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.
There's no denying the cinematic appeal of Globe. Its old downtown is a throwback to the main street that Walt Disney was convinced Americans would want to see in a theme park. Stores beside stores. Houses just up the hill. Architectural details that stun folks raised on strip malls. And the sense that every necessary thing is a short walk away.
"That's one of the first things I rediscovered about this town," says Michael Day, a California transplant who ran unsuccessfully against Franquero in last March's election, and whose parents once lived in Globe. "When I got off the highway and got out of my car, I realized that it was a walking town. It was built as a walking town. The scale of things is wonderful. People lived in this downtown. And they walked to the Old Dominion mine [closed in 1931] to work."
Bob Moffett, who heads the Southern Gila County Economic Development Corporation, says, "It's telling that the people coming from the outside are more sensitive to the historical preservation and feel of the area than those who have lived here all their lives and taken it for granted. I think they want to come back to their roots and preserve those things that were near and dear to their hearts when they were growing up. It's kind of an emotional decision to preserve their past."
Some people say the town's time machine is locked into the 1920s and '30s. Others think it has a 1950s look. But Donna Anderson, a board member of the Historic Globe Main Street, and a former manager of Globe's Chamber of Commerce, says that years ago, when many of the shops on Broad Street were boarded up, "we decided our best bet was simply to do a 1910 Globe. That meant getting the grand style of the period buildings back, as much as we can."
Hollywood embraced that era when it filmed The Great White Hope here in 1970. Last month, moviemakers were back in town filming The Day October Died, a thriller--featuring a serious Tom Arnold--set in a more recent period.
Leaning against the long, sagging bar at the Drift Inn Saloon, a hulking two-story adobe at the low, north end of Broad Street, Bill McAllister, the movie's 63-year-old production designer, says towns like Globe are getting harder to find. A lot of them have gone the way of Sedona, Prescott and Jerome: too gentrified to be useful or authentic as backdrops.
"The script called for a real town," says McAllister, "one that was still working and hadn't lost all of its grit. There are elements of this town that still have the feel of a frontier. The copper mines might be drying up. But places like this," he says, nodding at the old bar and the two young women who own it, "seem to be giving people a new kind of future."
The bar's co-owners, Lisa Brazil and Eileen Townsend, came to Globe from Washington, D.C., less than a year ago. Like other new merchants in town, they sought to open a business somewhere beyond the suburbs. They scoured small towns in the East. Then they covered the West. Brazil says they wanted an affordable place with some character. And Globe scored on both counts. The 12,000-square-foot saloon cost about $125,000.
"We looked at Superior and I loved the old downtown there," says Townsend. "It has a lot of potential. But you just don't feel any life there. Here you can feel it."
"I think some of the older customers were a little concerned about these girls coming in from Washington," says Shirley Woods, who managed the bar for the previous owner and has continued to tend it. "They were worried that there might be too many changes. But they just want to bring out some of the beauty that's gotten covered up."
Brazil and Townsend say they don't expect the old biker bar to become a fern bar anytime soon. With a recent emergency Heritage Fund grant, they'll be able to fix the bar's sagging, probably rotted floor. But beyond that, the "girls," as everyone in town calls them, expect the restoration--the upstairs has been abandoned for years--to proceed, in Brazil's words, "one Budweiser at a time."
Next door, where Lisa Manzano and Jon Stahlnecker, who came to Globe in the early 1980s, are renovating another vintage storefront and brothel, the story is much the same. And up the hill on Broad Street, Mark and Candy Schermerhorn, recent transplants from the Valley, are converting the old J.C. Penney building--originally the Old Dominion Commercial Company--into a barbecue and brew pub.
Like Brazil and Townsend, the Schermerhorns had been looking for the right location for a couple of years before settling in Globe. They wanted a historic building, in an old downtown, not far from a major city. Globe had all of those things, at about a third the cost of a Prescott or another, more established tourist town.
"The thing that struck me about Globe," says Candy, "was there wasn't this prevalent small-town attitude here that says, well, you weren't born and raised here, therefore you can never succeed in a business here. It was possible to come up here and get to work."
But that doesn't mean the improvements have put smiles on everyone's face. When Sarah Day boasts that the Gila Valley Bank and Trust Company building she and her husband, Michael, restored as a boutique is their "gift to the city," some lifelong residents confide they see it another way. Impressive as the Days' and other restorations on Broad Street are, many Globers fear their downtown isn't being reborn for them. It's coming back for tourists--outsiders.
Maybe that explains the city's official nonchalance in the case of the now-extinct former stagecoach depot, the Enders building. The city ignored its own HP ordinance, requiring that the historic commission publicly review proposed changes to that or any building in the downtown historic district. City officials say they had little choice, because the commission wasn't active. "I don't know what we would have saved it [the Enders property] for anyway," says city inspector Joe Carrillo, who's responsible for enforcing the ordinance. "There wasn't anything there really worth saving." Carrillo says it was common knowledge the building was coming down.
But many downtowners disagree.
