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The man behind Globe’s Main Street Program

Reprinted from GMT Fall 2009 Edition, this piece on Globe’s Main Street Program and it’s director Kip Culver provides background on the success of the local Main Street Program still going strong today.

Cities outgrew them long ago and towns have overlooked them in a rush to attract box stores and strip malls. Yet memories of a time when the main streets of our childhood literally held the lifeblood in the community is one reason why nearly thirty years ago the National Trust for Historic Preservation developed a program designed to retain that elusive quality lost in suburbia.

Here in Globe, our the local Main Street program was launched when the downtown district was designated a historic district back in 1986. However, it wasn’t until recently, when one man with the passion for our community and the saavy for getting things done that the Main Street program became a force for good in downtown Globe. Thanks to that man, Kip Culver, Main Street has begun to rack up so many successes – big and small – that even to the uninitiated, the Big Picture is taking shape and making itself felt by locals and visitors.

From the Copper Spike Excursion Train to the restoration of the Globe Cafe, Culver is both preserving the past and attracting new economic opportunities to the downtown. We caught up with him at his office in the Old Jail, where papers and projects are stacked 2 ft high, and the phone seems to constantly ring.

Kip aboard the 'first' Copper Spike. A small rail car which operated a few hours a day, 3 days a week. It would lead the way to much bigger and better things.
Kip aboard the ‘first’ Copper Spike. A small rail car which operated a few hours a day, 3 days a week. It would lead the way to much bigger and better things. Courtesy Photo

Culver was born and raised in the area, attending both Globe and Miami schools. His grandfather was an engineer for the Southern Pacific, and although college and work took him out of the area, he “was never at odds with his home town”.

“I never was one of those kids who just wanted to get out.” In fact he kept trying to return. After getting a degree in broadcast journalism management, he landed a job in LA where he worked for Entertainment Tonight and a film company producing short films. However, finding it hard to eek out a living in LA, he returned to Phoenix where he eventually became a property manager and personal assistant for a family who had properties here and in Washington DC. He says he traveled back and forth with them and it was his travels around the country which would lead him back to Globe. 

“I’d be in some small community and think, Oh, that’s just like Globe,”” he recalls. Or I’d see the potential in what could be created for a community like Globe.”

From Globe to Phoenix…and back again

He says he was always thinking back to his hometown, but the need for work kept him from living here. Culver later oversaw Spec home developments in Pine, Arizona, and for a time he was also helping out his elderly father in Globe and shuttling between Pine, Globe and Phoenix in managing properties and papa.

It was that kind of super-charged multitasking that prepared him for what lay ahead.

He was first asked to be co-director of the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, by Frank Balaam, was juggling his schedule as an artist with the demands of the Art Center which housed art, theater…and came with a plethora of maintenance and staffing issues. Kip agreed to share responsibilities but it quickly evolved into a full time job when Balaam, left to start his art gallery later that year. Becoming the full-time director of the Center was hardly a smart career move for Culver, who found himself making $6-dollars an hour for what many would consider a full time work week.  If it had not been for local attorney, Tommy Thompson, who paid Kip to do work for his law firm to supplement the meager salary of the Arts Center, Culver may have had to leave town to find a ‘real job.’  

Shortly after taking on the Center for the Arts, another position within the downtown district was also in flux. The part time director of Globe’s Main Street Program was graduating and going on to a nursing career. There was talk of closing the program in June of 2005. At that time, the program had struggled along for years with little outside support and part-time directors who accepted the meager salary offered while transitioning to real jobs.

The pittance of a salary and lack of resources, never deterred Culver when asked to take on the added responsibilities of Globes’ Main Street Director. He said yes…in fact, “yes, surely!” -but he had no intention of letting the program limp along as it had. He was now in charge of the Arts Center and Main Street – albeit with no budget and no staff.

