Friday, September 26, 2014

Escaping the heat in Bisbee

This is a long 'un.

We've landed in Tucson for a while, waiting for our next stop to commit the funds to pay for a place for us to plug in. It's hot here. Good golly, it's hot. 104° the other day, and I don't care how dry it is, which it's not, 104 is hot.

We escaped to Bisbee, southeast of Tucson, yesterday. Bisbee is at about 5200' and the Weather Channel said the high was supposed to be in the upper 70s, which sounded perfect. It turned out to be too good to be true because it topped out at over 85. I suppose that's better than 104 but a promise is a promise.

Bisbee started as a copper mine town. The Lavender Pit, named for Harrison Lavender, vice president and general manager of Phelps Dodge Corporation, was an open pit mine and was developed over three phases beginning with initial blasting in 1917 to a depletion of usable ore in the 1970s. Its size is monumental: 4000' by 5000' and 850' deep. It produced 8 billion pounds of copper over its life.

The site is fenced and railed, but the view is wide. The size of the terraces or benches cut into the hillside is deceiving. I had to go back to the information sign to make sure I'd read it right. The 50' high benches were created by drilling into the earth, then filling the holes with explosives, which broke up a layer of rock. The rock was shoveled and carried away in the early days via steam shovels and ore cars on railway tracks. In later days electric shovels and trucks were used. Ore went to the crushers, waste rock was hauled away.

A closer view shows water running into the pit which, like the benches, is deceiving in size, but the volume was such that I could hear it running all the way at the top.

 The colors are really beautiful, all attributed to different minerals.

These buckets and ore cars are at the entrance to the parking area. Bisbee seems to be gardening heaven and I thought how much nicer the display could be with a little money and time.

Also in the parking area is a World War 2 memorial to the veterans of Bisbee in general and to Art Benko, a turret gunner, in particular. He was awarded a Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, two Purple Hearts, and in 2009 the Silver Star. He shot down 16 planes in eight months, and despite being wounded in another air battle in 1943, seven confirmed Japanese Zeroes. His plane was shot down in that battle and he was never seen again.

We then wandered into town on the wrong day of the week. Many of the stores and restaurants are closed mid-week so we did a lot of window-peeping. On the other hand, it's a good money-saving tactic.

One place that was open was a really nice antique store. There's often a fine line between antiques and junk, but this one stayed on the right side of the line. I'm a sucker for kitchen gadgets and this place had plenty. It had two very cute nut grinders, which I didn't get pictures of. One had a little hopper on top that the nuts were fed into. Turn the handle and the chopped product lands in the glass container underneath.

Another item I coveted was this ice cream scoop with its unique spring-loaded release tab on a separate arm. I've never seen one like it. At $28 it continues to take up space on the shelf.

Another new item to me is this mayonnaise maker. All those new-fangled fancy gadgets, taking all the work out of homemaking. $18 for this piece and it, too, is still in the store.

A section of the store held new goods like these towels, which I loved because they're Pinterest-worthy, but no sale here either.

We asked about a good place for lunch and walked over to the Farmers' Market, which is not a farmers' market but is a café named for one. It was all right but not much worth writing about.

Across the street from the café is a memorial. Go ahead and read the plaque; just the first four lines are enough.

Now take a look at the statue that marks the memorial. Is this a hoot or what? It's quite tall and this photo shows only the top, but it's really all you need to see.

Bisbee has an annual event called the 1,000 stair climb, a race or some other masochistic activity. The stairs aren't in one rise but are in sections all over town. I think people pay money to participate.

The pièce de resistance was the Catholic church that stands almost shoulder to shoulder with the virile copper miner.

Construction of St. Patrick began in 1915 on land donated by Thomas Higgins, a mine owner who held deed to all the land in the area still called Higgins Hill. His only stipulation was that the church face the mountains and his mine. 

Like any building project the money allocated, $40,000, was not enough so parishioners authorized a debt of $150,000. They began excavating the land, the men working another four hours on top of their shifts in the mine. Terra cotta came from California, slate roof tiles from Vermont, and the stained glass windows from St. Louis. The church was consecrated in 1917. There was also a school next to and predating the church, which closed in 1974 when the mine closed and financial support disappeared.

These are some of the most beautiful windows I've come across, but I think I say that about most of them. Emil Frei was the creator; the name is familiar to me and I've hunted through some of my other churches, looking for his name, but I haven't been diligent about recording the artist. According to the company's website (yes, they're still in business!), they also did windows for National Cathedral and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in D.C., and I have photos from there. I see they also have windows at the Basilica in Phoenix, so I feel a road trip coming on.

I'm going to run them all out below. If you're bored with this kind of thing, skip it, but I think they're worth a look.

 In the choir loft.

The Gothic altar is made of wood but painted to mimic marble. On the base of the altar is stamped "Rigallico, the hardest composition ever made," which presumably refers to the coating on the wood.

These window pairs lined the lower part of the wall. Each one has a window at the bottom that opens by tilting outward. They were all open when we got to the church, so I closed them one by one to take the photo, then went back to open them again.

The main altar is 30' tall and bears a copyright notice dated 1916 (which makes it legally in the public domain now); the maker is the Daprato Statuary Company of Chicago and New York, and is no longer in business.

Good atmospheric lighting.

Side altar to the left of the main.

Side altar to the right.

 There were two of these, one on each side, in the choir loft.

I was happy to learn that the church is on the National Register, and happy that I could access the choir loft to get this shot. Usually the stairs are locked but there wasn't an organ up there, so that may be why it was open.

I'm indebted to the parish for producing an informative and interesting booklet that describes the windows and other features of the church. 

Thought of the day:

One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. - Henry Miller