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Mining the story of Bisbee through a tour of the Copper Queen Hotel

Staff & historian lead Good Morning Tucson through history, and changes to remodel hotel to honor the past
Posted at 9:29 AM, Oct 20, 2023

BISBEE, Ariz. (KGUN) -- — Any kind of business can change with the times to attract customers.

But in Bisbee, fans of the Copper Queen hotel want to smell and sleep in the same rooms furnished more than 120 years ago.

Good Morning Tucson drove into the heart of the city, the place many visitors flock to on their weekends. We got to see some of the changes inside to give guests what they want.

There's history in the grand staircase, the hallways and the rooms of the Copper Queen. Tyler McMilion has run the hotel as general manager for 2.5 years, so he knows the ins and outs of the historic building.
He showed us a sketch of the hotel drafted in the 1900s, back in what McMilion called the business' true heyday.

"It was probably much busier back in the day," McMilion said, "when this town had 20,000 people in it. $175,000 to make this place back then. That's about $6 million and some change in today's money."

That investment was worthwhile, if the point, as historian Annie Graeme Larkin said, was for the Copper Queen Consolidated Mine Company to impress their investors.

"Before the Copper Queen hotel, they were staying in boarding houses...not really the level of sophistication and class that the mining company executives wanted to portray or impress upon these folks," she said.

Graeme Larkin knows Bisbee's history inside and out. She runs the Mining & Historical Museum right across the street.

She joined GMT and McMilion on part of the tour and shared that she, too, worked in the hotel.
Even before she ran the front desk in the 90s, Graeme Larkin had come to the Copper Queen to share quality time with her father.

"My father would bring me here to the Copper Queen for steak & eggs and hot chocolate," she said.

"Our guests were interested in the history, the community. It really was one of the central parts of their stay: the immersion in our story."

McMilion said a lot of the furniture in the Copper Queen's halls and rooms used to be quite modern. "Over the past year and a half," he said, "we've replaced 70 percent of all the furniture with nothing younger than the 1940s."

To make it even more immersive, McMilion said, the Copper Queen staff are remodeling their floors to bring back the original look of the wood.

"Some of the patchwork that's there is with modern wood," McMilion said. "We're actually trying to buy wood from a similar hotel built in the similar age, taking that wood and replacing our flooring with that."

"I want them to feel like they're sleeping in the past. Particle board and plastic doesn't do that."

Retro works for the Copper Queen hotel. McMilion said his team is also trying new things to bring more guests to discover Bisbee.

He said they're working to host more festivals, and they're also a location for the new Hulu show, 'Living for the Dead' — a nod to the hotel's connections to the paranormal.