Jerome and the area around it are full of history. Sitting on the steep slope of Cleopatra Hill on the side of Mingus Mountain, Jerome was a billion dollar mining town producing copper, gold, silver and other valuable ores.
The town's history is everywhere, in its homes, shops, civic center and museums. Wherever you stand in Jerome, you are on top of or next to a great story of historic importance.
During an 18-month period in 1898 and 1899, the town was leveled by fire three times. Years after that, part of the town's business district, including the town jail, started sliding downhill. The jail now sits about 200 feet from where it was built.
The New York Sun tagged Jerome as the "wickedest town in the West." Violent death, in the mines and at the wrong end of knives and guns, helped the town earn its reputation. Saloons, gambling halls and houses of prostitution were among the town's busiest and most popular businesses.
But the real history of Jerome is mining. In 1929 Jerome was the third largest city in Arizona, before the closing of the mines in the early 1950s dwindled the once-booming town down to about 50 residents.
One excellent source of history about Jerome and the mines is the Douglas Mansion, the main feature of the Jerome State Historic Park. The State Parks Department recently closed the park for renovations and as a cost-saving measure.
The mansion became one of the most eye-catching landmarks around Jerome in 1916 when James S. Douglas built the home just above the Little Daisy Mine.
North of Jerome is another gold mine of local history - literally. The Gold King Mine and Ghost Town was a lively little settlement of about 300 people with a working gold mine. In those days, the little town's name was Haynes, Ariz., and it developed because the Haynes Copper Co. was sinking a shaft looking for copper. The company's engineers reasoned that they could tap into the same source of copper that the mines around Jerome had struck.
But it wasn't to be. Instead, the company's 1,200-foot shaft struck gold. Although the mine never produced great wealth from the gold ore, it did remain in operation for quite a few years.
Now the gold is gone, and the mineshaft has been filled with water, but a few of the original structures and much of the related paraphernalia survived and are on display at Gold King.
Heaps of collectibles - old fire trucks, a 1914 sawmill, blacksmith tools, and antique cars - fill almost every corner of the property.
Visitors especially enjoy the 80-year-old sawmill, which they can't believe still works. But it does, and about every 15 minutes the gasoline-powered mill is fired up for a live demonstration. Belching smoke, the old mill saws logs into neat, smooth planks.
If You Go ...
Where: On State Route 89A through Cottonwood and Clarkdale then halfway up Mingus Mountain.
Services: Jerome has many restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns.
Parking: Parking is free and scattered throughout town.
Jerome State Historic Park:
Gold King Mine:
If You Go ...
What: Gold King Mine and Ghost Town
Where: Jerome. Take State Route 89A into town, turn at the fire station and follow the signs to the mine and town entrance
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Christmas
How Much: $4 for adults, $2 children 6 to 12, children 5 and under are free, $3 for seniors. Seniors 75 and older and wheelchair bound guests are admitted free. Group rates are available.