Putting Globe on the Map

As the gritty old mining town tries to broaden its economic base, residents debate how much of its future lies in its past

All week long, people had been telling me upbeat things about Globe. What a small, welcoming and crimeless community it is--congenial to families, kids, retirees and everyone in between. How cool the summer air is in the evenings. How close it is to other worlds. The San Carlos Apache Reservation, casinos and all, is right up the road. Tucson and the White Mountains are an hour and a half away, Phoenix even less.

When you pull off the Highway 60 bypass onto Broad Street, Globe's historic downtown of small streets, slant parking and attached stores and buildings--built before automobiles began designing American towns--casts a how-dee-do spell powerful enough to lure even the most dedicated suburbanite out of the car for a stroll.

But, for the moment at least, Globe's mayor, Dave Franquero, isn't exactly feeling the bliss. He says he doesn't want to talk to any reporters unless they're local. And he sure doesn't want to talk politics.

"I don't want to get in the middle of anything. We got enough problems up here right now."

Some of them are the same old mining ones. Copper prices are low. The nearby BHP Pinto Valley mine recently laid off some 450 miners. And the Cyprus mine in neighboring Miami is also talking layoffs. Severance packages have delayed the blow of the layoffs until sometime in the fall. Franquero fears that when the money drys up, Globe and its poorer neighbor Miami could find themselves dangling again over the hole that mining has periodically left in the region's economy.

Franquero's other problems are new.
Like other old mining towns around the state and West, Globe is being Bisbeed. Outsiders are moving into this small seat of Gila County 80 miles east of Phoenix. And they're making a mark that old-timers both love and hate.

After a decade of stagnation and decline, the town's population has jumped in the past eight years from about 6,000 to more than 7,700. Boards have come off long-abandoned storefronts along Broad Street. The old downtown is threatening to fill up with galleries, brew pubs, coffee bars and antique shops. And the nagging view that Globe is good only for mining is giving way to an inkling that Globe might be good for tourism and just about anything that tomorrow's decentralized, digital economy can fit into small-town spaces.

This is hardly a Globe phenomenon. The 1990s have brought an unparalleled renaissance to American small towns. U.S. Census figures show a dramatic reversal of the rural-to-city flow that emptied small towns in the 1980s. Often, what many newcomers rediscover about towns that seemed to hold no future 10 years ago is the rich character of their architectural past. In Globe, as elsewhere, historic preservation (HP) has evolved from a quaint pastime into a political issue that can worry just about any elected body. It has pitted some city officials against an increasingly vocal contingent of downtowners. It has divided those who unconsciously view the town's old buildings as symbols of decline from those who see them as tools for renewal. Yet it's also stirred debate about what kind of identity this emphatically blue-collar perch in the Pinal Mountains will have in the future.

A clear watershed was the city's demolition last winter of an old adobe building thought to have been the town's original stagecoach way station. The city-owned building, which was known as the Enders house and sat on a lot beside city hall, was cleared to make way for an employee parking lot.

According to Mayor Franquero, the city initially considered moving its planning and zoning offices into the building. But after studying the old adobe, he says, "We found that it was unsafe--that it just wasn't refurbishable." The building had undergone a number of changes since its stagecoach days. Several rooms had been added to the original structure and, in a gesture to post-War suburbanism, it had been clad with clapboard-style siding.

"Once we pulled the siding off to see if we could restore it," says Globe's building inspector, Joe Carrillo, "it was nearly impossible to try to salvage the adobe." Carrillo says the structural beams in the small building had shifted, opening cracks in the walls.

Globe's former manager Steve Stratton recalls that "the adobe was just crumbling and powdering. There was just no way the city had enough money or could get enough grant money to restore it."

Carrillo says the preservation tab could have run as high as $150,000. The demolition came on the heels of a historic preservation workshop the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) had held in Globe. The workshop was intended to help local officials see the link between preservation and planning, and put the two to work in the historic downtown.

For many downtowners, the Enders incident simply proved what many consider the city's long-standing indifference to downtown's heritage and potential. City officials say their ongoing restoration of the city-owned Amster Building, a 1909 Georgian-revival drugstore on Broad Street, shows just how committed they are to preservation.

But since the adoption of its historic preservation ordinance, in 1986, the city's HP track record has been unimpressive. Contrary to the ordinance's requirements, the city frequently failed to involve its historic preservation advisory commission in decisions affecting Globe's historic downtown district. When the commission was brought to the table, the city routinely ignored its advice. And when members resigned out of frustration, in the early 1990s, the city essentially let the commission die.

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