2/26/2013 8:19:00 AM Douglas Mansion an awesome museum with intriguing past
When the Douglas Mansion was built in 1916 Jerome was in one of its “boom” cycles. Traffic up Mingus Mountain was a nightmare. Everybody was heading for Jerome to get rich ... or at least to find a job.
Many tourists have been intrigued by the town of Jerome as it sits upon Cleopatra Hill. Most see and enjoy it as a charming little town that used to serve copper miners. The majority of visitors are satisfied by strolling through and spending money in the shops and restaurants that are part of Jerome’s resurrection. But, if you are canny, you will find your way down to the Douglas Mansion (see photo), also known as Jerome State Historic Park. It is an awesome museum with an intriguing past. If you have never been there, don’t put it off. Go.
When the Douglas Mansion was built in 1916 Jerome was in one of its “boom” cycles. Traffic up Mingus Mountain was a nightmare. Everybody was heading for Jerome to get rich…or at least to find a job. The mansion was the grandest house in Jerome. In fact, it was one of the showplaces in all of Arizona. James Stuart Douglas, the owner of the Little Daisy mine, was used to style as well as comfort. He also wanted to impress his business friends and mining officials. Douglas was an interesting character. He was a Scotsman by heritage and had no problem saving pennies when it came to personal expenses (even wearing shabby, mended clothes), but he had no qualms about spending $150,000 (in 1916 dollars) for his hi tech mansion that had steam heat, electricity, and a central vacuum system that still works. He was most proud of the fact that the house was built of adobe bricks that were made on site.
Douglas was mindful of his employees. He built the Little Daisy Hotel as a dormitory for his miners. This was quite timely as his miners cut into an extremely rich vein of copper just as World War I created a huge demand for the metal and for men to mine it. The demand for copper increased even after the War. Arizona produced more copper than any other state. Copper production continued to escalate until 1929 when the big bust came. It wasn’t only the Depression, but also low grade ore deposits that contributed to the bust.
Douglas’ two sons chose different career paths from their father. Lewis chose politics, serving in the Arizona legislature and eventually to England as Ambassador. James had a successful worldwide career in geology, but came back to work on the Little Daisy in its final days. The mine finally closed in 1938. The mansion was no longer needed as a residence.
The house stood vacant for a number of years while the family attempted to sell it. Our own “Belle of Bell Rock,” Fannie Belle Gulick, who had amassed a fortune in Nevada mining as well as other enterprises, attempted to buy the mansion “to make the spacious house a haven for elderly prospectors and miners… for those no longer swinging picks and shovels.” (Prescott Evening Courier, July 29, 1957) Unfortunately for the miners, these negotiations fell through and the mansion remained abandoned until the 1960s when the Douglas family donated it to the State of Arizona.
It opened as a state park in 1965, and the succeeding years have been kind to it. And if you should happen to be near it after sunset, you just may run into a ghost from its past.