What Culver brought to his work was vision. He had a vision for what Globe’s downtown district could be, what the Art Center could be and he was good at enlisting others in his crazy, optimistic passionate vision. He started by doing work himself, then enlisting volunteers and finding creative ways to fund what was needed when he had no funds to work with. Soon, graffiti was painted over as quickly as it appeared, empty store fronts were painted and windows decorated to improve ‘first impressions’ and the Center for the Arts received new paint,



Culver has spent hundreds of hours working on old buildings in the downtown area. Here he is replacing the cornices on the Old Freight office.
Culver has spent hundreds of hours working on old buildings in the downtown area. Here he is replacing the cornices on the Old Freight office. Photo by: LCGross

Finding the Funds to support the Main Street Program

Within less than two years, he had made a deal with Arizona Eastern to bring a excursion train to Globe if he renovated the old freight office which they planned to use as the ticket office. It had sat abandoned for decades and was used as a storage facility, but p  Since being abandonedhelp him paint over graffiti, renovate the old freight office, sponsor fundraisers and go after grants that the program began to perk up. Which is why, by 2007 during Globe’s centennial year, that local historian, Donna Anderson and others went into action when they heard that Miami was going to offer Kip $30,000 to come run a program. At the time, Kip was making approximately a third of that amount in running the Main Street program for Globe. Donna says she went to the city and discussed the need to find $35,000 in the budget for Main Street so Kip could continue doing what he has always done best; work on behalf of the downtown district of Globe. She emphasized “this year.” And the City agreed and found monies for the program.

Under Culver’s direction a vibrant historical downtown district has begun to take shape. He has earned his stripes many times over as a volunteer and in the process garnered the support of a dedicated cadre of local volunteers who have almost single-handedly given a new face to the downtown district. When these local residents and volunteers are asked to jump on board another undertaking…they do. Again and again. They have rented lifts and put on work gloves and volunteered their time to re-paint store fronts, strip windows and floors, repair cornices, cover over graffiti and muck out old buildings all in the interest of making downtown a better place. 

The historic district as the sun fades. Photo by: LCGross
The historic district as the sun fades. Photo by: LCGross

Preserving the heritage of Globe’s downtown District

Just look at the buildings which Culver has taken under his care. After 25 years, the Arts Center has a fresh coat of paint on the cornices which ring the building (except for the south side where rain and lack of equipment ran them off), and a fresh paint job on the interior complete with a trompe l’oeil sky in the entryway, graphite ceilings and copper detailing to enhance the artwork of local artists which line the walls of the Center.

New Paint and Electrical for the Center for the Arts

There is new electrical service to the building thanks to a grant from the Heritage fund and many fund raising events put on by Kip and his volunteer army to raise the $14,000 matching grant money. This new electrical upgrade will allow the Center to add central heating and cooling to the third floor which houses the theater, and creates opportunities to put the upper floors into better use. Step-by-step Culver has pushed forward on a project once thought impossible. And now, even an elevator is a realistic goal for the Center. 

New roof for St. John’s Episcopal Church

St. John’s Episcopal Church has a new roof thanks to a Heritage Fund grant which Kip secured for the purpose of preserving one of Globes’ churches built well over one years ago. In fact it was one of the earliers churches in Globe and still has its’ original stained glass windows. The coffers of the small, but loyal congregation was no match for the money it would take for repairs, but with an Culver’s assistance, the church is ready to stand and serve generations to come. 

The Old Freight office stood in disrepair before being taken on as a project by Culver and a hardy band of volunteers. Photo by: LCGross
The Old Freight office stood in disrepair before being taken on as a project by Culver and a hardy band of volunteers. Photo by: LCGross

Restored Freight Office and Copper Spike

The Freight Office, and Depot, once aging buildings on their way to obsolescence have become anchors to Broad Street and a vibrant hub of activity for both tourist events and community gatherings.

The Globe Cafe, once on the verge of demolition was not only saved but restored to a multi-use building for the 21st century while retaining his historical charm. It is back on the tax roles, and is now an anchor for other development on the block, instead of being a liability.

