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Creating a lasting legacy and oodles of curb appeal

The Copper Spike Excursion Train 2007-2011,began with the renovation of the freight office and grew into a major statewide attraction that brought 27,000 visitors to Globe to ride the train in year five. Photo by LCGross

Possibly no Irish son left a more lasting legacy benefiting Globe’s historic downtown than Kip Culver, the community leader, preservationist, and creative visionary whose passion for his hometown led to more than a decade of work preserving, protecting and promoting its historical uniqueness.

Serving as director of the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts and Globe’s Main Street Program for over a decade, Culver was a visionary and doer who accomplished more than anyone else to transform downtown Globe.

Culver’s legacy is hard to overstate. Coming at a time when monies were tight and a laissez-faire attitude about preservation and community pride was common, Culver’s accomplishments are noteworthy. He consistently managed to put together a magic combination of people, resources and vision enabling progress to be made on several fronts. The enduring impact of his accomplishments in the downtown area still serves the initiatives led by the Downtown Association, the Center for the Arts, and the City of Globe.

Once asked what guided his efforts, Culver said, “I approach projects by looking at whether or not they will create the hometown I would want to live in.” 

He focused on “hometown curb appeal” – so when he secured a $98,000 grant for landscaping, he gathered a committee of local businesses on Broad Street and other partners to explore how best to use the money. The result was the treescape you see lining the downtown streets, the brick sidewalk on the north end, the custom pillars in front of the Courthouse, the vintage light poles lining Broad, and the wayfinding signage.

When it became apparent that the old Globe Cafe was in danger of being lost because of a huge crack in the back wall, it was Kip and his friend Tom Thompson who rescued the building and found the right builder/investor with the necessary know-how and passion for restoring historic buildings. Today, the old Globe Cafe is a community space downstairs with three apartments upstairs. 

Culver’s work in bringing an excursion train to Globe began with a conversation he had with the new owners of the Arizona Eastern in 2003. Promising to restore the old freight office in exchange for a trial run with a rail car operated by the new owners, the response was so positive, it resulted in Iowa Pacific pledging to bring in more cars and bigger engines. At the same time, Culver found the funding and volunteers needed to fully restore the main train depot. The Copper Spike Excursion Train would quickly become a destination, bringing over 20,000 people to Globe each season. In 2007, Culver was awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence for his work in bringing an excursion train to Globe. 

Kip found the money to tear down a wreck of a building next to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was then turned into a beautiful landscaped courtyard. And later, when he was told of the horrible condition of the church roof and the lack of funding to do anything about it, he secured lottery funds for the church to replace the roof. 

When he realized the old electrical panel on the Arts Center would prevent anyone from ever thinking about putting in air conditioning on the third floor or adding a real elevator to the 1906 building to open up the third floor for greater use, he set his sights first on a new electrical panel and on raising $250,000 for a matching grant that would pay for it. 

It would take ten years of community fundraising events envisioned, hosted and managed by Culver, Molly Cornwell and the Arts Center Board to raise the money for the Arts Center improvements. The fundraisers themselves became grand gatherings of community members – both those whose families went back generations and those new to Globe. These events offered fun at the same time as they served a grand cause. And they contributed to the big picture, which Culver was so good at communicating.

Once the air conditioner was in place, it would still take several more years to secure the funding for a new elevator. And all along, Kip was the one working behind the scenes to put the final packaging together. He was able to work with the City in securing CDBG funds, and got a big assist from United Fund of Globe-Miami and FMI at the ninth hour to close the deal. 

Always humble about his successes, Kip never took credit when he could point to others for their roles in each achievement like the elevator. But to anyone who looked at the changes taking place, it was hard to miss the points he was racking up on behalf of the downtown district. 

When Kip passed away in 2015, the City debated ending their financial support for a Director of the Main Street Program. The amount – $35,000 – seems small now compared to current budgets at the City, but at the time Kip’s salary was competing with the City’s desire to have a Code Enforcement officer. 

Main Street lost, despite letters imploring the Council to keep the program going. 

Letters from Local First Arizona, Arizona Preservation Foundation and the statewide, Arizona Downtown Alliance were written in support of Culver’s work and the Main Street Program.


Kimber Lanning, Executive Director of Local First Arizona and Arizona Rural Development Council, wrote to City Council saying,

“Our organization, Local First Arizona, has worked with Kip and the Globe Mainstreet program for over five years, bringing people, funding and ideas to the Globe area. As you know the work Kip did ranged from such important projects as facilitating a rare $60,000 Heritage fund award to restore the roof on St. John’s Episcopal Church, to the facilitation of the lease transfer to Historic Globe Main Street program of the original two-story depot facility for active re-use and restoration. The program was instrumental in having a Building Condition Assessment report done for the depot complex, securing the $300,767 transfer of TERC funding previously secured for the burnt building. 

In all, the Globe team, in both a design and economic restructuring role, has solicited, applied for and leveraged grant awards totaling more than $700,000 for property design, technical assistance, building improvements, and other funding to enable adaptive re-use of properties. 

From our perspective as a statewide organization, Globe is leading the way to creating successful collaborations between many different institutions and assets, including historic preservation, a thriving business community, economic development, tourism, and arts and culture. Additionally, Kip’s team helped organize such events as the Centennial Celebration, Historic Globe Home and Building Tour, as well as the much beloved Ghosts of Globe Tour, the farmers market and myriad parades and downtown festivities, all of which brought new people to Globe to spend money and invest in your amazing town.”

Paul Tunis, who took over as the Art Center director said,

“Kip was a big vision sorta guy and was really good at relaying his excitement for a project, no matter how grandiose, to anyone who would listen…Everyone in town had at least one conversation with Kip about the things he saw, about the potential for things to be changed, rebuilt, or done.”

“While Kip may have suggested many grandiose things, what he would do would always be the thoughtful and useful thing.” 

“Globe has a self-esteem problem sometimes, and there are many who think the city is not enough or talk about it’s problems… but Kip never saw any of those things. 

Kip’s life at the center and in our community was all about potential.” 

And he helped to realize a good deal of that potential.

Kip always wanted to recreate an old photo of residents packing the steps at the courthouse. A photo shoot was organized to do just that when he passed away. Photo by Diana Tunis

One comment

  1. Kip did remarkable things to downtown. Every time I visit Globe I remark how much better it looks from when we lived there. I remember having many conversations with Kip about his vision and I am so happy to see that he accomplished most them!

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