July 12, 2012

a visual tour of Jerome, AZ (selected photos)

Last Saturday, we headed out of the Valley up into the mountains for a drive to the small town of Jerome, AZ, which is generally situated in-between Phoenix and Flagstaff, west of I-17. The town of Jerome is more than a mile above sea level on Cleopatra Hill- on the side of Mingus Mountain, in the Black Hills range.  Since Cleopatra Hill has a 30% grade, more specifically, the town is situated on the side of the hill, with the main three or four streets laid out basically 'above' one another going up the side of the hill. 

The area Native Americans and the Spanish explorers had known there was copper and silver in the area for hundreds of years, but the town of Jerome was founded in the 1880s to house workers of the United Verde Mine. (United Verde was at one time the largest copper mine in the state; it mined over a billion dollars worth of ore throughout its 70-year history.) In the photo below (click the photo to make it larger), the town is left-of-center, below the 'J' on the mountain. (an aside: lots of places in AZ have these letters marking places; not sure how it came about- maybe to help direct the pioneers or travelers, since you can see them from such a distance? hmmm... I'll have to look into that.)
Jerome from a distance

At its peak, Jerome was the fourth largest city in Arizona with a population of over 15,000 people in the 1920s. At the end of the 19th century, the downtown area had three major fires, but each time the buildings were rebuilt. A series of underground fires in the mine tunnels around the year 1920 led to a switch from underground mining to open-pit style mining. (The underground fires burned sulfide ore that was in the area- one of those fires burned for a reported 20 years!)  The price of copper dropped in the 1930s and by the 1950s, all the mines were closed. With the mining industry leaving, the town emptied out and the population was only dropped to 50. The local historical society took over many of the historic buildings, to keep them from being vandalized. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, ‘hippies’ found Jerome, and today its population is just under 500, with a culture of art galleries, wineries, specialty stores, unique B&Bs and lodging, and ‘ghost town’ tourism. We were just up there for the day, and really didn't spend that much time there (it was pretty hot, even up there!) but I would love to go back again when it's cooler-, and wear different shoes (we both wore sandals, so we couldn't do much 'tramping around' looking for interesting- aka rusty and dilapidated- things to photograph). Below are a selection of photographs from the day:

'Showing its Age'
The photo above is one of those dilapidated structures; it's the Jerome Jail, which is (obviously) no longer in use. (I'll give you a bit more information about this jail later on in the post.) 

Through the (kaleidoscope) lens
This photo is of Tom, taken in one of the art shops, through a kaleidoscope- cool, right? The entire store was full of kaleidoscopes of all shapes and sizes; some of them were definitely 'art' in their own right, being made from materials such as exotic woods or stained glass.

Douglas Mansion Mining Museum
This photo was taken from the 'middle' of the streets that make up the town; it's looking east toward the Verde Valley. The mountains off in the distance are the San Francisco Peaks, which are just north of Flagstaff, and contain the highest spot in Arizona (Humphreys Peak, 12,633 ft). The building in the photo is the Douglas mansion, which was built by a local mine owner and now an AZ state park; we didn't realize this so we didn't check it out. As one website put it, 'James Stuart Douglas, the owner of the Little Daisy Mine, wanted an impressive residence to entertain his industrial friends and mining officials;' I think he succeeded quite nicely with the 'impressive' part, don't you?)

'a convergence of the (electrical) Force'
Another shot of the Verde Valley, taken from a street higher up-- I really liked how the electrical lines are all coming together here. (another aside: getting electricity to places like this has got to be pretty complicated, what with all the mountains-- another subject I'd like to know more about!)

sky blue scooter & sidecar
This scooter is just something that caught our eye as we walked along the street. Somehow, I'm guessing this belongs to a local, because I can't imagine it would make the trek up the mountain roads! (--but it's sure cute!!)

This was along the sidewalk-- I think it's an example of the rock face where they place the blasting charges... they drill into the rock face, set the explosives, get out of the way, then press the button before the boom!
We had lunch in a New Mexican style restaurant named 15.quince. (Quince is the Spanish word for fifteen.) It was really tasty!! And a ton of food; we had to try the salsa and guacamole (of course!), Tom got chili, and we both got entrees. (Pork carnitas burrito, and carnitas with beans and rice.) And the leftovers were just as yummy.

wall o' skulls
The other side of the restaurant was covered with decorated cow skulls and crosses. Alas, I don't think any of them were for sale. 

Jerome Main Street

This is what the shopping district of Jerome looks like today- it was designated a National Historic District in 1967, so they've worked to preserve and restore the historic look of the buildings --which hasn't been easy, due to the fact that there were so many fires and other disasters that struck the town. Remember I said I'd tell you more about the jail?? This next picture should explain what happened to it:

Buildings fall down between Main Street and Hull Street
The jail was just one of the casualties of this particular disaster... in the 1930s, the constant blasting from the open-pit mining operation caused a number of buildings in town to collapse and slide down the hill! The jail slid from Main Street down into the middle of Hull Ave. and stayed there till a bulldozer moved it off the street to where it rests today. (the photo above is part of the Historical Society Mine Museum display; $2 admission and you can learn about the history of the town and the area. It was $2 very well spent, in my opinion!)

Jerome is an interesting little town, and I would love to go back sometime to do some more sightseeing and snoop around for more rusty stuff to photograph. (but later in the fall, when it's cooler!)


kate said...

I can't tell you how much i enjoyed this post! Years ago(more than 22?)my husband Bill and i took a ride out thru Jerome, the Verde Valley(beautiful) and Flagstaff while visiting friends who lived in Phoenix. I was so intrigued by Jerome and wanted to spend some time there, but we just kept going, hoping to return...but we never did. Thanks so much for sharing this!

Alison said...

I too enjoyed your tour of Jerome!
Alison xx