A color postcard of the Lavender Pit. The back caption on the top left reads: “PHELPS DODGE CORPORATION’S LAVENDER OPEN-PIT COPPER MINE – This mining operation is unique in that the pit is being dug where in 1953 lay U.S. HWY. 80 lined with business houses and flanked by homes of the two cities Bisbee and Lowell. The job of moving all these buildings to new sites south and west of town and relocating the highway along what is now the east rim of the pit occupied two years. ----L-220” The photo was taken by Ray Manley. The label on the back reads: “Natural Color Card from Kodachrome.”. The postcard is unused and was published by the Lollesgard Specialty Company, Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona. Thomas N. Foster Collection.
The Lavender Pit was named after Phelps Dodge vice president and general manager Harrison M. Lavender. Work in the pit began in 1951, and it was dedicated on 1954. Phelps Dodge invested $25,000,000 ($260,548,076.92 in 2021) in developing the Lavender with the hope that it would produce 38,000 tons on copper on a yearly basis by 1955. Among the buildings that were relocated during the expansion, was the office building of the Shattuck and Denn Mining Company. Moving the 300-ton brick structure was done with great care and at a snail’s pace, moving a single foot every ten minutes. The office was the last structure moved, and it’s new home lay 3,000 feet from its original location. The moving company’s owner, R.C. Burke, noted that though if not the largest building that he ever moved but it was the most difficult job due to Bisbee’s hilly terrain. In the move, one hundred homes were transferred from the Johnson Addition and other areas to Saginaw. In total, 250 homes and 20 businesses had to make way for the expanding pit. In January 1959, Walter C. Lawson announced that the 155 acre, 300 feet deep pit would receive a $5,000,000 dollar expansion. In comparison to the Sacramento Pit, the Lavender used electric powered shovels which were four times larger than the old steam powered ones. The rail track based ore cars were replaced by trucks with a capacity from 35 and 65 tons. After twenty-four years, mining in the Lavender Pit came to an end in 1975. In October 1977, George Nellis, a security guard at the Duval Pit Mine in Tucson, made the proposal of utilizing the Lavender Pit to build a terraced retirement community housing 100,000 people. Though the idea never came to fruition, retirees were a factor in sustaining Bisbee after the end of mining. The Lavender Pit remains a stark reminder of industrial might of mining companies to permanently alter a natural landscape. At the end, the Pit reached a size of covering 300 acres and reached the depth of 900 feet, ten times larger than the former Sacramento Pit. In the hunt for copper, 351 million tons of rock removed, producing 600,000 tons of copper.