"I had called over to the city and asked them what was happening with the house," says Carolyn Beydler, a lifelong Glober, downtown merchant and member of the newly reconstituted historic preservation advisory commission, which was sworn in last week. "Last I heard was they were looking into preserving it. Then I came to work one morning and here was half the house sitting in a front-end loader."
Bill Long, a well-known real estate agent whose family has been in Globe since the 1870s, says he had much the same impression: "I wasn't worried about it, because I just couldn't believe they were going to bulldoze it without at least having some kind of a hearing."
However, that's exactly what the city did.
Franquero concedes the city council never discussed the demolition in public, and made its decision to clear the property at an executive session closed to the public.
"Rather than create a real rhubarb over whether to save it or demolish it," says former Councilman Stan Gibson, "I just went along with the rest of the council. Maybe it was a mistake. But we evaluated it for two or three months before deciding to tear it down."
Gibson says he mentioned the impending demolition to Robert Frankeberger, the SHPO architect who had conceived the historic preservation workshop for Globe and had come to town to help conduct it.
"I talked to him about it," Gibson recalls, "because I thought if somebody from the state SHPO talked with some of the other city officials, they might have looked at it differently."
Frankeberger and SHPO's head, James Garrison, say Gibson pointed out the building during a tour of downtown. "The building wasn't in the best of shape," recalls Garrison, who is known throughout the Southwest as an authority on adobe buildings. "At the same time, the adobe structure itself appeared to me to be something you could work with. It wasn't so structurally unsound that imminent demolition was required." Garrison says town officials never asked him to formally examine the building. However, his take was its restoration wouldn't have cost anywhere close to the $100,000 and $150,000 estimated by various city officials.
"There are times when I come in contact with people who really can't explain the actions they've taken," he says mildly. "And they come up with what I'd put on the side of irrational explanations, like: It's going to cost way too much money to restore that little building. Well, I know that's not true.
"Adobe is mud. And the adobe was probably right there on the ground beside the building. You don't even lose the material at the site. It's just sitting there. They could have melted it down, mixed it up and patched the building."
Town preservationists say city officials should know those basic adobe facts by now. Since the 1980s, Globe has been developing the Besh-Ba-Gowah archaeological park, an adobe and stone Salado Indian ruin about a mile and a half from downtown, into a tourist attraction. Since 1994, the city has spent more than $500,000 on a visitors' center and other improvements there.
Garrison says the city--despite Stratton's claim to the contrary--easily could have secured an emergency grant from the state's Heritage Fund similar to the $9,000 one it received to help restore the old drugstore on Broad Street. But city officials never asked.
A few days after the preservation workshop, Frankeberger called Stratton and told him the city at least should postpone the demolition until measured drawings and photographs could be made of the building.
Stratton followed his advice. But the resulting drawing and snapshots don't reveal nearly as much about the building as this year's city-issued calendar does. The featured photo for January shows the town in 1880. The old stagecoach station appears amid the cluster of buldings as a small, squarish structure with a flat-roofed front room and slant-roofed rear.
"It wasn't a county courthouse or a church, or necessarily a spectacular piece of architecture," says Garrison. "What you had was a rare example of a once-common type. And it just may have been the oldest building in the community--certainly a symbol of the community's origins." Local preservationists say the Enders incident wasn't the first time the city lost some of its downtown heritage. Fires have claimed numerous distinctive buildings over the years. And old-timers recall that in the 1950s, when the Arizona Department of Transportation widened Broad Street to accommodate growing truck traffic, the facades on three blocks of storefronts on the eastern side of the street, from about Mesquite Street to Yuma Street, were sheared back by some 14 feet.
Bill Haak, a town historian, says some of the buildings were torn down. Others had modern glass fronts applied. "The irony," he says, "is that within 10 years or so, the highway folks built a bypass, so the traffic didn't have to go through downtown anymore."
Preservationists say the losses haven't done much to increase the city's diligence about preserving what architectural historians and others consider one of the state's richest concentrations of historic downtown buildings. Reyna Barela, who managed Globe's Main Street program from 1987 to 1995 and now manages the Main Street program in Apache Junction, says past Globe city officials simply haven't appreciated the architectural trove the town has.
"There's no question that their historic heritage and fabric is probably one of the best in the state. But when I was there, they were just plain negligent about it. There's no other word for it. I think their attitude was: If somebody wants to come in and fix up a building, fine, but don't come to us for help."
Franquero and other city officials say no one loves the town's old buildings more than they do. In addition to its restoration of the Amster building, the city, Franquero says, plans to purchase and restore the old downtown railroad depot, and has established a new historic preservation commission.
Barela and others point out that initially, although the historic commission was supposed to be a city responsibility, no one at the city was willing to embrace it.
"I was the only one who kept the file--essentially doing the city's job for them--because I knew the importance and relevance of keeping the commission functioning," she says.
Having a historical commission is required for a city to qualify as a state-certified local government (CLG). The CLG designation, which Globe received in 1986, allows municipalities to apply for state and federal preservation grants.
