Central School vital to Bisbee, in the past and now

Central School

Central School, bottom center with bell tower, back when it was an operating elementary school.

A part of Bisbee’s Backstory

Central School, opened in 1905, was the first school in the district paid for by the public. Before that, dating back to 1883, the school buildings were built by the local mining companies, but by the opening of the 20th century, the firms were of the belief that the community could be self-supporting in terms of infrastructure.

Bisbee had become an incorporated city in 1902, with no small amount of prodding by the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Co., and residents had to start getting used to taxes, license fees, bonds and the like. It wasn’t always easy, despite the fact that local miners were among the best-paid blue-collar workers in the nation. After all, the vice economy was running strong as well, and workers with families weren’t in the majority.

But for Central School, a bond issue was set out to build a K-12 facility at the site of the existing cobbled-together facility. The day of the election, the kids were given the day off, and they canvassed the town, encouraging citizens to vote.

The city was growing, the number of families was growing and so was the school-age population. Within a decade, Bisbee decided it needed its own high school (10th-12th grades at that time), and by 1914, Central had become an elementary school, which it remained until the 1960s, when it closed. It was used for a while by a very successful organization that took care of the needs of the community’s developmentally disabled, than later was purchased from the school district by an artist cooperative.

Today, the building is still on the forefront of making history, serving many of the city’s artists as a place for studios and events. Central School Project is making its way in the city, keeping the building up to par and offering locals and visitors alike a great place to enjoy the arts.


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