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Company Store: 1940

Company Store: 1940

Spring 1940. "Store in Bisbee, Arizona. Phelps-Dodge practically owns this town: the copper mines, the principal mercantile company, the hospital and the hotel." Photo by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


Part of Phelps Dodge

The building behind the store in question was also part of Phelps Dodge at least according to the picture posted from the back, you can see the name on the building behind the Kodak lettering. Offices maybe?

[Um, that's not "the building behind the store." That IS the store. Both views are from the front. That's the same sign in both photos. - Dave]

Public transportation war

The building at the end of the street has a "Greyhound" sign on its frontispiece. On the same building there is a board saying: "Next time, try the train and BE SAFE". A message signed by Southern Pacific.

Still There

This page has a recent shot of the Mercantile building. It looks less grand than the 1940 view, but it's still recognizable.

Big Box Story

The big box building was a warehouse for the Phelps Dodge Mercantile. It was built prior to 1917, as it can be seen in photographs from the 1917 I.W.W. strike and subsequent Bisbee Deportation. It survived the 1938 fire that destroyed the previous Phelps Dodge Mercantile, which led to the construction of this new Streamline Moderne building. It was razed sometime between 1951 and 1960 and became a parking lot. Many more photos and information of Bisbee can be found at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum website.

The winner is ... ?

I remember visiting this town in the mid-'70s and thinking how picturesque it looked. Within the space of a few years, however, things grew ugly. As copper prices dropped, Phelps Dodge began cutting its work force, resulting in a harsh, violence-filled strike. The town was literally torn apart by the situation, and many lives affected. At the end, the Company declared it was getting out of the copper business in Arizona, and closed the mine, leaving the town with no viable employment. I remember seeing the news stories at the time - a picture of a now-unemployed miner holding a sign -- "WE WON!" I'm glad the town has had a resurgence of tourism and artist colony.

[The Bisbee mines closed in 1974. The strike you're thinking of was in 1983, 170 miles away at the Phelps-Dodge open pit in Morenci, which is still in operation. Also, probably not "literally" torn apart, unless there was an earthquake or tornado! - Dave]

Yesterday's tomorrows today

The current street view seen in the earlier comment shows why surviving Streamline Moderne buildings need to be painted white as designed. The earth tone craze doesn't suit them at all.

Bisbee Big Box

The Streamline Moderne store (designed by Del Webb in 1939) still stands as a sort of shopping and dining arcade, but the giant building behind it is gone. What was it?

Subway Street?

Think they ever had a subway there?

[The Subway is the drainage channel that goes under the street. Once you get to the store, Subway turns into Tombstone Canyon Road. - Dave]

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