvements in downtown Bisbee; these were designed to meet tourist business needs. The Queen Mine Tour was officially opened to visitors on February 1, 1976. More than a million visitors, from all 50 states and more than 30 countries, have taken the underground mine tour train.

Panorama of Bisbee in 1916
Panorama of Bisbee in 1916

Modern Bisbee

From 1950 to 1960, the sharp population decline changed and the number of residents of Bisbee increased by nearly 160 percent when open-pit mining was undertaken and the city annexed nearby areas. The peak population was in 1960, at 9,914.

In the following decade, there was a decline in jobs and population, although not as severe as from 1930 to 1950. But, the economic volatility resulted in a crash in housing prices. Coupled with an attractive climate and picturesque scenery, Bisbee became a destination in the 1960s for artists and hippies of the counter culture.

Artist Stephen Hutchison and his wife Marcia purchased the Copper Queen Hotel, the town's anchor business and architectural gem, from the Phelps-Dodge mining company in 1970. The company had tried to find a local buyer, offering the deed to any local resident for the sum of $1, but there were no takers. The property needed renovation for continued use.

Old Bisbee High School building

Hutchison purchased and renovated the hotel, as well as other buildings in the downtown area. One held the early 20th-century Brewery and Stock Exchange. Hutchison began to market Bisbee as a destination of the "authentic," old Southwest. His work attracted the developer Ed Smart.

Among the many guests at the hotel have been celebrities from nearby California. Actor John Wayne was a frequent visitor to Bisbee and the Copper Queen. He befriended Hutchison and eventually partnered with Smart in his real estate ventures. This period of Bisbee's history is well documented in contemporary articles in The New Yorker and in an article by Cynthia Buchanan in The Cornell Review. It was at this time that Bisbee became a haven for artists and hippies fleeing the larger cities of Arizona and California. Later it attracted people priced out by gentrification of places such as Aspen, Colorado.

In the 1990s, additional people have been attracted to Bisbee, leading it to develop such amenities as coffee shops and live theatre. Many of the old houses have been renovated, and property values in Bisbee now greatly exceed those of other southeastern Arizona cities.

Today, the historic city of Bisbee is known as "Old Bisbee" and is home to a thriving downtown cultural scene. This area is noted for its architecture, including Victorian-style houses and an elegant Art Deco county courthouse. Because its plan was laid out to a pedestrian scale before the automobile, Old Bisbee is compact and walkable. The town's hilly terrain is exemplified by the old four-story high school; each floor has a ground-level entrance.

Panorama of Bisbee in 2009
Panorama of Bisbee in 2009


In the May–June 2000 issue of Modern Maturity, the AARP highlighted what they called the most "alive" places to retire in the U.S. Bisbee was a runner-up as one of the "quirkiest" towns in America.


Cochise County Courthouse Bisbee Arizona ArtDecoDoors
Art Deco doors on the Cochise County Courthouse

The city of Bisbee now includes the satellite communities of Warren, Lowell, and San Jose. The Lowell and Warren townsites were 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 was Arizona's first planned community. It was designed as a bedroom community for the more affluent citizens of the mining district. Warren has a fine collection of Arts and Crafts style bungalow houses. Many have been recognized as historic places, and the city has an annual home tour during which a varying selection are offered for tours. Since the end of mining in the 1970s, Warren has seen a steady decline in its standard of living. The residential district still houses a significant portion of the population, and includes 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 operating community.

San Jose, on the southern side of the Mule Mountains, is the most modern of the city's subdivisions. As it is not restricted by mountains, it has had the most new growth since the late 1990s. Named after a nearby Mexican mountain peak, it is the location of many newer county government buildings, the 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 Copper & Gold bought Phelps Dodge Mining. It began preliminary mining work in the area. Full mine operations began in 2013 with the mining of gold in addition to copper. Free-Port has invested in Bisbee by remediating soil contaminated in previous mining operations, donations to the school system,and other civic activities.

Special events

The Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb is a five-kilometer run through the city that traverses 1,034 stairs. Billed as "the most unique physical fitness challenge in the USA!" by the organizers, the Climb includes runners being serenaded by musicians at various locations among the stairs. The event has grown to include the Ice Man Competition, designed to honor the history of men delivering blocks of ice by hand before the advent of refrigeration. In the Ice Man Competition, entrants race up 155 steps carrying a ten-pound block of ice with antique ice tongs.

Bisbee also hosts an annual Blues festival, occurring in 2015 during the second week of September. The festival effectively lengthens the tourist season, and provides a large amount of business to local bars and breweries.

Best Historic Small Town

In 2016, Bisbee earned the title of Best Historic Small Town in both Sunset magazine and a USA Today online reader poll. Jen Luria, director of tourism in Bisbee, credited the power of social media and comedian Doug Stanhope in the USA Today win. July 3, 2016 was declared "Killer Termites Day" after Doug Stanhope's tenacious social media followers, The Killer Termites, persistently voted for Bisbee in the online poll.

