Thursday, May 23, 2013

Seeking Tea in Tombstone

Grandpa in Tombstone

It's always pleasant to visit friends and family. And it becomes even more fun for me when I have the opportunity to search for tea! Grandpa spends several months of each year in Arizona and invited us to come and be his guests. It was an enjoyable experience and we visited several interesting sites nearby. Today I'm sharing about a stop in Tombstone. Have you ever been there? It is one of my favorite places. While most are interested in the story of gunfights and the wild west, I have enjoyed seeking out little things that interest me, like a museum of historical costumes and clothing, the local guild quilt museum, finding places that sell sarsaparilla so I can bring it home to the (now adult) kids, and browsing the antique shops. Pioneer life and the wild west interests me so.
Tour guide at Bird Cage Theater

Our first stop was at the Bird Cage Theater. A tour guide beckons tourists in from the door and once a crowd has gathered, explains the history of this historic theater. She names famous people who have been guests there in a list that is a mile long! And many of the names are those that are familiar from history books. This small, but interesting theater was opened in 1881 and was named for the fourteen "boxes" that were placed on two balconies on either side of the main central hall. Although there was a stage and an orchestra pit, the theater is best known for its gambling and the ladies of the night who entertained there. It really was a fairly unsavory place, although now it's interesting to visit and see the historical items on display. It's said that the longest card game ever took place in this location, lasting eight years, five months, and three days. The New York Times, in 1882, declared that "this theater was the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast". More than 120 bullet holes can be seen throughout the building, and our tour guide was quick to point out several right there in the lobby. But let's move along, shall we?
Stagecoaches steal the show on Main Street

Tombstone was founded in 1879 and is in the southeastern part of Arizona. It was a silver mining town and grew from one hundred people to 14,000 in a few short years. It was a bustling little town! By 1881 it had not only a bowling alley, four churches, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice house --- it also had 110 saloons and 14 gambling halls as well as numerous dancing halls and brothels. There was nothing quiet, nor proper about Tombstone!
Common attire of the day!

Tombstone is famous for the shoot-out at O.K. Corral. It is an event that is re-enacted daily.  A deadly conflict between a gang who stole cattle from ranchers and law enforcement has given Tombstone a place in history. The Earp brothers all assumed roles as lawmen and ended up in a confrontation with the Cowboy gang. Wyatt is probably the most famous of the Earp brothers. Interwoven into the history of the area is a love affair between Doc Holliday and Big Nose Kate. If you see her picture, you can tell she was aptly named! An interesting and generally unknown fact is that Doc Holliday was a cousin by marriage to Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind. The longer one spends researching the history of a place like Tombstone, the more connections can be made with other famous Americans of the day.
Crystal Palace Saloon

Of the 110 saloons in Tombstone, the Crystal Palace Saloon and Big Nose Kate's Saloon are probably two of the most famous. Both are still a part of the Tombstone scene, open daily and frequented by dozens of curious tourists who visit there. The ambiance and decor of each of them is much the same as it was in the late 1880's. Authenticity reigns in Tombstone.
Cowboy Garb
In the present time, Tombstone holds connections that tie our family together with memories. A cousin of eight years old visited the town on a girls trip with me and my mom and mother-in-law. A few years later, she was married in true western style at a Tombstone church. And an interesting man we knew from a church nearby played an authentic role as an actor in scenes from the town's history. Trips with our kids to this western community have proven fun over the years. Lessons in history are much more easily learned with such colorful object lessons.

Wooden boardwalks line Main Street
But, where does the tea come in? As we walked along Main Street, I was surprised to see a small little shop at the entrance to a shooting gallery. Inside was a friendly woman who was dressed in frontier garb. Teapots and baked goods were displayed at the back of her small eating establishment. Could it be? Would it be possible to have tea in Tombstone? Yes! And she was happy to share about her experience.

Opening day of Buns & Guns

It just happened to be the opening of her very first day in her quaint little cafe and bakery. She'd earned her way, carefully dressing with authenticity and baking homemade treats in a rented space in a commercial kitchen. For two years she was a walking bakery, carrying baskets of her home-baked goodies up and down the boardwalks, selling them to passers-by. A city committee oversees each business, making sure they meet the standards of authenticity that they require as part of the historic portions of their town. She worked carefully to meet the requirements and after her years of hard work, she was finally able to rent a space where she could open her store-front cafe. She told me that she was the first bakery in 100 years in Tombstone.
Favorite teapot
Buns & Guns

I admire her hard work and enthusiasm for her tasks! And I hope that the next time I am privileged to visit Tombstone, that she is still there and that her business is thriving! It's wonderful that a cup of tea can now be found in Tombstone!
The soda bar

I've shared pictures from the bar at a Tombstone saloon, and a bakery bar that serves tea just down the street. It's only right that I share one last bar before the tour of Tombstone is over. Down at the end of the street the soda bar was filled with kids, enjoying sodas and ice cream. It appears that Tombstone has something for every one's taste! If you ever have a chance to visit Tombstone, I recommend it. And be sure to take time to go off the beat and track. Sometimes the best places are those that are not the most touristy places, but rather the nooks and little places along the way. Some day I will share about the time we took tea and a picnic in the Tombstone city park on New Year's Day. Explore and enjoy!


  1. What an interesting post. The title cracked me up for some reason. I think it is the incongruity of tea and Tombstone.

  2. Best wishes to the tea room!

  3. Looks like a fun place to visit for sure. Love that name Buns and Guns!!

  4. Jim and my first date was to the Bird Cage Theater, but in Knotts Berry Farm. Love knowing you can get tea now in Tombstone. How fun to have this visit.

  5. Please post this on my Tea In The Garden as we need to get the word out to everyone like you are doing to help this tea VENTURE!

  6. Came over from your link on Bernideen's site. Couldn't resist a title like "Seeking Tea in Tombstone!" That's me, too, seeking tea wherever I go!

  7. Oh La Tea Dah, what memories your post today sparked! I LOVE Tombstone. Just love it.

    When we lived in Tucson, whenever guests came to visit, we'd make the long trek to Tombstone. I've been in every single one of the places you showed except, of course, for Buns and Guns. Haven't been there! ha!

    Great photos, cool stories, neat post! Great job! Susan


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