...Arizona, that is!
September 2019. On the way home from our adventure at Besh Ba Gowah in Globe, AZ, we stopped in Miami to tour the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center. Originally an old school building, the Center is now a museum of artifacts and history having to do with the mineral and mining history of Arizona. It takes only a couple hours to walk through, but has some special exhibits that are interesting and is always growing.
Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum in Historic School
The Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum is housed in the Bullion Plaza School in Miami, AZ. The historic building was designed by Henry C. Trost Architects and Engineers of El Paso, Texas. It was opened as a grammar school in 1923. The main two story-building contains over 20 classrooms and a small theater-auditorium.
The Bullion Plaza School is an excellent example of neoclassical architecture reflecting pride and commitment to public education and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed with lightly reinforced, cast-in-place concrete and plaster exterior walls, wood frame first and second floors and a wood frame roof. Interior walls are typically plaster on wood frame. The foundation consists of continuous spread wall footings and isolated pier footings. The construction methods and materials are typical for structures of this age and type.
Bullion Plaza served as a grammar school from 1923 to 1994 when it was closed due to concern that it had fallen into a state of disrepair, making it unsuitable for use as a public school.
Most of its life, Bullion Plaza served as a grammar school for Mexican-American and Apache children, reflecting the segregation pattern that prevailed in many Arizona communities including the public school system during that era. The local school system was desegregated and began integrating Anglo students into Bullion Plaza during the 1950-51 school year.
During its segregated years, the teaching staff consisted only of Anglo teachers. These teachers uniformly reflected an almost missionary sense of devotion to the students. High academic standards and expectations, plus strict discipline were the rule of the day. A system of physical punishment was used on students who forgot the ‘English only’ rule. In those days, a trip to the principal’s office for a paddling for speaking Spanish and for other infractions was something the students tried to avoid at all costs.
Loyalty to the school and pride in its history remain characteristic hallmarks of its graduates despite the school’s rigid segregation culture.
During World War II the main lobby was occupied by a booth set up by the students where they eagerly sold ‘defense stamps.’ Patriotic competition was generated by students’ efforts at covering those faces by purchasing defense stamps to help the war effort. The volume of defense stamps sold was reflected by stamps pasted to cover giant posters of Japan’s leader Tojo and Germany’s Hitler.
Graduation night would bring out large numbers of town residents to share the excitement of the students and their proud parents. Town officials would cooperate by putting up road barriers to close off the street fronting the school. Folding chairs would fill the street and the overflow crowds sat along the curbside to witness the graduation ceremonies held on the school’s front steps.
While the classrooms have been slightly modified from the original design, the building exterior remains essentially unchanged. A favorite of former student visitors is the Library Room, which still contains a colorful mural painted in the late 1930’s by grammar school students Alice Mendez and “Canuto” Hernandez under the watchful guidance of Librarian and art instructor Miss Amber Yocum.
In 1997 the Town of Miami purchased Bullion Plaza from the school district and committed to using it as a cultural center and museum. Since then, volunteers have worked to transform the old school into the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center & Museum. The school building was accepted for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, and the museum opened its first exhibit in October of the same year.
The Museum is still in the early stages of development and planning. Long-range plans call for five galleries and a workshop on the ground floor to tell the history of the region.
The second floor is expected to primarily focus on the diverse ethnic heritage of our area, with twelve exhibit galleries and a theater that will bring together the stories of the people, places and events of Miami-Globe history.
The cavernous area in the basement will eventually present a mining experience, including educational hands-on activities, that depict the rich mining history of the region.
Initial planning and design work has already been largely completed. The Museum’s Board of Directors and members continue to seek financial and other resources to support ongoing operations, and to plan for future expansion to realize the exciting vision. (Taken from Museum website)
Governor Rose Mofford Exhibit:
McKusick Military Exhibit:
Bullion Plaza Cultural Center
150 N. Plaza Circle
Miami, AZ 85339-1629