Designed by the New York architectural firm of Van Vleck and Goldsmith, this Italianate hotel was built by the Copper Queen Company for important guests and potential investors. It was erected between 1898 and 1902 at the cost of $100,000. When it opened, the Copper Queen Hotel was considered the most modern establishment of its kind in the West. Built when Bisbee was thought to be the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, the town’s premiere hotel is not only a testament to the wealth of the mining industry in the area but reflects the predominance of rail travel at the turn of the twentieth century. Phelps Dodge Corporation (PD) built the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad to haul ore, but the railroad also opened up southern Arizona towns to an influx of visitors from larger urban centers to the east and west.
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Goldwin Goldsmith (1871–1962) worked as an assistant draftsman in the offices of McKim, Mead and White between 1888 and 1890, where he first encountered the Beaux-Arts Classical styles prevailing in the fin-de-siècle. He received his architecture degree from Columbia University in 1896 and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts the following year. Upon returning to New York, he formed a partnership with Joseph Van Vleck Jr. (1876–1948) that lasted until 1913. Van Vleck and Goldsmith primarily designed residences in Manhattan for an elite clientele, but they also received commissions for institutional buildings in prosperous suburbs like Montclair, New Jersey (home of the Van Vleck clan), including the Young Men’s Christian Association (1899), the First Methodist Episcopal Church (1899), and the Madison Building (1906). Van Vleck was the tenth child of a PD executive, which explains how the partners received a hotel commission so far afield and so early in their careers.
The four-story edifice, perched on a hillside that was leveled for construction, looms over Howell Avenue as the road changes course from north-south to east-west. The concrete structure features two-foot-thick walls intended to insulate the building against the desert summer heat. The hotel is stuccoed with brick trim on the window surrounds and quoins. It has a central pavilion terminated by hipped-roof towers clad in red tiles. A wooden balcony projects from the third story above a terrace defined by a triple arched opening. This, in turn, stands above a recessed entry porch on the first story. The hotel was remodeled considerably in 1905, at which time a third tower was added.
The hotel has a symmetrical floorplan that includes forty-four guest rooms and two dining rooms; it was originally U-shaped with a central courtyard. The lobby features an antique reception desk and a pigeon-hole key cabinet. The Saloon, with a long, graffiti-riddled wood bar, is behind the lobby; adjacent to the lobby is the Palm Room, a seating area with a lofty, exposed wood truss ceiling that originally included Tiffany and Company stained glass (now lost). Much of the original glazing, interior woodwork, and Italian-imported mosaic tile flooring in the lobby is intact. Though its ownership changed several times during the twentieth century, the Copper Queen continues to serve as Bisbee’s leading hotel.
“About Us: Welcome to the Copper Queen Hotel.” Copper Queen Hotel. Accessed August 30, 2015. http://www.copperqueen.com/.
University of Texas Library. “Goldwin Goldsmith: An Inventory of his Drawings, Papers and Photographs 1896-1961.” Texas Archival Resources Online. Accessed August 30, 2015. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/.
Wilson, Marjorie H., Janet Stewart, James Garrison, Billy G. Garrett, and Thomas S. Rothweiler, “Bisbee Historic District,” Cochise County, Arizona. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1980. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.