Perched high on Cleopatra Hill in Northern Arizona, Jerome is known as the ghost town that never quite gave up the ghost. Although the population of this once thriving mining community dwindled to a mere 50 people in the 1950s, an influx of artists subsequently resurrected the would-be ghost town. Today it’s a respected artists community filled with galleries, gift shops, restaurants and coffee houses. And although many folks visit Jerome to gallery hop, the town is also home to Jerome State Historic Park (www.azstateparks.com/jerome), which offers an excellent historical interpretation of the defunct mining operations.
Jerome History 101
Jerome is located along State Route 89A between Sedona and Prescott, and it makes a good stop on the way to the Verde Canyon Railroad (verdecanyonrr.com/), Red Rock State Park (azstateparks.com/red-rock/ ) or Dead Horse Ranch State Park (azstateparks.com/dead-horse/). The town’s history dates back to 1876 when rich copper deposits were discovered nearby. Subsequently the United Verde Copper Company was established in 1883, and the boom was on. A mining camp of canvas shacks sprung up, and the town was named after Eugene Jerome, a New York investor who financed the mine.
Sadly United Verde faltered after a few years, largely because of the cost of transportation. The mine changed hands and new owner William A. Clark developed a narrow gauge railroad to increase profits. Clark’s strategy worked and the revitalized United Verde became the largest producing copper mine in the territory in the early 1900s. Jerome accordingly transitioned from a mining camp to a proper town. Frame and brick buildings were built, and the town grew to include an opera house, two churches and a school.
Then in 1912 James S. Douglas entered the scene and developed the Little Daisy Mine. He later constructed a mansion on the hill above the mine, that was designed to house visiting mining officials, as well as to serve as the family home. For many years both mines were successful, but neither operation really recovered from the effects of the Great Depression. The Little Daisy shut down in 1938, and the United Verde hung on until 1953. And when the mines left Jerome, so did the bulk of the people.
Jerome State Historic Park
Today the 8,700 square-foot Douglas Mansion is home to Jerome State Historic Park, which is filled with photographs and artifacts that help illustrate the history of Jerome, with an emphasis on the local mines.
Accessible parking is located near the entrance, with ramp access up to the mansion. Inside there’s good pathway access and accessible restrooms on the first floor; however the second floor is only accessible by stairs. That said, the bulk of the exhibits are located downstairs, with only three bedrooms and a bathroom open upstairs.
Accessible seating is available in the theater, which shows a short film about local mining history. Mansion exhibits include a 3D model of the town, with the mine tunnels below it, a mineral collection, and lots of old photographs. Most of the rooms include historic pieces such as the square grand piano in the billiards room, and the 1950s soda fountain in the kitchen. Other artifacts include vintage grooming supplies, toys, an antique bottle collection and even a phone from yesteryear.
Outside the exhibits continue, with a large collection of mining equipment. There’s level access around all of the outside exhibits and over to the carriage house. It’s a varied collection with everything from a stamp mill and an arrastra, to a depression era mining yard, old mining cars and even a vintage buggy and a Model A Ford.
And don’t leave the park without a stop at the picnic area, which features ramp access and an accessible shaded table. Although it’s a great spot for a lunch stop, it also offers a beautiful panoramic view of the Verde Valley — and in fact this view was one of the reasons that Mr. Douglas built his mansion on that spot. It’s most definitely a million dollar view.