Walkable placemaking with outdoor public stairways.
No place in the United States likely has more stairways/steps per capita than Bisbee with an estimated 351 sets. In fact, it is likely that there are more individual stair-steps in the city than residents. Bisbee is a stair climbers dream come true because nearly every part of this amazing city oozes with outdoor stairways. Situated within a narrow canyon, much of Bisbee is built along steep hillsides. During the city’s copper mining boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a vast network of stairways and pathways were established for residents to access their hillside-perched homes. During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) updated many stairways in the city from wood to concrete.
As the only means of access to home, parking took place along city streets situated above or below the residence, while the staircases were used for getting there. This could mean climbing/descending potential hundreds of steps. A number of of the stairways are named for an important feature or street located along the staircase. Names include Bandshell, Laundry, Theatre, Opera, and Maxfield – home of the longest set of stairs with 181 steps.
Stairways are such a part of the community fabric here that every third weekend in October, for more than three decades, the annual Bisbee 1,000 Great Stair Climb has attracted runners, joggers, hikers, stair-climbers, and walkers to the event. The Bisbee 1,000 Great Stair Climb takes participants along nine of the scenic and historic stairways, as well as connecting paths and streets that criss-cross the city. Meanwhile, the former IronMan Ice race was noteworthy as it re-enacted the carrying of 10 pound blocks of ice with tongs from the street level up 155 stair-steps, as was done a century ago. Additional fresh-air fitness events utilizing the stairways are being planned by Bisbee Vogue, Inc..
Last week, my wife and I climbed and/or descended the entire route of the Great Stair Climb. In fact, over our brief visit we hiked our way on nearly 2,000 outdoor stair-steps throughout this charming historic city. Needless to say, following our walks, we partook the local brewpubs and restaurants to relax and reminisce about our stairway travels through town. Imagine what more than 1,200 participants in the Bisbee 1000 Great Stair Climb brings into this city.
problogic, photography, Daniel Day for overview picture.