Jerome, Arizona


 

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KidsRN at a Jerome overlook.

KidsRN at a Jerome overlook.

Jerome, a small town in northern Arizona between Flagstaff and Prescott, is built at the top of Cleopatra Hill at 5,200 feet above sea level. It is billed in some travelogues as  "America's Most Vertical City" and "The Largest Ghost Town in America". It was a boom or bust town, its prosperity directly tied to the market for its only product - copper. During its heyday it produced about three million pounds of copper per month. Founded in 1876 as a copper mining camp, it grew to a town of 15,000 people in the 1920's.  At one point, it was the 4th largest city in Arizona but it was always essentially a company town that existed only to support the mines.

It was also a lawless town.  The combination of American, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Mexican and other nationalities that worked there made for a volatile environment even before alcohol and machismo were poured into the mix. Its history is replete with colorful lawmen, shootouts, bordellos, and labor unrest.  The Great Depression killed the demand for copper only to have it bounce back during World War II.  That was the last boom. The mines closed in 1953 and within 10 years, there were only about 50 residents left.  They struggled to save the town from vandalism and neglect. In 1967 the federal government designated the town a National Historic District and it became a community of artists, historians, craftsmen and shopkeepers. The town used its location, architecture and history to successfully transform itself. Today the 450 permanent residents cater to the tourist trade and many people from surrounding towns like Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Sedona also work there.  

Downtown Jerome viewed from near the museum. The Grand Hotel is the big, yellow building.  It used to be a hospital and asylum - the only ones in the northwest quadrant of the state.
Downtown Jerome viewed from near the museum.

Photo courtesy of  Arizona-leisure.com under the Creative Commons License

 

There were several major fires in the early years that destroyed a significant part of the town but Jerome always rebuilt. It became incorporated in 1889. The town looks much as it did a century ago. Many of the buildings have been restored but they maintain their original look. Some have been transformed in other ways.  The Grand Hotel, which overlooks the city, was the old hospital - the only one in northern Arizona at the time.  Alpha6's former brother-in-law had his tonsils out there in the 1940's. It was also an asylum, which is the name of the hotel's restaurant - The Asylum.

 

Since the city is built on a 30 degree incline, the surrounding views of the mountains and valleys are terrific.  Buildings are literally streetside and built into the steep incline. It some ways, it is reminiscent of a Tuscan or Greek village.  It is a great place for photography buffs and supports an avid artist community. 

A downtown street view that  shows the steep and narrow design described in the narrative.
A downtown street view that shows the steep and narrow construction.
Photo courtesy of  Arizona-leisure.com under the Creative Commons License

The local history museum is a good place to start your visit.  There you can find out what a "mucker" is. Jerome even had a high school whose team name was the Muckers. There are interesting restaurants and shops which you can visit along with the Jerome Winery where you can sample the local wine. Since it is known as “The Largest Ghost Town in America” it is full of ghost stories like Sammie Dean, a murdered prostitute to Headless Charlie who was decapitated in a mine accident to a white misty figure seen in the Episcopal Church. There’s plenty here for believers and non-believers alike.

The drive to Jerome can be an adventure in itself. The road is narrow and winding but the scenery is amazing, particularly coming from Prescott. Parking is at a premium and it gets real busy during the summer, so plan accordingly.

As for geocachers, your legs and your lungs will get a good workout here. There are a half dozen geocaches scattered throughout the town and more on the roads in. Due to the topography of the town, you'll do some serious walking between caches even if your GPS unit says otherwise. The Cleopatra's Shadow geocache has great views of Jerome and the surrounding area..

We thoroughly enjoyed our day long visit there.  We grabbed some caches, got some exercise, learned some history and had a great cheeseburger at the Haunted Hamburger while enjoying a view of the San Francisco Peaks.  That's about as good as it gets in our book.  


View from the Haunted Hamburger. The snow capped mountains are the San Francisco Peaks overlooking Flagstaff. They get up to about 12,000 feet. You can see views like this throughout Jerome.
View from the Haunted Hamburger.

 

 

The GPS coordinates for the center of Jerome and the history museum are 34.750952,  -112.116398. Click on the coordinates to bring up an interactive Google Map.

Cheers.....The Cachemanian Devils