Architect’s Perspective: Globe: Where Copper Was King
by Doug Sydnor, FAIA
The mining town of Globe, Arizona, has a notorious early history of saloons, gambling halls, brothels, murders, stagecoach robberies, lynchings, and Apache raids. But the city emerged from this frontier era to produce some impressive architectural buildings.
1906 Gila Courthouse
The story of the community began in 1875 when prospectors discovered silver near what would become Globe. There was more copper in the area, however, which led to the founding of the town in 1876. The community became the county seat for Gila County in 1881 and was linked by a stagecoach line to Silver City, New Mexico. Still, due to its isolation, Globe remained a rough-and-tumble frontier town into the late 1800s.
The Old Dominion Copper Company, incorporated in 1880, became the area’s major copper producer. Lewisohn Brothers of New York purchased the company in 1894. Four years later, the arrival of the railroad dramatically lowered shipping costs for equipment and supplies. In 1904 Phelps Dodge acquired the company and expanded mining operations.
World War I increased demand for copper, and Globe prospered. However, copper prices subsequently dropped, which along with declining ore grades and periodic underground flooding, led to temporary closure of the mine during the 1921-22 recession. The closure became permanent in 1931, and 10 years later, Miami Copper Company bought the mine to serve as a water supply for the area.
The Globe Downtown Historic District encompasses a significant group of commercial, civic, religious, and governmental buildings that define the community as the economic and political center of Gila County. The District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. There are 29 contributing structures and 11 noncontributing elements along Broad Street between Cedar and Tebbs streets, including the following buildings:
The Gila County Courthouse at 101 North Broad Street, built from 1906-07, is the landmark building in Globe because of its sheer massiveness. The building consists of locally quarried dacite, which provides a heavy texture that plays in the bright Arizona sun. The front elevation is Italian Renaissance styled and with a symmetrical composition of projected pilasters capped with a deep fascia. The windows are of various shapes and sizes to animate the façade, and the deeply recessed main entry is at the top of the rising staircase. The architect was W.R. Horton of Phoenix, who also helped design the Carnegie Public Library in Phoenix in 1908. The Courthouse now houses the Cobre Valley Center of the Arts.
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This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, Nov/Dec 2021 issue, Vol. 10, No. 6.