1913 CHASE STREET: A MOMENT IN TIME
In the early months of 1913; the Chase Creek district and in fact all of Clifton was in the midst of a boom. Nearly three decades before, the narrow-gauge Arizona and New Mexico Railroad had been extended from Lordsburg, suddenly connecting the remote mining district with the rest of the world. The means of dramatically increasing the industrial and commercial activity were at hand and Clifton never looked back. The Arizona Copper Company, whose huge smelter works lay just across Chase Creek, had long been an innovator in acid leaching and reduction techniques, enabling the company to become more profitable even as the richest ores played out. On the eve of the Great War, the nation was stockpiling copper and prices were rising. The smelter operated day and night, at the shift whistles periodically disgorging a horde of workers over the bridge and into Chase Street. A decade before, the creek had finally been channelized with foundations of slag and walls of stone, for the most part relieving the business district of the ravages of flooding. Gone also were the cattle drives through the street which choked the town with dust; they now used the creek channel. Still, there was plenty of excitement. In 1905, the main business district of Clifton east of the river had decided that the saloons and the attendant prostitutes were no longer welcome downtown. The merchants of the Chase Creek District had no such compunctions however, and now in 1913 workers flocked over the bridge and through the narrow passage between Spezia's Buffet Bar and the Greenlee Restaurant and into the street which night and day teemed with the activity of stores, theaters, restaurants, billiard halls and a dozen saloons. with card rooms and "female boarding" above. Banners, awnings and signs overhung the narrow teeming walks and men, wagons and horses clogged the dirt street. Disaster was about to strike however, for in April of 1913 a fire started next to the Eagles Hall and raced through the district, completely destroying a -score of buildings in its heart. Such was the optimism and prosperity of the times that in little more than a year the entire area was rebuilt, better than before. In 1917, another fire destroyed half a dozen buildings at the east end of the street, among them the Royal Theater and the Last Chance Saloon. Here is where the impressive Peoples Bank building opened in 1918. By 1918, however, the war was over, copper was a glut on the market and Clifton was entering one of its many periodic hard times. Even so, Clifton remained relatively prosperous until the Depression shut the mines in 1932, and underground mining was over in Clifton. Five years later mining began again as an open-pit operation, which continues today. The boom times however were never to return.
Chase Creek today is home to locally owned shops hair salons, the Union Hall and the Greenlee County Historical Museum.
Take a walking tour:
Chase Creek became part of the historical register in 1990.
Make sure to visit the Greenlee County Historical Museum visit their website https://www.greenleehistory.org/ for their hours.
History abounds on Clifton's Chase Creek Street, a must-see destination when visiting. Photos courtesy the Business Association of Chase Creek Street, Arizona http://visitcliftonaz.com