Like a lot of frontier mining towns, Jerome has lost its share of buildings to fires and shifting terrain that caused structures to slide down the mountain. In fact, the town’s jail “escaped” -- sliding downhill about 200 feet over the years.
Fortunately, the hillside town above the Verde Valley still boasts an impressive collection of historic commercial buildings and homes that offer a glimpse of what Jerome was like during 70 years of boom and bust cycles in the billion dollar copper town.
Jerome has come a long way from its mining camp days in 1876 when it was known as the Wickedest Town in the West. It grew to more than 15,000 residents at its peak. But the good times ended in the 1950s when the mines closed and only a few hundred people stuck around to see what was next.
By the late 60s, the ghost town was discovered by artists and others interested in inexpensive housing, rejuvenating the town and protecting its historic buildings. Over the next few decades, locals remade Jerome as a destination arts town with a counterculture vibe. In the early 80s, the town's police chief got busted by the state cops for his involvement with growing and selling marijuana.
Something magical about Jerome
There’s something magical about Jerome when you see it from afar at night with its twinkling lights. It’s no wonder it's become such a popular getaway for Arizonans and visitors from across the world, charmed by its early 20th century streetscapes.
On the fringes of town, Jerome still has its mining scars, head frames and the rusting machinery of its past. But the new economy is spinning gold from galleries, shops, bars, a dozen restaurants and a mix of lodging. That includes bed and breakfast inns, the Connor Hotel above the Spirit Room saloon and Jerome Grand Hotel with its Asylum Restaurant. The Grand occupies the former mining company hospital, one of the town’s most prominent buildings.
Some popular dining options include Haunted Hambuger on the street one level above Main Street, along with the Mile High Grill & Inn, Vaqueros Grill & Cantina and Bobby D's BBQ at the English Kitchen.
On weekend afternoons, the Spirit Room features rock bands, starting at 2 p.m. You can count on an eclectic crowd of locals, tourists and bikers. It’s a great spot for people watching or dancing on the bar's well-worn wooden floors.
Paul & Jerry's Saloon a few doors away is a quieter spot, a locals hangout with pool tables. It's one of Arizona's oldest bars.
Parking is often scarce but visitors can drive past the fire station at the end of Main Street to find a large parking lot. It’s a 5- minute walk back to Main Street.
Jerome comes alive slowly in the morning. It’s a good time for photo buffs to take advantage of the softer light and fewer visitors mucking up your pictures. Walk the steep streets away from the commercial district to see restored Victorian homes and wander hidden pockets of town. Take a break from sightseeing in the shaded town park across the street and up a flight of steep stairs from Paul & Jerry's.
History buffs should not miss the Jerome State Historic Park, housed in the 1916 Douglas Mansion. It was built by James S. Douglas, the owner of the adjacent Little Daisy Mine. The state park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Finally, remember the town's slogan: Jerome is on Mountain Stranded Time. It says a lot about the town’s throwback Sixties vibe. Let your hair down and your freak flag fly.