Mining Towns and Landmarks of the Pinal Mountains

Globe, Miami, Superior Area, Arizona - August 2009

House on the Hill
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum outside of Superior is one of the often-overlooked gems of central Arizona. It was founded by local mining baron Boyce Thompson in the 1920s to preserve and study desert plants and environments around the world. Excellent walking paths wind through alternating gardens representing different world regions or ecological zones. Boyce Thompson's mansion - known as Picket Post House after nearby Picket Post Mountain - watches over the gardens from a prominent hilltop.

Hobbit House
Somewhat more modest is the small three-room homestead built by the Cleavinger family in the early 1900s and later incorporated into the arboretum grounds. Covered with vines and located inside the small Wing Memorial Herb garden next to Queen Creek wash, it is one of my favorite spots in the arboretum.

Down Under in Arizona
One region of the garden is dedicated to the deserts of Australia and features a grove of eucalyptus and gum trees in addition to other plants from Down Under. To give it an extra Aussie feel, they have recently added a drovers (sheep herders) shack.

A Superior Sunset
Home of the famous Magma Copper Mine, Superior was a booming mining camp from the early 1900s until the mines went into decline in the 1980s. The now largely abandoned main street has become popular as a movie location in recent years and was the setting for 'U-Turn' and 'Eight-Legged Freaks' (where you can watch giant spiders crawling over some of these actual buildings). There has been some talk recently of reopening the Number 4 shaft to the east of town.

The Mine is Closed
The La Mina (The Mine) was a rip-roaring miners bar during the boom days but is a bit quieter now. The cliffs in the background are known as 'Apache Leap' and legend says that during the Apache wars a band of warriors leapt to their deaths from these heights rather than be captured by the pursuing cavalry. Their families gathered around their bodies at the base of the cliffs where the tears they shed turned to stone (thus explaining the black obsidian 'Apache Tears' rocks found in the area.

Miami Vice
On the other side of the Pinal Mountains sits the copper camp of Miami founded in 1909. Although it was the last of the local copper camps to be founded, Miami remaind a rough and wild boom camp well into the 1950s with gambling dens and bordellos operating openly and saloons lining the streets. The stairway running up the hill beside the red building (the old fire department) led to the mine shafts on the hill top and was known as the Miners Stairs. The white building on the left with a balcony was once a notorious bar with a bordello on the second floor.

The Real Market
Many of the buildings in Miami were built in a relatively short period between 1910 and 1920 after the townsite was laid out and when poured concrete had become a popular replace of brick, wood and adobe in building. Miami contains one of the best collections of early poured concrete architecture in Arizona (such as the large Real Market and Buffet on Main street).

Last Call
As the county seat, the larger town of Globe to the east has survived (more or less) the decline of mining and has been trying to re-invent itself as a retirement, arts and outdoor recreation town. Miami (which has historically struggled in Globe's shadow) was not so lucky and for many years the old downtown was virtually abandoned. In the last few years, the old buildings have been slowly reclaimed by a small invasion of antique stores which now probably out-number all other businesses in town combined. The metal tower on the hillside is an old head frame used to lower men and equipment into the mines.

The Art of Law
A few miles east of Miami is the older and larger county seat of Globe - the King of the Central Arizona copper camps and once the territory's fourth largest city. Legend says that the town got its name for a large globe-shaped silver nugget discovered by an early prospector in the 1870s. Globe has seen a lot of Ups and Downs over the years and the various styles and ages of the town's architecture reflects these cycles of growth and stagnation. When the county offices moved to more modern (if less interesting) offices, the original 1905 courthouse was turned into a local arts center with galleries, workshops and a community theater.

History You can Bank On
This is one of my favorite historic Arizona buildings. It was originally built as an office for the Gila Valley Bank and Trust Company in 1909 and still has the heavy bank vault in back. The ornate decorative work on the front is not actually marble or even stone for that matter - but rather ceramic Terra Cotta plates carefully fixed onto an underlying brick structure. Even after a hundred years, the effect is pretty impressive - I am somewhat surprised that the approach was not used more often.

Wigwam with a Door
Another favorite (if vastly different) Globe building is this tee-pee shaped entrance room to the adjoining building which I believe used to be a bar (whatever it was it has long been closed). I have often wondered about the history of this building and what it looked like inside.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign
Like a lot of old western towns from the early 1900s, the walls of downtown buildings often carry painted on advertisements or shop names. You have to be a little careful though... at least one of these three signs is a relatively new addition created for a movie scene.

Globe before Globe
Long before the first copper miners appeared, the Globe area was home to the prehistoric Hohokam people and later the related Salado culture who occupied a large pueblo village on a nearby hilltop from around 1300 to 1450AD. In honor of the local copper mines, the ruins are called 'Besh-Ba-Gowah' which means 'place of metal' in Apache.

House of Stone and Light
The ruins of the Salado village were excavated by Harold and Winifred Gladwin in the 1920s and 30s when they founded the Gila Pueblo Archaeological Foundation to study local prehistoric sites. The ruins were excavated again and partially rebuilt in the 1980s (including this fully restored room). Today the Besh-Ba-Gowah ruins are a museum and archaeological park where visitors can stroll through the various rooms.

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