Jerome was once a roaring mining town with 15,000 people and multi-storied buildings and fine homes. It was incorporated in 1899, but with the fall of copper prices and the closing of the Phelps Dodge Mine in 1953, it became the world’s largest “ghost city.” In the foothills of central Arizona’s Verde Valley, surrounded by the Prescott National Forest, the town is at an altitude of 5,248 feet.
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It can be reached by taking Interstate17 to state Highway 260, and
260 to Cottonwood. From Cottonwood, state Highway 89A goes to
Jerome. Jerome produced over a billion dollars worth of copper, gold,
silver, and zinc in its 70-year active life. Today, life is quite different.
The town was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1967. Its
economy is now based on tourism and recreation. Antique, craft
and gift shops, small boutiques, and art galleries are located in the
once-deserted stores along Main Street. Jerome also has one of
Arizona’s oldest saloon-style bars. Lower elevations of the Verde
Valley, particularly the Cottonwood and Camp Verde areas, are agriculturally
oriented. Beef and dairy cattle, poultry, and irrigated crops
of hay, grain, and fruit are the principal products.
Jerome State Historic Park, “down the hill” from the center of
town, features the former Douglas Mansion which has been converted
into a museum with exhibits on the area’s history. Jerome
Historical Society Mine Museum, on Main Street, exhibits ore collections
and mining equipment of the past. The annual Paso De Casas
(Home Tour) celebrations are held on the third weekend in May. Other
attractions include Traveling Jail, Gold King Mine, Big Pit, and United
Verde Extension Mines.
The 42-acre Tuzigoot National Monument, northeast of
Jerome, houses three large Indian Pueblos occupied from the 12th
to the 14th century. Additionally, Montezuma Castle National
Monument, among the best-preserved Indian structures in the
nation, is near Camp Verde. The five-story apartment is perched in a
limestone cliff. This dwelling was constructed around 1050 and
abandoned in 1450. The Montezuma Well, part of the National
Monument is a natural limestone sink 470 feet in diameter and
125-feet deep. The Indians diverted water from the well into irrigation
ditches for their farmlands below.
The Verde Valley is surrounded by Coconino and Prescott
National Forest lands. Recreation areas within the Prescott Forest
include Horse Thief Basin, Lynx Lake, and Mingus Mountain. The
Coconino National Forest offers the Fairfield Snow bowl near
Flagstaff, one of Arizona’s skiing slopes. Camping and fishing, as
well as hunting, are popular in both national forests.
Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum on Main Street,
open from 9 am to 5 pm daily. Once the Fashion Saloon,
the museum now houses ore collections and mining equipment.
Douglas Mansion/State Park
Just down the hill from the center of town.
Overlooking the Little Daisy pit, the former Douglas Mansion,
designed by James Douglas with a wine cellar,
billiard room, steam heat and built from adobe bricks made on-site.
Now a museum that exhibits photographs, artifacts, and minerals.
Don’t miss the 3-D model of the underground tunnels under the town.
There’s a picnic area with a panoramic view.
The annual Paso de Casas (Home Tour) began in 1966.
Visit historic buildings on a guided tour.
Third weekend in May.
Other attractions include Traveling Jail; Gold King Mine;
Phelps Dodge Big Pit, and United Verde Extension Mines;
and one of Arizona’s oldest saloon type bars.
The Fairfield Snowbowl near Flagstaff for ski slopes,
and the Grand Canyon is just a few hours away.
Arizona does not use daylight savings time,
with the exception of the Navajo Reservation.
Prehistoric Native Americans were the first miners in the area preceding the Spanish, both seeking gold but finding copper. The first claims staked by Anglos were in 1876 followed by the United Verde mining operations in 1883 and the Little Daisy claim after that. Jerome was built on Cleopatra Hill over an immense copper deposit. The town grew rapidly from a tent city into a prosperous company town with an ethnic variety of Americans, Mexicans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians, and Chinese. The miners, smelter workers, freighters, gamblers, bootleggers, saloonkeepers, storekeepers, prostitutes, preachers, wives, and children added excitement and assortment to this rich life.
Jerome was a boom town with nearly 15,000 residents. The mines were quickly exploited by financiers bringing billions of dollars of copper from its depths. Steam engines, trucks, and autos soon replaced the pack burros, mule wagons, and horses. Fires became common and the town folks rebuilt again and again. In 1918 an uncontrollable fire broke out in the 88 miles of tunnels under the town, phasing out underground mining. Open-pit mining became prevalent and the buildings shook and cracked from the dynamiting. The business district began to slide down from the shifting of the ground surface. The Town Jail slid a distance of 225 feet and now rests across the road from its original location.
With the mines finally closing in 1953, suffering from the fluctuating prices of copper, labor unrest, the depressions, and wars, Jerome remained home to only 50 people; old souls who were reluctant to give up a lifetime of memories. Then in the 1960s, a new culture started moving in. Artists and artisans began renovating homes and opening abandoned shops to sell their wares. Old-timers joined with newcomers to bring life back to the streets. The Historical Society guarded the buildings against vandalism and the elements. The Douglas Mansion was made a State Park in 1965 and Jerome became a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Today, Jerome is very much alive with writers, artists, artisans, musicians, historians, and families. They form a peaceful, colorful, thriving community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.
Jerome State Historic Park
The 1916 mansion of James ‘Rawhide Jimmy’ Douglas sits regally atop a hill overlooking the scenic Verde Valley. The mansion served as a ‘hotel’ for visiting mining officials and investors, as well as home to the Douglas family. Once Arizona Territory’s most productive copper mining area, Jerome lost its sheen when prices plummeted during the Depression. The mansion’s well-appointed interior and adobe-brick architecture reflect the copper mining high-life before the fall. Displays feature local mining history and methods. The park, located in the town of Jerome off State Route 89A, has a number of intriguing historic attractions nearby.
Physical Attributes of Park Site
• Acreage – 3
• Approximate Elevation – 5,240 feet
• Closed on Christmas Day
• Stay Limit – Day Use Only
• Visitor Center – 8am-5pm MST
• Park Phone Number – (520)634-5381