Established in 1876, Jerome’s existence as a mining town was heavily reliant on the demand for copper. A demand that caused the population of the town to swell up to 15,000 before the mines stopped producing enough to stay profitable. The mine closed in 1953. Now, roughly 450 artists, shop owners, and others call Jerome home. Tourist swell up the numbers during the cooler weather when its comfortable to walk around in the middle of the desert. Be aware, parking can be a beast in the little hillside town on those days – especially the weekends when people from Flagstaff, Prescott, and Sedona come in for an afternoon.
If you’re headed between Prescott and Flagstaff on 89A, you’re going to go straight though Jerome. It’s worth a stop in town and the state park to stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, and learn about what was once the third largest in Arizona.
Town on a Mining Hill
Sitting on top of Cleopatra Hill, the community once known as the “Wickedest Town in the West” overlooks the Verde Valley. The hill was home to a vast quantity of copper, along with a supply of gold and silver. The name comes from Eugene Jerome, a New York financier and cousin of Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill. He invested $200,000 to initiate mining operations on Cleopatra Hill around 1880. Initially, they struck a vein of silver in 1883, but it dried up before Jerome could make a return on his investment. Roughly $80,000 dollars was pulled out. Jerome lost faith in his investment and sold out, but the town’s name has remained. By the way, great riches were about to had not long after he sold the hill to the infamous William Andrews Clark.
Largest Ghost Town in America
Besides being known as the Wickedest Town in the West during its heyday, Jerome also became known as the Largest Ghost Town in America just a few decades later. After the last mines closed in 1953, there wasn’t much economic activity to support the community. People moved away in search of other opportunities and possible fortune. Eventually, the population dwindled to about 50 people.
That’s when it became the Largest Ghost Town in America.
Then, starting in the 1960s, artists and hippie-types were drawn to this remote location offering interesting architecture, history, geology, and desert flora and life. The town began to come alive again and has become a tourist magnet. Enough of a magnate to support the local economy and allow people to thrive while doing what they love.
Jerome's Business District
Obviously, a town built on the side of a relatively small hill isn’t going to be that big. The business district is roughly two city clocks long and wide. You have to walk up and down the hill to get where to all the businesses.
You have your choice of eateries from fine dining to burger joints to bar food. Jerome restaurants and dining areas offer a fairly wide selection depending on your tastes. Remember, the owners are generally people who love the artistry of food and the smiles of their guests. This is a welcoming town.
There’s also a few shops offering turquoise jewelry, rocks & crystals, antiques, leather goods, and more. There’s more than enough to satiate most buying needs during a small town visit.
There aren’t any hostels in Jerome, but there are some very nice lodging options available if you want to get the full flavor of the town by staying in it for a couple of days.
Jerome State Historical Park
After William Clark bought Eugene Jerome United Verde mine, he put in a railroad to transport the copper and other finds to markets. The railroad venture extended to creating a rail line that went from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles with a major stop at the springs in what is now Las Vegas (Clark County, NV, is named after him). The railroad to spurred other investors to come to Jerome.
One of those people was James Stuart “Rawhide” Douglas, who bought and developed the Little Daisy Mine around 1912. He didn’t strike gold, but he did find silver…and lots of it. Douglas struck it rich and built a mansion for his family on a point overlooking the valley. A mansion that now serves as the Jerome State Historical Park in 1916.
The exterior grounds provide fantastic views of Verde Valley and displays of equipment used during the mining days. There are variable sizes of crushers to break up the different sizes of rock to capture the precious metals inside of them. You can also see the various types of carts and wagons used by miners to move the rock from the bowels of the mine to crushers above ground. A restored Model A Ford named Smoky Joe and the horse buggy of Dr. Douglas is on display on the grounds.
At the northern end of the house is a small picnic area where you can stop and take in the soft desert breezes while having lunch.
Inside the Home
There’s a lot to learn inside the house ranging from the history of the Douglas’ family in Jerome to specimens of the rocks, gems, and crystals that have come out of the Little Daisy Mine.
One of the items I found amazing was the Arco Wand Vacuum Cleaner. The machine acted as a vacuuming pump that was placed in one location. The cleaning staff would plug vacuum hoses in outlets throughout the house. The vacuum would get turned on and suck the debris through the hose and a piping system in the walls to a central location. The debris would then be collected and discarded.
The museum also houses a fine set of displays detailing the narrow gauge railroad that allowed Jerome to grow and prosper while the boom times lasted as well as displays on Jerome Volunteer Fire Company and the fires it fought.
There is a wealth of information throughout the house and you should allow yourself a couple of hours to really take everything in. It’s worth it.
Jerome, NV Map & Park Hours
Park and Facility Hours
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily
Thanksgiving: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Christmas Eve: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Park Entrance Fee
Adult (14+): $7.00
Youth (7–13): $4.00
Child (0–6): FREE