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 Mexico–United States border and is the site of an official port of entry. Naco features a U.S. post office, an 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 Railroad line. A Southern Pacific depot and U.S. Post Office building, in the style of the first half of the 20th century, were located at the railroad junction. The depot and post office were closed in the late 1950s and the building was razed soon afterward. A dance hall, an Elks club and small dry goods store were once located near the depot. The community was once the location of several cattle ranches and dairies. The Arizona Cactus Botanical Garden was located in Bisbee Junction.


Arizona State Route 80 runs through the city, leading northwest 23 miles (37 km) to Tombstone and 47 miles (76 km) to Benson, and east 26 miles (42 km) to Douglas. The Mexican border at Naco is 11 miles (18 km) south of the center of Bisbee.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.2 square miles (13.4 km2), all of it land.

Natural vegetation around Bisbee has a semi-desert appearance with shrubby acacia, oak and the like, along with cacti, grass, ocotillo and yucca. The town itself is much more luxuriant with native trees such as cypress, sycamore and cottonwood plus the introduced ailanthus and Old World cypresses, cedars and pines. Palms are capable of large size, but are not reliably hardy. A few higher-elevation trees such as blue spruce and white fir are growing fairly well in Bisbee.


Bisbee has the typical semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk) of the upland Mountain West. Summer days are warm to hot and dry before the monsoon brings the wettest season from July to September with 10.65 inches (270.5 mm) of Bisbee's total annual rainfall of 18.63 inches (473.2 mm), often with severe thunderstorms. During the winter, frontal cloudbands may bring occasional rainfall or even snowfall, though average maxima in the winter are typically very mild and sometimes even warm.

Climate data for Bisbee, Arizona
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 85
Average high °F (°C) 57.3
Average low °F (°C) 34.3
Record low °F (°C) 6
Average rainfall inches (mm) 1.18
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.4
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 inch) 4 4 4 2 1 3 13 13 6 4 3 4 61
Source: Western Regional Climate Center


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 1,535
1910 9,019
1920 9,205 2.1%
1930 8,023 −12.8%
1940 5,853 −27.0%
1950 3,801 −35.1%
1960 9,914 160.8%
1970 8,328 −16.0%
1980 7,154 −14.1%
1990 6,288 −12.1%
2000 6,090 −3.1%
2010 5,575 −8.5%
2020 4,923 −11.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

Bisbee first appeared on the 1890 U.S. Census as an unincorporated village. It did not appear on the 1900 census, despite having a population of thousands (many unincorporated communities were not reported). In 1902, it incorporated as a city and has appeared on every census since 1910. On September 10, 1959, it incorporated the adjacent unincorporated villages of Lowell-South Bisbee (1950 pop. 1,136) and Warren (pop. 2,610).

As of the census of 2000, there were 6,090 people, 2,810 households, and 1,503 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,266.3 people per square mile (488.8/km2). As of the 2020 U.S. Census Redistricting Data there were 3,138 housing units (21.5% of which were vacant or possibly secondary homes) at an average density of 605.8 per square mile (234.0/km2). The racial and ethnic makeup of the city (where race/ethnicity of residents was known) was 65.2% non-Hispanic White, 29.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race, 0.7% Non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.6% Non-Hispanic Native American, 0.5% Non-Hispanic Asian, 0.05% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 3.3% from two or more races.

There were 2,810 households, out of which 21.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 39.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.90.

An analysis of United States Census Bureau data by researchers at The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that, on a proportional basis, Bisbee had more gay couples living together than anywhere else in the state. The ratio was 20.9 for every 1,000 households.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 21.6% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 24.1% from 25 to 44, 27.8% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,942, and the median income for a family was $36,685. Males had a median income of $29,573 versus $23,269 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,129. About 12.9% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.2% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.



The City of Bisbee administers the Bisbee Bus System which is in fact operated by the City of Douglas under contract, with regularly scheduled services from Monday through Saturday within Bisbee and to Naco; One-way fare is $1; The City of Douglas also operates the Cochise Connection, with regular shuttle services between Douglas, Bisbee, and Sierra Vista; One-way fare is $3–4.

