JEROME: From Mining Camp to Artists’ Colony
On the eastern slope of Cleopatra Hill, under a big white J, is the mining town of Jerome with its sloped rooftops; winding, cobblestone streets; and reminders of its heyday as a mining town. It’s no surprise that the entire city is designated a historic landmark; it is certainly a must-see for any lover of frontier and/or mining history — just minutes from Cottonwood and Clarkdale, Arizona.
Jerome began to earn its identity as a billion-dollar copper town in the 1880s when the first miners dug for Jerome’s rich ore deposits. During the 70 years they were in business, Jerome’s two copper mines made hundreds of millions of dollars for East Coast investors. In fact, the town is named after Eugene Jerome, a New York lawyer who financed the United Verde Copper Company but who never laid eyes on his namesake. (His cousin Jenny Jerome was the mother of Sir Winston Churchill.)
By 1920, the town swelled to 15,000 residents, and the mining companies built diversions for their employees, who came from all over the world. This included a clubhouse, an opera house, saloons and restaurants. (It’s said that at one time there were 14 Chinese restaurants in the small town on the hill.) There was even a red-light district.
Over the years, most of these buildings burned down in a series of fires, but the town was always rebuilt. Many of Jerome’s businesses are housed in buildings constructed after the fires of 1894 and 1899. A number of them have been restored.
These historic, shabby-chic structures give the town a whimsical charm. In fact, Jerome has kept so much of its boom-time flavor that sometimes you can almost see the miners walking the narrow streets and hear the laughter rolling out of the saloons and restaurants.
Over the years the mines stripped Jerome of millions of tons of copper, silver and gold, and other minerals. An underground blast in 1938 rocked the town’s foundation, and Jerome’s business district slid down the hill, including the city jail, which slipped 225 feet. Some of the remains of these casualties can still be seen today. The accident is believed to have contributed to the close of the Little Daisy Mine.
The United Verde Valley Mine was purchased by Phelps Dodge during the Depression Fluctuating copper prices, labor unrest, World War II and diminishing resources all took their toll, and this mine, too, finally closed in 1953.
When the mine shut down, so did the city, and Jerome turned into a ghost town. Only 50 residents remained until it was rediscovered by artists, who flocked to the area for the astonishing views, laid-back atmosphere and inexpensive real estate. Slowly the town came back to life.
Today, Jerome is a thriving, year-round artist colony with a population close to 500. The town includes several dozen fine galleries, restaurants, artist cooperatives and one of a kind gift shops – from raku and jewelry to kaleidoscopes.
Every first Saturday of the month Jerome’s galleries participate in the Jerome Art Walk. Visitors can stroll the winding streets or shuttle in the free town van to meet artists and enjoy special events.
Jerome also has carriage rides and lodging, including bed and breakfasts, some of which are said to be haunted.
Other notable historic attractions:
Douglas Mansion, also known as Jerome State Historic Park. The mansion was the extravagant home of James Douglas, owner of the Daisy Mine. It had every convenience of its day, including steam heat, central vacuuming, marble showers, a billiard room and wine cellar. The library has been restored with period furniture, and there are other historic artifacts on display. Exhibits highlight the history and geology of the area and, most especially, Jerome’s mining activities in models, maps and photographs. The Douglas Mansion is a good first stop on any visit to Jerome. It plays an entertaining and informative video of Jerome’s history, and the grounds provide a spectacular overview of the town on one side and the Verde Valley and many scenic vistas on the other.
Mine, Museum and Main Street is maintained by the Jerome Historical Society. The museum has numerous displays depicting life in Jerome from its beginnings to its present time.
Gold King Mine & Museum one mile north of Jerome is the historic town of Haynes, Arizona, which had its own mining operation – for gold, instead of copper. There is now a museum on the site, with antique equipment, a replica mine shaft and even an 80-year-old working sawmill.
For more intriguing history on the town of Jerome, please visit http://jeromehistoricalsociety.com/