Arizona September 07, 2015
8 Historic Towns In Arizona That Will Transport You To The Past
When I was in grade school I loved learning about life in different eras, which probably explains why I read the entire American Girls Collection as my first foray into chapter books. The blend of reality, drama, and, in my eight-year-old brain, the different clothing styles were fascinating and incredibly different from my suburban upbringing. In fact, I still enjoy “witnessing” history through movies, novels, and an old collection of PBS and BBC shows that document life in past eras.
Since I will probably never live to see a working time machine, the next best experience is visiting historical places and towns that are well-preserved and may even feature re-enactments that attempt to bring past life into the streets.
Founded in 1880 as a metals mining community, Bisbee is a beautiful example of preservation done right. The walkable town has a number of historic buildings still standing, such as the Copper Queen Hotel (1902) and the Phelps Dodge General Office Building (1895), which now serves as a mining history museum.
2. Castle Dome
First settled as a mining camp in 1863 after silver and gold were discovered in the area, Castle Dome suffered two different instances of ghost town status: once in 1876 and again in 1884. The town, located north of Yuma, has become a tourist site and museum for mining history with preserved and reconstructed buildings of what the town may have looked like in its heyday.
Now a ghost town, this place experienced a brief life as a mining town from about 1892 to 1898 after gold was discovered in the area. Once the gold was stripped from the site, miners moved away and the local post office closed in 1898, leaving only some weathered buildings in their wake. Today, it serves as a ghost town tourist attraction.
This town was founded in 1876 as a copper mining camp. Designated a historic landmark in 1967, you can walk down the streets for a taste of small town life and wonder about its past. A number of walking tours will provide you with in-depth knowledge of Jerome’s historic, and possibly haunted, mining past.
Another former mining town from Arizona’s frontier past, this ghost town has seen new life as a tourist attraction and feels very much alive. Many of the town’s original buildings remain, most notably the Oatman Hotel which was one of the honeymoon locations for actors Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
6. Old Oraibi
This village is located within the Hopi Reservation on Third Mesa and is considered the oldest settlement still in use in the United States by anthropologists. The village was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a Historic Place two years later. Culturally, this village has focused on maintaining and protecting traditional Hopi lifeways, as opposed to its neighbor Kyokotsmovi which is more lenient towards modern culture. This and the desire for privacy is why you will not find many recent pictures of the town.
7. Pioneer Living History Museum, Phoenix
This may not be an actual town but it certainly mimics one well and visiting the village atmosphere will give you an impression of the Old West. It features a number of historic and reconstructed buildings, like a schoolhouse and a Victorian home, plus plenty of actors playing character roles from the late 19th century.
This famous town sees quite a bit of tourist traffic because of its notorious contribution towards Arizona’s history. The town received its national historic status in 1961 for its incredible preservation as a frontier town. The main attraction here is Allen Street, which features a mix of still-standing 19th century buildings and reconstructions. When you visit, you will also encounter plenty of re-enactments to get you in the Old West mood.
Have you visited any of these places? What impressions did they leave you?