Sites of interest

(excluding those mentioned under History)

  • Bisbee Municipal Airport
  • The Central School, built in 1905, was once an elementary school and now functions as an art center.
  • The Cochise County Courthouse is built in the Art Deco style.
  • The Copper Queen Mine was once a major copper producer and can be toured daily.
  • The Phelps Dodge General Office Building, a National Historic Landmark, is now the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum
  • The Lavender Pit is an inactive open pit mine site in the center of the city.
  • Warren Ballpark, a baseball stadium built in 1909, has housed a number of professional teams and may be baseball's oldest park still in use.
  • The Thomas Ranch, a family-owned and operated beef cattle ranch since 1902, the year Bisbee was incorporated

Popular culture

Bisbee, Arizona at night (2235999775)
Historic Old Bisbee at night, 2008


  • Author J. A. Jance has a series of mystery novels featuring a woman sheriff, Joanna Brady, which is set in Bisbee and the surrounding desert-mountain-border areas.
  • In Clive Cussler's novel, The Chase (2007), Bisbee is one of the towns robbed by the "Butcher Bandit".
  • Author Elmore Leonard's 1961 novel Hombre and its film adaptation were centered on a stagecoach bound for Bisbee.
  • Author Betsy Thornton's mystery novels, including her Chloe Newcombe series, are all set in Bisbee (thinly disguised as Dudley) and the surrounding areas.


  • Bisbee is featured in the 1957 film, 3:10 to Yuma, and its 2007 remake.
  • The 1955 movie Violent Saturday, with Victor Mature and Lee Marvin, was filmed in and around Bisbee, and features many scenes of the downtown.
  • In Young Guns II (1990), Pinkerton agents drag reformed outlaw Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland) from a New York City classroom; this scene was filmed in Bisbee's historic district.
  • In L.A. Confidential (1997), actress Kim Basinger plays Lynn Bracken, a Veronica Lake-type beauty originally from Bisbee.
  • William Shatner filmed his low-budget Groom Lake (2000) in and around Bisbee, using many local residents as extras.
  • Stephen King's Desperation (2006), a TV movie based on his 1996 novel Desperation, was primarily filmed in Lowell borough, with other sequences in Old Bisbee, the city's outskirts, and Tucson, Arizona.


  • The song "Bisbee Blue" was included on the 2006 Calexico album, Garden Ruin.
  • John Craigie has a song about Bisbee on his 2015 album Working On My Farewell.


  • The 1956-1958 TV series, Sheriff of Cochise, was set in and around Bisbee, legal seat of Cochise County.
  • A Muppet sketch from Sesame Street, featuring the Readers of the Open Range, has the members of the group helping illiterate citizens of a town. The ROTOR help them read a town sign so the residents know where they live: Bisbee, Arizona.
  • In a 2005 Supernatural season 1 episode, "Skin", Dean Winchester's fake identity is as a police officer from Bisbee, Arizona.
  • In a 2005 Curb Your Enthusiasm season 5 episode, "The End," Larry David is informed by a private investigator that he was, as he has suspected, adopted; he is then informed that his birth parents currently reside in "Bisby (Bisbee)", Arizona.
  • In 2012, the show Ghost Adventures filmed at the Copper Queen Hotel and the Oliver House Bed & Breakfast to investigate claims of hauntings there.


Bisbee joined with Clifton in forming a cricket team that travelled to Santa Monica, California, in 1908 to play the Santa Monica Cricket Club in two games overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the grounds of the Polo Field. The miners lost both cricket games. The Copper Echo reported that Bennie, the general manager of the Shannon Company Copper Mine, was the miners' best cricketer.

Bisbee was home to a minor league baseball franchise. The Bisbee Bees played as members of the Arizona State League and Arizona-Texas League.

Notable people

  • Buster Adams, professional baseball player
  • Betty Bays (1931–1992), All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
  • Ben Chase, NFL player
  • Gib Dawson, NFL player
  • James Douglas, Canadian metallurgist and founder of the Copper Queen Mine
  • Lewis Williams Douglas (1894–1974), politician, businessman diplomat and academic
  • M. J. Frankovich, UCLA quarterback, movie producer (The Shootist, Cactus Flower)
  • Jess Hartley, author, blogger and game designer for White Wolf Games
  • Earl Hindman, actor, best known for portraying Wilson W. Wilson Jr. on the sitcom Home Improvement, was born in Bisbee in 1942
  • J. A. Jance, author
  • Jake LaMotta ("The Raging Bull"), former middleweight prizefighting champion, made Bisbee one of his homes in retirement
  • Clarence Maddern, professional baseball player ca. 1946–1951
  • James F. McNulty Jr. (1925–2009), member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • William Milam, diplomat and former US Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh
  • Paul Newman, Corporation Commissioner, former state representative, former Cochise County Supervisor
  • Richard Shelton, author
  • Doug Stanhope, comedian and writer
  • Betsy Thornton, writer
  • Dawson Trotman, (1906–1956) Founder of The Navigators Born in Bisbee
  • Ken Westerfield, disc sports (Frisbee) pioneer, hall of fame, showman, promoter
  • Jack Williamson, science-fiction writer, born 1908, in Bisbee
  • Peter Young, artist

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bisbee (Arizona) para niños

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