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Tour the Old Dominion
The Wheelhouse at the Old Dominion was dismantled in 2009

Tour the Old Dominion

It was once a prolific mine and now serves as a self-guided mine tour and walking park

Though it still pumps water to the Pinto Valley mine about six miles away, things look a lot different at the Old Dominion these days. An area that flourished from the 1880s to 1930s with miners, a hospital and residents is now peacefully quiet, with nothing more than the remains of old mining machinery and equipment to remind visitors of the past.

During its reign, the Old Dominion mine, which sits in the hills overlooking highway 60 and Globe, was the major employer of this area.

Vestiges of the Old Dominion which once dominated the Copper market nationally and  made many wealthy in the Globe region. It closed in 1931.

Vestiges of the Old Dominion which once dominated the Copper market nationally and
made many wealthy in the Globe region. It closed in 1931.

Since its opening in 2011, this site now serves as the only self-guided mine tour in Arizona, says the park’s committee chairwoman Thea Wilshire, and one of few in the country. The Queen Mine in Bisbee hosts a walking tour, but it’s not self-guided. There might be another one in Kentucky, she says.

You don’t typically find the words “self-guided tour” and “mines” in the same sentence, she explains. Mine operators are big on safety, and the last thing they want is people walking around unsupervised.

Nonetheless, after 30 years of talking about it, with the help of lawyers, donations, volunteers and community support, Globe-Miami now has its walking park and mine tour. Around the time this paper hits the stands, the park should have several new trails cleared. The committee is also working to pull in historic mining artifacts to create a ‘bone yard’. Soon they hope to label some of the existing structures and put up old site maps explain what was once there, like the hospital, railroad, and machine shops.

 The park is now used by both joggers and walkers, as well as visitors who like to explore the history of the old mine.

The park is now used by both joggers and walkers, as well as visitors who like to explore the history of the old mine.

The park is wide open, with six trails, both hilly and flat, and more to come. Open from dawn to dusk, people bring their bikes and dogs, go for runs, have picnics and of course, walk.

The park also answers the many questions people have about mining. The signs help visitors understand mining innovations, and answer questions like, “What was the slime tank for?”

For the sake of historical significance, every effort was made to keep the site intact, though not everything could remain. BHP had to clear old wood and nails before any trails were built, grade back black slag to prevent visitors from slipping, and fence off dangerous areas, Wilshire remembers.

If it seems a little barren for being a park, keep in mind you are touring a reclaimed mining site, she adds.

Signage throughout the park gives visitors a look back at mining history.

Signage throughout the park gives visitors a look back at mining history.

But the era was preserved in the design. The picnic ramadas are made of recycled, corrugated metal. Instead of knocking them down, Freeport McMoRan took apart the old buildings so parts could be reused. Barrels were turned into trashcans. The Gila County Historical Society provided old photos that were digitally scanned onto signs to help tell the story of the mine.

The committee named the trails after the original mine claim names. That’s how you end up walking the Globe Ledge, Mule Shoe, Silver Nugget or Interloper.

And, don’t forget, this was former governor George W. P. Hunt’s old haunts. He started out at the Old Dominion Store as a shop clerk and worked his way up from there.

In so many ways, the Old Dominion set the stage for Globe-Miami’s future. Take the tour and see for yourself!

To get to Old Dominion turn at DeMarcos Italian Restaurant on Hwy 60 and follow the road up to the left, where you will see this sign pointing you in the direction of the parking lot. Vehicles are forbidden on the property, so you are encouraged to "park and walk."

To get to Old Dominion turn at DeMarcos Italian Restaurant on Hwy 60 and follow the road up to the left, where you will see this sign pointing you in the direction of the parking lot. Vehicles are forbidden on the property, so you are encouraged to “park and walk.”

Once upon a time, the Old Dominion was one of the most prolific copper mines, a dominant player in the national copper market and a major employer here in Globe-Miami. More than 80 years later, the site now serves as one of the few self-guided mine tours in existence, as well as a walking park, open to the public and free of charge.

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About Jenn Walker

Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.

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