The history of Jerome, Arizona, is as fascinating as it is mysterious. Once a booming copper mining town, Jerome quickly became a ghost town after the mines closed. Over the years, the town has reinvented itself as a tourist destination and artistic hub, drawing visitors worldwide to explore its haunted past and breathtaking views. So, why is Jerome, Arizona a ghost town?
Let’s dive into its intriguing history and discover the reasons behind its transformation.
A Brief History of Jerome, Arizona
Jerome, Arizona, was founded in 1876 as a copper mining town on Cleopatra Hill, nestled between the cities of Sedona and Prescott. The town’s population soared with the discovery of gold, attracting miners, gamblers, and other fortune-seekers worldwide.
The population reached over 15,000 residents at its peak, making Jerome the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory.
The Wickedest Town in the West
Jerome was dubbed “The Wickedest Town in the West” during its heyday due to its numerous saloons, brothels, and gambling halls. As the town’s population grew, so did its reputation for wickedness, attracting many inhabitants from various backgrounds.
The town was filled with corruption, violence, and vice, adding to its infamous status.
Decline of the Copper Mines
Unfortunately, Jerome’s prosperity was short-lived. The town’s fortune declined in the 1930s as the copper mines ran dry. By the 1950s, both the United Verde and Little Daisy mines had closed, and the population dwindled to a mere 50 residents. With the closure of the mines, Jerome was on the brink of becoming a ghost town.
Jerome’s Transformation and Revival
In the 1960s and 1970s, artists and visionaries discovered the decaying ghost town of Jerome and saw potential in its historic buildings and stunning views. They began to move in, converting the old structures into art studios, galleries, and other creative spaces.
The town gradually transformed into a thriving artistic community, attracting diverse residents, including artists, writers, musicians, and other creative individuals.
Jerome as a National Historic District
In 1967, Jerome was designated a National Historic District, further solidifying its status as a treasured tourist attraction. The town’s appearance has changed little over the past century, with many of the original buildings from the late 1800s still standing and occupied by local businesses.
Visitors can explore the town’s historic sites, shop for unique art and crafts, dine at quaint restaurants, and even stay in haunted hotels.
Top Attractions in Jerome, Arizona
Despite its ghostly reputation, Jerome is a lively town that offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors. Here are some of the top things to see and do in this fascinating ghost town:
Start your exploration of Jerome by strolling down its charming Main Street, which is home to numerous local restaurants, cafes, wine bars, boutiques, and art galleries. As you wander through the town, you’ll get a sense of Jerome’s unique personality and history.
Jerome State Historic Park
The Jerome State Historic Park in the former Douglas Mansion offers visitors a glimpse into the town’s rich mining history. The museum features exhibits on the region’s geology, early 20th-century medicine, and the Douglas family, as well as a 3-D model of the town and its underground mines.
Cleopatra Hill Lookout
Climb to the top of Cleopatra Hill for a stunning panoramic view of the Verde Valley and the red rock cliffs of Sedona. The lookout point is near Jerome State Historic Park, so be sure to visit both attractions during your trip.
Jerome Historical Society and Mine Museum
The Jerome Historical Society and Mine Museum provide a fascinating look into the town’s past, with exhibits covering various aspects of Jerome’s history, including mining, gambling, and the lives of its early residents. The museum is open daily and offers a unique glimpse into the town’s intriguing past.
Jerome Ghost Town Tours
If you want to learn more about Jerome’s haunted history, consider taking a ghost town tour. These guided walks provide an entertaining and informative look at the town’s most famous haunted sites, including the Sliding Jail, the Haunted Hamburger, and the Bartlett Hotel.
Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes
For a unique and whimsical experience, visit Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes, the largest kaleidoscope store in the world. The store features a vast collection of handcrafted kaleidoscopes created by various artists and a selection of marbles and dichroic jewelry.
Chief Surgeon House
The Chief Surgeon House, now a charming bed and breakfast, was once the residence of Jerome’s chief surgeon during the town’s mining days. The historic building offers a glimpse into the lives of the town’s early inhabitants, and its lush gardens provide a peaceful retreat for guests.
The Bartlett Hotel, once Jerome’s premier luxury hotel, now remains a haunting reminder of the town’s past. The crumbling structure, located in the heart of Jerome, offers a fascinating look at the town’s history and the lives of its former residents.
Spirit Room at Hotel Connor
The Spirit Room at Hotel Connor is a popular gathering spot for both locals and visitors alike. With live music, a lively atmosphere, and a storied past, this historic saloon is a must-visit destination in Jerome.
As you wander through Jerome, take the time to explore its many unique shops and galleries. From local artwork and crafts to the town’s very own hot sauce shop, this ghost town has no shortage of interesting finds.
Wicked City Tap House
For a taste of local brews and a laid-back atmosphere, head to the Wicked City Tap House. This popular watering hole offers a wide selection of local beers on tap, wine, and sangria.
Jerome is part of the Verde Valley wine region, and there are several wineries and tasting rooms in town to sample the local offerings. Be sure to check out Passion Cellars, Cabal Cellars, and Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards for a taste of the region’s best wines.
Jerome Artists Cooperative
The Jerome Artists Cooperative is a local gallery showcasing the work of area artists. This co-op gallery is a testament to the town’s thriving artistic community with a diverse range of mediums and styles on display.
Located in the Jerome Grand Hotel, the Asylum Restaurant offers a unique dining experience with stunning views of the Verde Valley. Enjoy a delicious meal and a taste of Jerome’s haunted history at this popular eatery.
Audrey Headframe Park
Audrey Headframe Park, adjacent to Jerome State Historic Park, allows visitors to stand on a glass floor above a 1,900-foot mine shaft and marvel at the engineering feats of the town’s mining days. The park also features several pieces of historic mining equipment and is open daily for visitors to explore.
Gold King Mine and Ghost Town
Just a short drive from the heart of Jerome, the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town offers a glimpse into the town’s mining past. The site features a collection of antique trucks, cars, and mining equipment, as well as a petting zoo and gold panning opportunities for visitors of all ages.
Where to Stay in Jerome, Arizona
There are several unique and historic hotels in Jerome, offering a variety of accommodations for visitors. Some of the most popular options include the Jerome Grand Hotel, the Connor Hotel, and the Mile High Inn. Each of these hotels boasts a rich history and a touch of haunted charm, providing a memorable stay in this fascinating ghost town.
How to Get to Jerome, Arizona
Jerome is located between Prescott and Sedona, making it easily accessible by car. The town is about 25 miles southwest of Sedona and 45 miles northeast of Prescott. If you’re traveling from Phoenix or Scottsdale, Jerome is approximately a 2-hour drive away.
Whether you’re a history buff, a paranormal enthusiast, or simply looking for a unique and picturesque destination, Jerome, Arizona is a ghost town that should not be missed. Its rich history, eclectic atmosphere, and stunning views make it a must-see destination for travelers exploring the American Southwest.
So, why is Jerome, Arizona a ghost town? The answer lies in its fascinating past and the resilient spirit of its residents, who have transformed this once-abandoned town into a thriving artistic community and tourist destination.