New cornices and displays for the Old Jail

The work done in the Old Jail, which now houses the Main Street office includes researching and showcasing famous local stories and memorabilia which continue to fascinate both locals and travelers when they stop. In fact, the jail has been converted from a hulking old building to one rich with history, ghosts and local lore which make it a favorite stop for visitors of all ages!

It all began with a walk

Kip Culver remembers taking a walk-about in June of 2005, when it was decided that yes, the Main Street program would remain. At the time there were some new faces in the group, including the Rooneys, who are busy restoring the 12-bedroom boarding house on Sycamore.

“We did a walking tour of downtown to assess the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. And from that, it was a very home grown grassroots effort. Since resources were still virtually non-existent the question we asked ourselves is what CAN be done,” he said.

Remember this was before the Pioneer Fire (July 2005) and so the group identified The Globe Cafe as an “opportunity,” The Depot as “worth asking about” since up to that time it had been in a logger-jam circumstances involving an unmotivated user and long distance owner.

There was the center block of Main Street on the East side in which building fronts had been sheared off in the 50’s when ADOT widened the road. These buildings , unfortunately would forever more be considered by SHIPO to be too compromised for any matching grant monies for restoration. Even though each contain punched tin ceilings and interior wood work reminiscent of the early 1900’s when they were all constructed.

Kip Culver. Photo by: Deb Yerkovich as part of her series: The Men of Globe.
Kip Culver. Photo by: Deb Yerkovich as part of her series: The Men of Globe in 2010, in which she feature ten individuals influencing Globe community life.

Setting up Priorities and choosing projects

Other buildings were crossed off the CAN DO list because of unmotivated property owners. These were areas where nothing could be done – so the group continued to ask themselves where CAN we put our energy and resources,” Culver said. “The Globe Cafe was one area we felt with the right elements, could be saved.”

It was at that time hanging on a prayer, with a crack running through the entire back wall and threatening total destruction, Culver went to his friend and former employer, Tommy Thompson, and with the City considering demolition the out of town owner dropped the price dramatically and Thompson stepped in to rescue it from becoming another parking lot where-once-a-historic-building-stood, and repaired the back wall. Next, an investor was found who was interested in completely renovating it for a multi-use purpose. James Dowly and Jim Ohl recently completed this project and the building is now home to traveling medical personnel working in the area, and a future cafe.

As Kip admits, it was a combination of the right timing, a bit of serendipity, and of course a motivated seller and buyer. But it helped that Culver was stirring the pot and making the connections, assisting the progress.

Saving the Globe Cafe

Was the Globe Cafe a master plan for that block? No. But within a year the block had two other motivated new owners working on their own improvement project. Tracy Quick, purchased the old neighborhood bar, The Huddle. She stripped off the old smoke stained paneling, put in big flat screen tvs, added a patio out back, and new signage out front, and the place is now a hopping place to catch year round Sports sports, and share a beer with your friends. Just a few blocks down, Sarah Berstein opened her signature “women’s spoils store,” Simply Sarah’s, in the old Cubitto building and brought light and elegance into the building almost over night. This summer the store will be featured in an Arizona Highways special on the area.

The fully restored train depot is a jewel of the downtown district.
The fully restored train depot is a jewel of the downtown district.

The challenge of Culver and his fellow Main Street directors is to foster synergy involving motivated property owners, political leadership, funding sources and volunteer efforts which are required to make both immediate and long-lasting improvements to the Main Streets’ of their community.

When cultivating projects which enhance downtown,Culver explains that it is not so much about attracting more tourists (although it does)…

“This is a place I want to live, ” says Culver.

He continually asks himself, what is needed to make Globe a place he wants to live. The answer can be seen all over town from fostering events which bring people to the downtown district to the preservation of Globes’ historic buildings. In doing so he is helping to create the Globe that many are proud to call home.   

Main Street Directors are a bit like master gardeners;

               without them weeds grow unchecked in our own back yard, and with them flowers seem to thrive.

Just look around and see what’s happening in Downtown Globe and you’ll find a place you want to live.

©Globemiamitimes/GMTeconnect LLC  2013

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About Linda Gross

Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.

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