Jerome, like Bisbee, was born out of the copper mining bonanza. In the 1870’s the United Verde Mining company began exploiting the large copper reserves situated under Cleopatra Hill, high over the Verde Valley. Mining continued both underground and overground until the 1950’s. The town of Jerome grew to support the mining operations and at its peak the population reached in excess of 10,000 in the 1920’s. By this time extensive infrastructure had developed including a railroad from the mines to the smelter in the valley below. The town boasted a hospital, hotels and of course bars and gambling dens. Famously the New York Sun described Jerome as the wickedest town in the West. By the 1950’s the deposits were no longer economic to exploit and mining operations ceased. Jerome sank into obscurity as the population collapsed and could easily have disappeared off the map. However, it began to gain popularity with artists and those seeking an alternative life and today the town thrives as a tourist destination with a particular emphasis on arts. Many buildings have survived and been restored over the years and in 1967 Jerome became the Jerome National Historic district.
Today Jerome is a very worthwhile way to spend at least half a day and makes a good diversion on the way from Phoenix to Sedona or Flagstaff. The town lies on the slopes of Cleopatra Hill and is reached via a winding road that ascends from the Verde Valley below.
Things to See and Do
The town is small but wandering the atmospheric streets gives a real sense of History. The numerous art galleries and eclectic shops are also worth visiting.
If you want to see the open pit mine walk to the end of main street (uphill) and continue to the right of the fire station. You’ll see the pit on the left.
Jerome State Historic Park
The Historical Park is situated at the Douglas Mansion, once the home of a mine owner. The mansion now contains a museum containing artifacts and displays relevant to the history of the town. Of particular interest is a 3D model of the various shafts and tunnels that lie under the town that shows just how extensive the workings are. Heavier mining equipment is displayed outside and the patio area provides great views out over the Verde Valley towards the red rocks of Sedona. Also outside is the Audrey headshaft where you can stand on a glass floor and look down the shaft if you are brave enough.
Jerome Historical Society
A mining museum is run by the Historical Society. The society also run an annual ghost walk in October, the details of which can be found on their website.
Staying in Jerome
Although Jerome makes a good stop off, there are also a number of options if you want to stay overnight.
A historic hotel situated downtown on Main Street. This also has a livley bar located on the ground floor.
Jerome Grand Hotel
Built in 1926 this was originally the Jerome hospital. Reputed to be haunted the hotel also houses a functioning 1926 elevator.
There are also a number of bed and breakfast inns in Jerome that are easily located using google.
Accommodation in the usual chains can be found in the town of Cottonwood in the valley below.