Arizona Travels: Jerome (Hilltop Ghost Town)
If you are traveling west along Interstate 89 ALT, about 20 miles from Sedona, you will end up in the quaint little settlement of Jerome. This copper mining town was built on Cleopatra Hill near Prescott and founded in 1876. After three prospectors laid claim to the copper deposits they found, the mining camp known as Jerome was born. In 1883, the men sold their rights to the United Verde Copper Company for a tidy sum. Shortly afterwards, the mining camp grew with wood and canvas shacks lining the hills near the mines. Later, the mining camp was bustling with all sorts of people wanting to strike it rich. The camp grew into a town and was named after Eugene Jerome, who was the principle backer. Two years later, the company shut down because the cost of operations became too costly. A new owner, William A. Clark, took over and added a narrow gauge railroad to reduce freight costs.
By the 20th century, the United Verde was the largest producing copper mine in the Arizona Territory. The canvas cabins no longer existed and were replaced by brick and framed buildings. Jerome now had churches, schools, theatres, hotels, shops, a civic center, and was the place where many wanted to live. This mining town was made up of many different characteristics of people seeking riches from the mines below. The international blend of people made life in Jerome stimulating and energetic. People continued to move to this booming town hoping for work and a better life.
By 1916 and with the addition of the Little Daisy Mine, Jerome was pumping out copper from two separate mines. The investors and financers were enjoying all the profits the mines were producing. During this era, Jerome was the 4th largest city in the Arizona Territory. Over 3 million pounds of copper was being extracted from the mines through the narrow underground passages.
Living in Jerome wasn’t always easy. The town was hit with countless fires destroying several structures each time. They always rebuilt but were faced with other unsafe situations living on a hillside had to offer. Because the mountainside had a 30 degree slope, some of the buildings slid down the incline. To the delight of some of the people, one of the buildings was the town’s jail. By 1918, with several fires in the mine’s tunnels and the constant dynamiting which caused the ground to shift and cracking many of the buildings, the mines took an enormous beating. In 1935, Phelps-Dodge took over the United Verde and three years later in 1938, the Little Daisy Mine shut down for good. With the prices of copper continuously rising the falling, and the loss of profits, Jerome’s copper mines shut down for good.
Jerome’s peek in population hit 15,000 in 1929, but dropped down to 50 souls living there by the late 1950’s. Today, the peaceful community is thriving thanks to the writers, artists, musicians, historians, and families that call Jerome home. Interstate 89 ALT narrows down to two lanes and takes you up the hill to the town of Jerome. You weave amongst the historic buildings and feel like you have been taken back in time. Many of the old structures have been restored by the residents who either live in them, use them for shops, restaurants, museums, or hotels. There are many historic places to see while in Jerome. One interesting place is the area called the “Cribs District”, located across from the English Kitchen, in the back alley of the buildings and was once part of Jerome’s “prostitution row”. If you are an urban explorer and ghost hunter, there are plenty abandoned structures, haunted bed and breakfasts or hotels. Jerome is known as the “largest ghost town in America”.
Hotels and Bed & Breakfast:
Jerome Grand Hotel
200 Hills Street
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-8200
This grandiose hotel was first built as a hospital in 1926 and name United Verde Hospital. It was outfitted with all latest equipment and was the most prepared hospital in all of Arizona. In 1950, when the mines dried up and many of the people left, the hospital was forced to close its doors. The building stood abandoned for more than 44 years until it was bought, renovated and renamed the Jerome Grand Hotel. The hotel opened in 1997and is a magnificent place to stay and take in the breathtaking views of Jerome and the Verde Valley.
Ghost City Inn (Bed & Breakfast)
541 Main Street (Hwy. 89A)
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-4678
This quaint little B&B can be found in the heart of the town. It was built around 1890 and was first used as an accommodations for middle mine management. The place has seen many different owners and uses. It was once a funeral home, art gallery, boarding house, an ashram, and now an inn. It was restored in 1994 and the current owners have refurbished all of the rooms. The rooms are from $105 to $155 per night plus tax.
164 Main Street (Hwy. 89A)
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-5006 and toll free 1(800) 523-3554
Built in 1898 by David Connor, this 20 room hotel offered a lavish stay to weary travelers and other visitors. The first floor had a saloon, card rooms and billiards while the second floor was where the rooms were located. The hotel had a run of bad luck burning down not once, but twice. It was rebuilt each time and renovated to its original grandeur. Like many of the other places in Jerome, the Connor Hotel was hit hard when the mines shut down. It stayed open but was never as extravagant as it once was. By the 2000s the hotel was renovated and opened once again. This is one of the many hotels in Jerome where ghost sightings have been reported.
There several other hotels or Bed and Breakfast places to reside at while in Jerome. This wonderful hillside town offers several choices of restaurants for your dining pleasure and a variety of shops to wander through.
For information on Jerome’s tourism, contact the following places:
Jerome Historical Society
407 Clark Street
Jerome, AZ 86331
Phone: (928) 634-1066
Tourism website: www.azjerome.com
Jerome Chamber of Commerce
Phone: (928) 634-2900