State records show that, compared with other small Arizona towns, Globe has sought and received relatively few HP grants over the years. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Barela and the state historic preservation office repeatedly warned Globe officials that they were jeopardizing the town's CLG status by failing to keep an active commission.
Globe's early troubles were typical of many rural towns with similar commissions: They had difficulty mustering enough Globe resident/volunteers with the state-required expertise in architecture, history, archaeology, real estate and related fields. These criteria never fail to arouse small-town concerns about ceding local authority to a bunch of outside eggheads. But Frankeberger says small towns are commonly able to find the help they need among the staff of nearby museums, universities or junior colleges.
Barela and the state historic preservation office also suggested that Globe loosen its HP ordinance to allow non-Globe residents to serve on the commission.
But Barela and others complain that the city failed to follow through.
"They wouldn't officially appoint a commission, then they would," she says. "And whenever we'd lose commissioners, the city would take six months to replace them."
When I recently asked to see the city's historic-commission file, no one at the city could find it. Carrillo says the Main Street program was responsible for the file and kept it at its office. But Connie Teague, chair of the new historic preservation advisory commission and manager of Historic Globe Main Street, a locally funded offshoot of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street program, says she turned the file over to the city two years ago.
Critics say the city's confusion or indifference about its preservation role has left its downtown historic district vulnerable to quick decisions. Over the years, Globe has razed buildings in its historic downtown without consulting the commission. Around 1993, it permitted metal storage sheds to be built on an empty lot in the historic district, ignoring recommendations for design changes from the then-active historic commission. And last year, preservationists say, it tore down some old bungalows in the downtown.
"All they needed really was some TLC," says Sarah Day, who moved here around 1990. "They were Craftsman-style bungalows. And just like the Enders building, the next thing you know the city's out there with a front-end loader, smashing them in."
Mayor Franquero and other city officials say the only thing the bungalows shared with the Enders property was a dilapidation that made them uninhabitable fire hazards.
Michael Day says the fate of the bungalows was set "five or six years ago when the city let those metal storage sheds go in.
"I stood up then and told the council that this is the way the town gets seedy. This is the way people get the impression that it's not a good place to live, or a place that really cares about itself. But this town is going to turn around in spite of what the city has done."
Preservationists say that reversal began with the elections last March. For the first time in recent memory, all of the town's elected officials were challenged. Franquero, a six-year incumbent, defeated Day. However, four of the six councilmembers were unseated.
The revolution didn't end there.
Last month, the new council forced the resignation of the town's manager, Steve Stratton, and briefly considered asking building inspector Carrillo to step down. Downtown preservationists say that historic preservation probably wasn't much of a campaign issue outside the downtown area. Yet they say the city's failure to protect its heritage reflected what many voters saw as its broader failure to protect the town's basic interests.
"I think the main thing was people felt Globe was being run by people who were doing too many favors for friends and kind of interfering with people who happened to disagree with them," says Ricardo Lucero, who in January began a newsletter lampooning city council proceedings.
Lucero was born in Globe, and spent much of his life teaching in the Valley before retiring to his hometown a few years ago. Some current and former city officials dismiss Lucero's newsletter as "yellow sheet journalism." But some downtowners say his muckraking was generally on the money.
"He was extremely accurate," says Connie Teague. "He basically pointed out that the benefit of the community was taking a back seat to good-ol'-boy politics and the personal desires of those in power.
"What he brought out was how damned absurd it was that our city government was getting away with the crap they were getting away with. It kind of left everybody thinking: These guys don't really need to be in there."
Those loud complaints haven't given Franquero and other city officials much incentive to snuggle up to downtown's old buildings. But even in the best of recent times, the city's attention has been elsewhere.
Like a lot of small towns bypassed by state roads, Globe has been looking to the highway for a future. That's where most of its sales tax revenues come from. And that highlights the dilemma confronting all burgeoning efforts to preserve and awaken old downtowns.
When the bulk of downtown business moved in the 1980s from the mom-and-pop stores on Broad Street to the Wal-Mart and other chain stores out on Route 60, the community and its affections largely went with it. Unlike Flagstaff, Prescott and other towns that have blazed a lucrative trail from old buildings to new money, Globe's downtown hasn't regained its heart. The buildings are pretty, but the people aren't there.
"That's a fact," says newsletter publisher Lucero. "If you want to meet someone you know, you don't go downtown. That's for tourists. You go out to Wal-Mart. That's where you find everyone you know."
So for some old-timers, downtown Globe is just as likely to seem a place of loss as of hope.
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"Before, when you went to town," says Councilmember Ernie Lopez, "you'd see that guy you went to school with, or his dad or his grandmother. Now these people come from out of town and you don't even know who they are." He says outsiders aren't an issue in Globe. They're a fact.
"And the really sad part is that aunt of yours and mine that had the little store downtown where you could get your tennies and sporting goods and stuff isn't there any longer. There's a lady from Milwaukee and New Mexico in there. They don't know who I am. And I've been on the council here for 16, 18 years. I'll bet you I could walk in there right now and put a $20 bill in their pocket and no one'll know who I am."
Contact Edward Lebow at his online address: email@example.com