Lowell, Arizona

Submitted to Show Off

Lowell, Arizona. 
Many travelers miss it. People just pass right on by. Not knowing the once booming mining town runs parallel to you as you drive down Arizona Highway 80. 
The Bisbee Breakfast club still operates out of its original building from the late 1800s as well does the boxing gym. 
We did miss it. Even though we specifically went to Lowell to see the famous “Main Street” we still missed it. Tucked away behind some old buildings on highway 80 close to the roundabout, I looked behind us and caught a glimpse of “Erie Street”. The name of the street that the popular once thriving Main Street in Lowell, Arizona is called Erie Street. I got a kick out of it. 

Lowell is a populated place situated in Cochise County, Arizona, United States. It was incorporated into Bisbee in the early 1900s. Lowell has an estimated elevation of 5,075 feet (1,547 m) above sea level.
Originally a residential town, it was later settled by many miners from countries such as Finland, Serbia and Montenegro working in the Lavender Pit located there.
The Lavender Pit is a former open pit copper mine near Bisbee in Cochise County, Arizona, United States. It is located near the famous Copper Queen Mine. The Lavender Pit was named in honor of Harrison M. Lavender (1890–1952), who as Vice-President and General Manager of Phelps Dodge Corporation, conceived and carried out this plan for making the previously unprofitable low-grade copper bearing rock of the area into commercial copper ore.

Phelps Dodge Corporation opened the Lavender Pit in 1950, at the site of the earlier, higher-grade Sacramento Hill mine. By this time, more than half of Lowell was in the path of new development for the massive pit. Ironically, the source of Lowell’s success would also be its demise. The Southern Pacific railroad track into Old Bisbee was abandoned in 1951 and afterward, the railroad terminated in Bakerville.
In the following years, the development of the Lavender Pit involved the area occupied by Lowell and other small suburbs. More than 250 homes and 20 businesses needed to be moved. Residents were offered the option of either receiving the market value for their home, which would then be demolished, or the company would pay to have the structures moved to a new site.
A new subdivision called Saginaw was established to the east of Lowell, and nearly 200 homes were relocated both there and to open spaces between Lowell and Warren. This created the new towns of Bakerville, Saginaw, Galena, and Briggs. By 1957, few were left living in Lowell.

A major relocation of Highway 80 was also required to accommodate the expanding pit. Soon the settlements of Upper Lowell, Jiggerville, and the Johnson Addition were obliterated. Lowell was left stagnated with the highway bypassing it. In 1959, all the local towns were annexed and became the “City of Bisbee.” As the 1950s and 60s progressed, the Lavender Pit became deeper and wider.
Production through 1974 totaled 86 million tons of ore which produced about 600,000 tons of copper, with gold, silver, and turquoise as byproducts. Mining operations in the Lavender Pit ended in 1974. However, the undeveloped Cochise deposit, located immediately to the north of the Lavender pit, contains copper which could be mined in the future. 

Today, the pit covers an area of 300 acres and is 900 feet deep.
Though much of Lowell was lost to the pit, a fragment of Lowell’s commercial district was saved along Erie Street. In fact, it was more than “saved,” the quarter-mile road was preserved and improved to cultivate a vintage peak of an earlier time. For years, business owners, locals, and other enthusiastic individuals have banded together to create a distinctive outdoor museum that showcases the decades of the 1940s through the early 1970s.

This effort called the “Lowell Americana Project” is made up of volunteers who have worked hard in restoring and enhancing the street with colorful hand-painted signs, storefronts, old gas pumps, historic cars and motorcycles, and even an old greyhound bus.
The Lowell Americana Project has garnered national and international media attention and praise for the project’s cultural preservation efforts, making this unique location one of the most photographed streets in the West. It has appeared on magazine and album covers as well as having been utilized as a backdrop for film and video shoots.

With the Junction Shaft head frames towering over downtown Lowell, visitors will see the facades of a restored Gulf Gas Station, an old movie theater, a pool hall, Harley Davidson repair shop, a five-and-dime store, a hat shop, and more. Many displays can be viewed through the windows.
Lowell is perched at the southern end of the dramatic Lavender Pit in southern Bisbee, Arizona.

I bet we could make this old looking town brand new by painting it with Rust-Oleum!

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander Legends of America, Updated June 2023.