"The town too tough to die"
The most legendary shootout of the American Old West took place in Tombstone, Arizona, a town known more for its wild and lawless ways than for the millions of dollars in silver that was mined there.
The shootout at the O.K. Corral where Wyatt Earp and"Doc" Holliday fought the McLaury and Clanton brothers on Oct. 26, 1881, took place on what is now Fenton Street, Highway 80, the main road coming into the now-touristy town. A re-enactment is made daily close enough to the actual site, but behind a stone wall so that admissions can be charged.
The most historic section of the town is Allen Street, lined on both sides with authentic-looking shops, eating establishments and small offices that share an even more authentic-looking wooden boardwalk.
One of the few original buildings, both inside and out, is the Bird Cage Theatre, worth the admission fee to walk through.
Tombstone is located off Interstate 10 to the south, some 20 miles from the Benson exit and a little more than 70 miles southeast of Tucson.
One of Tombstone's most historic streets is Allen Street.
A couple of Tombstone's original street names.
Not much has changed at the Bird Cage Theatre since its heyday. Although it's now a museum, just about everything in there is original, including the stage curtain, the 'bird cages' and myriad objects down in the poker room.
The foyer to the Bird Cage Theatre is now a gift shop, but many artifacts from the earlier days exist in their original form.
The theatre got its name from the rooms, seven on each side of this casino floor, which came to be known as 'bird cages.' They were used by 'women of the night' who would close the red velvet curtains when they had men to 'entertain.'
The Bird Cage was more than just a theatre for nearly the whole decade of the 1880s. Beside having nightly entertainment that ran the gamut from Can-Can dancers to such favorites as Eddie Foy and Lotta Crabtree, it was also a casino, a dance hall, a poker hall and a brothel.
Its doors were open 24/7 giving it the reputation as the wildest, wickedest night spot there was. By 1889, it would be the site of 16 gunfights and 140 bullet holes.
When the Tombstone mines flooded in 1889, the building was sealed and boarded up just as it was at the time. It remained closed for almost 50 years, and perhaps that's why its contents have stayed intact. In 1934 it became a Historic Landmark of the American West.
It's said that the longest playing poker game in U.S. history took place down here in the poker hall of the Bird Cage Theatre, lasting 8 years, 5 months and 3 days. Players had to buy a $1,000 minimum to play. Today, the table and chairs stand as they were back then.
Boothill Cemetery is Tombstone's most famous graveyard as it holds the remains of both the Clanton and McLaury brothers who were shot in the famous gunfight with Wyatt Earp. The graveyard gets its name from the fact that many of those who are buried there 'died with their boots on.' That is, by an act of violence, shootings, hangings, etc. In many cases, the victims that were buried had no identification on them at the time of death, so little information about them was known. Their grave marker, in that case, had only their name, if known, and date and circumstance of death.
The cemetery is located just outside of Tombstone to the north on Highway 80.
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