Author: Harrington, Candy
Date published: December 1, 2012
Located in Southern Arizona, Tombstone is a must-see for history buffs. Granted you'll have to look past the western storefronts, overpriced souvenir shops and staged gunfights that line the main drag; however it's still possible to come away with a deeper understanding of life in this one-time silver boom town. And the good news is, access hasn't been overlooked in Tombstone either, as most of the historic sites have had access features added, while the newly built shops and restaurants were constructed to be accessible.
Old Town primer
It's pretty hard to get lost in the historic section of thé city, as Old Tombstone is laid out in a six-block grid that stretches between Safford and Toughnut Streets, and First and Sixth Streets. Street parking is available on the numbered streets, with accessible diagonal parking spots spaced throughout the city. The largest concentration of these is on Sixth Street near Alien, but if you don't find one there, just cruise on down Toughnut to Fourth Street.
Tombstone is a great place for wheeler s , as the main drag is closed to vehicle traffic, so you can just roll down the middle of the street. Additionally, the wooden sidewalks are level, with concrete curb-cuts at every corner. Most of the shops and restaurants feature level access; however the majority lack truly accessible restrooms. On the plus side, accessible public restrooms are located on the corners of Alien and Sixth Streets, and Alien and Third Streets.
Stop by the Visitors Center on the corner of Alien and Fourth Streets for a good oneijr tation of the area. Housed in a former bank, the interior sports an old teller's cage as well as a vintage phone booth. There is level access to the building, which is filled with maps and brochures and staffed by knowledgeable volunteers.
Hop on the trolley
Although there's no shortage of tour options in Old Tombstone, the Tombstone Trolley Tour is the best choice for a historically accurate experience. The trolley features lift access, with space aboard for two wheelchairs; and the guides are well versed in the real history - not the Hollywood version - of Tombstone.
The 2 5 -minute tours depart from trolley office at Fourth and Toughnut Streets, and pass historic sites such as the Tombstone Epitaph, the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Old City Hall. Along the way you'll learn about the infamous Shootout on Fremont Street (later named "the gunfight at the OK Corral" by Hollywood producers); including what preceded it, how it all played out and who walked away from it. You'll also malte a brief stop at the Boothill Graveyard, where some of the participants are buried. All in all it's a great tour, and at $5 per person is also a bargain.
More Tombstone history
Just across the street from the trolley office, the Rose Tree Museum boasts a well-curated collection of personal artifacts from the Macias family, proud residents of Tombstone for over 100 years. Their local roots date back to Alice and Chris Robertson, who arrived in Tombstone in 1 880, at the height of the silver rush. Quite fittingly, most of the Robinson's household furnishings - brought with them by wagon train from Colorado - are on display in the museum today.
Even though the museum is located in a historic adobe building, there's level access to the front door, with adequate space to maneuver a wheelchair inside. There's ramp access to the back porch where you can view a massive rose tree; but in order to walk under the 8,500 square-foot trellis, you have to be able to maneuver several steps. Priced at just $5, the museum is a another bargain; and if you show your trolley tour ticket you'll get an additional $1 off the admission price.
The Old Courthouse Last but not least, don't miss the Tombstone Courthouse on your historic tour, as it features some excellent interpretive exhibits on the Tombstone area. There arc two steps at the front entrance; but a wheelchair-lift has been added just to the right. Inside, there's barrier-free access throughout the first floor. The second-floor exhibits can only be accessed by a flight of stairs; however a video of the upstairs area is available.
The exhibits are excellent. You'll find tons of old photographs, historic documents and memorabilia, along with everything from vintage clothing and old mining equipment to farm implements, cowboy gear and even a wagon or two. The highlight of the collection is a series of drawings about the Gunnght at the OK Corral; an exhibition that accurately depicts the standoff between the Clanton gang and Sheriff Earp and his men. Unlike many of the scripted gun fights in town (which all charge admission) these drawings give a step-by-step description of what really happened on that fateful day.
Don't miss the gallows out back. There are nine steps down to the back door, but just ask the person at the front desk to open the side gate if you want to see it. Although it's a little eerie, it's also an essential component of the wild and wooly old west.
Candy Harrington is the author of Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide For Wheelers Slow Walkers, available from SpeciaLiving@ www.specialiving.com.