Staircases in Bisbee became prevalent for a number of reasons and they evolved over time. First, miners built old-town Bisbee in a valley in the Mule Mountains. The only way to accommodate the many workers who came to the town to work in the mines was to build onto the surrounding hillsides. Second, workers built houses close together so paths and alleys were necessary. To reach these houses from the streets at the bottom of the valley residents built dirt paths; however these paths became slippery and they flooded during storms. After a couple years residents replaced these paths with wooden stairways and concrete sidewalks. During the Great Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) paved dirt roads and replaces wooden stairs with concrete. Many of the stairs have the stamp "WPA/ USA" still inscribed.
Today, Bisbee still has its historical structures and newer development has not wiped out its charm. As a result, the best way to see Bisbee is to wonder and explore its alleys and stairs. With over 351 staircases in Bisbee of varying length the possibilities for a wanderer are endless. Time has not been kind to some of these stairs and some of them are crumbling and in disrepair. The annual Bisbee 1000 or Great Bisbee Stair Climb, raises money to maintain and repair this heritage. This is a 4.5 mile run that includes nine sets of stairs. However, many residents claim the funds raised for preservation have been mis-managed and have not been used to rebuild some of the stairs. This ongoing battle has led to contentious editorials and articles in the local paper. (Information from The Bisbee Stairs by David Ryan). I have included some of my favorite photos from my limited time spent exploring over the holidays.