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Tombstone - Arizona

The Town Too Tough to Die

 

Tombstone was, without doubt, one of the most lawless mining camps in the American West. From this one-time city of 10,000 -- miners, merchants, floozies, cowboys and rustlers, itinerant thugs, saloon keepers and, in general, a lot of just plain unsavory people -- the controversial legend of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and tales of numerous other deaths by misadventure (some apocryphal) have developed over the past 110 years.

It all began rather calmly when, in 1877, silver was discovered in large quantities by prospector Ed Schiefflin. By 1879 it had become a town and was named by Schiefflin when a friend commented that "the only thing you'll find out there will be your own tombstone."

Tombstone History

Millions of dollars worth of silver were extracted each year, but within a decade it was all over -- at least the mining was finished. Cattle ranching kept the town going but the population dwindled and most of the buildings decayed. But in the mid-1900s, tourists discovered the one-time home of the Earps and Clantons. Historic buildings were repaired and restored. Boot Hill, the first cemetery to be so named, became a top attraction and the famed shootout was re-enacted to thrill visitors.

The town is now a prime attraction on anybody's tour of southeastern Arizona, with saloons and distinctive restaurants. The old courthouse has become a museum of Wild West history and the whole town has been designated a national historic landmark.

How to Get There

Tombstone is 70 miles southeast of Tucson, and is easily reached via Interstate 10 to Benson and then south from Benson on Arizona Route 80.

What to See and Do

Boot Hill Graveyard is a must. The cemetery holds the graves of many of Tombstone's bad men, as well as most of the early settlers of the mining camp. Most of the historic buildings are along the boardwalks that line Allen Street, one block west of the highway. Gunfights and barroom brawls are staged along Allen Street on several Sundays each month. The Bird Cage Theater, from 1881 the home of bawdy entertainment -- a dance hall, saloon, theater, brothel and gambling house -- has no performances today but is open for tours. Bullet holes score the theater's old walls.

The Crystal Palace Saloon is an 1879 watering hole and gambling den that has been faithfully restored; the long back-bar is not the original but a fine replica. The saloon is open daily for drinking and eating, with entertainment on weekends.

O.K. Corral and Historama provides a 30-minute presentation which re-creates Tombstone's early years with films and animated figures on a revolving stage. Next door to the Historama is the corral where it is said the legendary gunfight between the Earp and Clanton brothers and Doc Holliday took place (it didn't). The fight actually took place on what is now a vacant lot near the corral on Fremont St. There are life-sized figures that portray the five men (three dead and two wounded) during the gunfight. Nearby there are several other historic buildings including the photographic studio of C. S. Fly, which has a showing of historic photos. An admission fee is charged for these attractions.

An old 1880s home is now the Rose Tree Inn Museum. In the courtyard is a rose tree more than 100 years old -- reputed to be the world's largest. Covering a huge arbor (8,000 square feet) the old rose plant blooms each April.

A large brick structure at the corner of Toughnut and Third Streets, the Tombstone Courthouse was built in 1882. It's now a state historic park and museum filled with artifacts and photographs of the 1880s. The town gallows is on display in the courtyard, and the gift shop is the best place in town to buy books on the history of the town and region. You can visit the old offices of the Tombstone Epitaph -- now a museum -- to see how pioneer newspapers were produced and purchase a souvenir copy of the second-oldest continuously published paper in Arizona.

The Silver Nugget Museum is another commercial museum, commemorating a gambling den and brothel that has been restored and is replete with authentic Victorian furnishings.

In addition to these attractions, there are period restaurants, souvenir stores, and an tour of the Good Enough Silver Mine under Tombstone's streets, entered through a mining museum and gift shop.

Tombstone Restaurants

Among the dozen or so eating places in town are several saloons on Allen Street, serving pub basics. On the other hand, you might try the following places that serve more than saloon fare.

Nellie Cashman Restaurant
Located on a side street -- at the corner of Fifth and Toughnut -- this restaurant has a historical theme (historical photos of Tombstone on the walls) and serves from a large menu which includes Italian dishes, steaks, seafood, and several varieties of burgers, plus sandwishes, vegetarian dishes, homemade pies, and more. The historic adobe building survived the fires of the 1880s, mainly because of the 18-inch walls. It's open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during winter monthss, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer (open 365 days a year). For information and reservationss, call (520) 457-2212.

Vogan's Alley Bar (on Allen, two doors west of 5th) serves good burgers and beer, with "breakfast" served on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight until 2 am.

The Longhorn, on the corner of Allen and 5th, is a popular place with locals, serving normal American food in a slightly rustic setting.

Don Teodoro's serves Mexican dishes for lunch and dinner, with brunch on weekends.

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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Benson Arizona

Best Western Lookout Lodge
Hwy. 80
Most local accommodations are older, small motels. Overlooking the Dragoon Mountains to the east, this Best Western operation is the most modern place to stay in Tombstone. It has been recently renovated and has a heated pool. Complimentary continental breakfast is served ($ to $$). Reservations are available for this and other accommodations in Tombstone through our reservations system.

Tombstone Motel
9th Street at Fremont
(520) 457-3478
Located at the corner of 5th and Fremont, the motel has recently been remodeled, plus adding rooms, with a total of 38 rooms, plus a small convention center. There is an expanded continental breakfast every morning.

Larian Motel
410 Fremont St. (Hwy. 80)
520) 457-2272
Located close to everything of an historic nature, the Larian offers large, comfortable rooms, at very reasonable rates. Gordon Anderson is the host, and the motel provides air-conditioned rooms, in-room coffee and special discounts for attractions and dining. Dining places and Tombstone saloons are nearby. ($)

Marie's Engaging Bed and Breakfast
101 North 4th Street (Fourth & Saffrord)
(877) 457-3831
This fascinating B&B is an original 4-room adobe structure, built by John Rock, a store owner from the late 1800s. The inn is named for Marie Dietrich, who later lived in the home. This is an original 4-room 1906 Victorian adobe home, with 2 bedrooms and a 4-person suite. The home has a Victorian parlor, Dish TV, A/C, a courtyard, 2 fish ponds, and full breakfast is provided. No pets. One block from Historic District Tombstone beginning with Schieffelin Hall.

 

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