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Bisbee, Az.: 1940

Bisbee, Az.: 1940

May 1940. "Side street [Subway Street] of Bisbee, Arizona. Copper mining center." Photo by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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38 Zephyr

I believe the Zephyr is a 1938. The trunk handle is above the license plate. I'm probably wrong, but that's what it looks like.

Ghost Sign

If you go backwards a little on the Google Street View (click the arrow pointing towards you), you can still see white painted lettering above the Bisbee Antiques sign on the brick building towards the left. I believe I can make out the "Gilman" and "Jeweler" shown in the 1940 photo. In fact, the darker brick color seems to appear only where the original painted sign once was.

Back-Alley Ablutions

Subway Street's namesake is the Subway, a large subterranean drainage channel paralleling Main Street. After a series of devastating floods, Bisbee thoroughfares including Subway and Main were reconfigured and paved with concrete to serve as spillways during the monsoon season:

So that's what that area was for!

I just knew it as an unusually wide alleyway behind Main Street, which is well out of frame to the left.

The first storefront on the right beyond the telephone pole now houses (or did in May 2013, when I was there) a little vintage kids toys/antique shop -- picked up a pretty fair stack of western swing 78's there, too.

To the left, the L.L. Gilman Jeweler's building now houses a gigantic antique shop. 3 floors (including basement) packed to the gills with just about any vintage knick knack you'd want if you've got the money. Place still has an intact vault where they keep all the records (yes, I'm a 78rpm record collector).

Also, about 200 feet behind and around 50 feet up a set of steps to the left as you're facing it is the relatively posh Copper Queen Hotel - a 4-story affair that holds the distinction of being the longest continually operating hotel in the state of Arizona (opened 1902).


Holy Moly, a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe parked in front of the jewelers sign. Flathead V12 power!

Updated streetlight

The incandescent streetlight was undoubtedly converted from an arc light, which had to be maintained several times a week.

Likely very old train tracks

I think those tracks are from the original El Paso & SouthWestern (EPSW) rail to Bisbee. The trolley tracks ran along Main Street.

[The EPSW line would not have gone through the business district. Bisbee was served by both a streetcar system, with much trackage re-laid and embedded in concrete in 1920, and the Warren-Bisbee Railway, an interurban trolley with service to the nearby town of Warren. - Dave]

Near 8 Subway St

From research with Bing Maps, I was surmise we are near 8 Subway Street.

It's amazing how many structures are recognizable today. For example, the corner curb steps on the sidewalk are still there.

One interesting detail that seems to be gone is the abandoned RR siding track buried in the street. It would be interesting to know which building(s) had rail service, and why.

Also absent is the quaint streetlight mounted on a pulley-and-rope system so that it can be lowered to change the bulb.

66 years of public service . . . make 100 cigarettes

I was intrigued by what was visible on a distant building, and quickly found the full text of the Bull Durham roll-your-own pitch. They seem to have been counting years starting from around 1860, which means the sign had been there a while when Lee took this photo.

Now (2016) with Air Conditioning

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