Saturday, March 3, 2012

The town of Ajo...

As our days turn into weeks and we see and learn more, the depth of this sleepy, dusty copper mining town sheds many layers.  Ajo is an ethnically diverse town of about 4000 people, ranging from border Patrol agents, park employees from nearby Organ Pipe Cactus Nat'l Monument and Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, to retirees, artists, archaeologists, and mine workers.

On visits to town, about 5 miles from our BLM location along Darby Wells Rd., we are drawn to the plaza, the heart of the community, with its beautiful Spanish colonial architecture, and The Oasis, the local gathering spot for coffee drinks, good sandwiches, and ice cream.

Lunch with Chris and Beth at the Oasis..

Across the square is the Ajo branch of the Pima County Library, and just around the corner is "Si Como No", a gift shop and bookstore....both are great places to get maps and info on local places of interest.  The library also has a great display of local artists' works,  such as the Gibson Art Show recently exhibited.

An absolute must on the "to do" list is the Ajo Historical Society Museum located in the old St. Catherine's Indian Mission atop the hill overlooking the New Cornelia open mining pit.  The museum houses many artifacts and mementos from Ajo's past.  With luck Jose Castillo, whose Ajo roots go back generations, will be volunteering  his wealth of knowledge and personal experience.

Jose displays a Saguaro boot often used by nesting birds and small animals.

The Greenway Mansion sits atop the hill near the museum and mine overlook.  Greenway, a mining, steel, and railroad executive, came to Ajo in 1911 to run the New Cornelia open pit copper mine and developed the Ajo Townsite.  He also had a distinguished career as a soldier, serving with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

The historic old Tucson, Cornelia and Gila Bend Railway station at the Plaza..

The Curley School, a historic public school in Ajo, was built in 1919 during Greenway's tenure.  It recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation, a project of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, into 30 affordable live/work rentals for artists, artisans and creative home businesses complementing the flourishing local art community.

The Red Show at the Curley School Art Gallery
Receiving our vote for best small town market is Olsens IGA Marketplace. Receiving our vote for best small town market is Olsens IGA Marketplace.  Seriously, I wish Don Olsen would invest in Borrego Springs.  This store is super-good, fine quality, fresh meats and produce...with an excellent selection, plus a great deli and ice cream parlor.  Between Olsens and the Oasis we end up driving into town most days!

Last but not least on the town scene, at least for now, is the Ajo Copper News, founded in 1916.  It surely gets high markes for best town mural!

When we're not in town or visiting with friends, we're out exploring jeep roads.  Thus go our days.  Stay tuned.....
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