Ever since I was little, I have always loved bed & breakfasts. There’s something so simultaneously unusual and comfortable about them–the beds decorated with old comforters and outdated floral patterns, the collection of odd relics and one-of-a-kind decor, the home-cooked breakfast, the owners who are usually delightful to talk to and full of stories of guests over the years….all of it. Since I’ve lived in the Southwest, I’ve grown to love the eclectic variety of bed & breakfasts all over the region. However, for today’s piece, I am zooming in on one of my favorite places in Arizona–the rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-artist-community town of Bisbee.
Why Bisbee? For one, though it’s just a hour and a half drive from Tucson and three hours from Phoenix, the little town is steeped in some of the most interesting–and difficult–histories of the 19th century mining boom. Once known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps,” the town fell to ruin in the 1970s as large-scale mining operations became less profitable and the mining fields were mined to capacity. Over the next few years, old miners, artists, and ex-hippies began populating the town, creating an artistic haven for the eclectic, the unusual, and, well, lots and lots of ghosts. (More on that later). But going to Bisbee offers so much more than just the supernatural–it’s a fantastic potpourri of art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, saloons, parks, turn-of-the-century hotels, abandoned mining pits, gorgeous hills, and fresh mountain air.
Without further adieu, then, here are my top choices for overnight stays in Bisbee:
A visit to the artist’s haven of Bisbee, Arizona isn’t complete without a stay at one of the town’s many unusual bed & breakfasts. While you can certainly choose one that’s haunted (and many of them, the locals will tell you, are indeed shared with a motley crew of ghosts–both animal and human), we opted to try out the Calumet, a gorgeous pink adobe-style hacienda (circa 1902) just a few miles from the city center. Bisbee, which at its peak was the largest city , and the Calumet was originally designed by noted Southwest architect Henry C. Trost for the prestigious Joseph E. Curry family. (Mr. Curry was chief clerk for the Calumet & Arizona Mining Company). After his passing, the C&A Company acquired the house and, after altering it to reflect an increasingly wealthy community, used it as their guest house for visiting VIPs. Today, it’s become a historic bed and breakfast full of gorgeous gardens, quiet gazebos, and private bedrooms.
During our stay, we opted for the itty-bitty but cozy Pink Room (#4). If you don’t mind the faces from old family photographs looking at you from all angles of the room or feeling like you’re staying in the bed of a little girl who loves white wicker furniture and trundle beds, this place is perfect for an overnight stay or a romantic rendezvous. (Additionally–and this is a high point on my list–it’s also unbelievable affordable, as the price, which includes a full cooked breakfast in the morning, is a mere $50-$80/night). More expensive rooms, such as the Beige Room (#5) and the Master Room (#6), will run between $80-$110/night. When you go, I highly recommend not sleeping in and missing breakfast (eh-hem) and instead waking up early enough to order something from the house’s menu. Though we missed the cooked-to-order breakfast, the lovely owners had saved us all the muffins, bagels, coffee, and juice we could eat. The full menu, which guests can order from and customize however they wish, offers a range of items such as fresh fruit salad, juice, coffee, tea, milk, bacon, eggs, cottage fries, homemade granola, french toast, broccoli and cheese quiche, crepes , scrambled eggs, and homemade jellies and bread.
The Calumet & Arizona Guest House
608 Powell Street
Bisbee, AZ 85603
To contact Calumet, call (520) 432-4815 or email [email protected] for more information.
Oliver House Bed & Breakfast
But, if you’re going to Bisbee and you do want to mingle with ghosts, you’ve got as many options for accommodations as you do art galleries in the city (and trust me, there are a lot of them). On a different trip to Bisbee, we decided to summon our inner ghosthunters and brave the Oliver House. Built in 1909 by the wife of a local mining mogul, the twelve houses in the home are now available for the public–if you’re ready and willing to brave the horror stories. According to crime reports, 27 people have died in the house since it was built and is supposedly haunted by everything from people who’ve passed to a stray cat who lived outside the house for many years to the original owners of the house. If you’re curious, you can flip through the log book at the reception, where guests over the years have logged their encounters with the non-living residents of the house.
When we visited Oliver House, we spent the night in the Plum Room (baroque mirrors and gaudy Victorian furniture, anyone?). While my fiancee, who is definitely more superstitious than me, was certifiably terrified for almost the entire time, I loved the comfortable king-sized bed, the dark purple walls, and the eerie sink positioned in one nook of the room.
The Plum Room, which is one of the popular ones, runs between $75-$97/night. Their breakfast? A nice selection of muffins, breads, pastries, and waffles. Our ghost verdict? Nothing to report except for that inexplicable squeaky noise in the floorboards in the middle of the night….
Oliver House B&B
P.O. Box 1681
Bisbee, Arizona 85603
This bed and breakfast, which was once a mansion, is very small but very private: with only 3 bedrooms (you can find it listed on VRBO.com), you can potentially rent the entire home for $250/night. Originally built in 1895 for mine manager Spencer Clawson, it was expanded in the 1920s and now occupies over two acres of level and hillside land overlooking downtown Bisbee. Not quite a respite from the ghost lore of the area, the Clawson House, too, has its fair share of horror stories: three miners, Clawson’s wife, and an elderly visitor all met their untimely deaths here on the premises.
During our visit (yes, even with the above knowledge we still decided to take a deep breath and go inside), we stayed in one of the upstairs bedrooms. With a queen-sized bed and a huge clawfoot tub in the shared bathroom, the room–and the view–felt both majestic and nostalgic. According to the specifications of the house, Clawson still retains its original wrap-around porches on three sides, original woodwork and built-in cabinetry, turn-of-the-century floor-to-ceiling French doors, original hardware, and sliding pocket doors. The gardens, too, are simply stunning.
However, do note: visitors have been reporting sightings of dead miners, the original owner’s wife, and one elderly lady roaming around the premises since the early 1900s. Just a friendly note of caution for the potentially superstitious….
116 Clawson Ave.
P.O. Box 1152
Bisbee, Arizona 85603
Article and photographs by Kristin Winet.