The Edmond Sun

Features

October 4, 2013

ON TRAVEL: A ghost town revives itself through arts, shopping

JEROME, Ariz. — Memories of family vacations from my childhood are the best. And even better when they are revisited. Back in the mid-50s my family and I drove to California.  In Arizona, we made a slight detour from Route 66 to drive through the ghost town of Jerome. As I remember it, the drive was scary — the road zig-zaggy — and the deserted buildings, some of which had tumbled down the side of the mountain, were creepy. So when Jack and I drove from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon this spring — we had to make a detour.

Native Americans knew the area and, perhaps Spanish conquistadores, too.  But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that Anglos came to the area, lured by the promise of mineral wealth. Yes, there was some gold and silver but the big payoff came in the form of copper.

Early attempts at extraction were less than financially successful but in 1888 Montana Sen. William A. Clark leased the mineral rights and subsequently purchased the major claim. Clark, already a millionaire from his copper interests in Butte, Mont., took over the United Verde Copper Company, which eventually produced more than a billion dollars in copper, gold and silver.

The other famous name in Jerome was James S. Douglas who owned the Little Daisy mine. He left a more lasting mark on today’s town because he built a beautiful adobe mansion that is now a museum and part of the Jerome State Historic Park.

Jerome in 1903 was described by a writer for the New York Sun as “the wickedest town in the West.” The miners were a hard-working, hard-living bunch and prostitutes, gamblers and bootleggers made out like bandits.  

The first mines were traditional, dangerous, below-ground operations. Explosions and fires were common. One fire actually burned for 20 years.  

At its peak between 1921 and 1923, 15,000 people lived in Jerome making it the fourth-largest town in the state at the time. Then with the combination of the mines petering out, copper prices falling and the Depression hitting, the party was over. The mines closed in 1930. People started leaving town; buildings fell into disrepair.

In the mid-30s, Phelps Dodge bought the mining rights and instituted open pit mining. The excavations scarred the land and the blasting weakened foundations already on a shaky footing from the 100 miles of tunnels undermining the town.  All operations ceased in 1952.

This time the town was almost completely deserted and in shambles. Population in the next decade ranged from eight to 58. It was during this period that I first saw Jerome.

Fast-forward to today and you’ll find the town has made a mini-resurrection. It’s now a community of about 450 with artists, musicians and merchants making it an interesting place to visit and a stimulating, if difficult, place to live.

The streets still zig-zag up the side of Cleopatra Hill with steep stairways providing shortcuts for pedestrians. At 5,000 feet, even shortcuts leave visitors short of breath.  

The first stop before exploring the actual town should be the Jerome State Historic Park outside of town. The museum in the historic Douglas mansion is devoted to the history of the town and the Douglas family. Built in 1916, the house was intended to serve not only as the family home but a hotel for company officials and special guests. The best view of the town is from the terrace in front of the home.

Visitors have several great choices for eating in Jerome. We had lunch at the Mile High Grill where we found great sandwiches and super beer-battered onion rings.  We also stopped in at the Hilltop Deli in a structure built as apartments by one of the mining companies in 1916. Sandwich choices here seemed endless with a couple of great-sounding vegetarian options. We didn’t eat at Grapes or Haunted Hamburger, but we did eat at Nic’s in Cottonwood — owned by the same people — and we’d be willing to endorse them on that basis alone.  

We stayed in Cottonwood but there are some nice places in Jerome, particularly if you don’t mind sharing your stay with some of the town’s more spectral residents. The really adventuresome travelers will want to take an evening haunted tour with Tours of Jerome.

If you enjoy shopping, gallery hopping or just browsing, there’s plenty to see in Jerome. Here are a couple of my favorite spots:

• Adorn is a specialty boutique with local art, jewelry, home decor and accessories. I bought some great Christmas presents here. I’d tell you what but that would spoil the surprise.

• Nelly Bly and Nelly Bly II are located in what was once Jennie’s Place, an 1898 brothel operated by Jennie Bauter, a madam from Belgium. When she was murdered in 1905, she was reputed to have been the wealthiest woman in Arizona. (I told you business was good!) Now it’s the home of two really cool shops. Nelly Bly II is a fine art and jewelry gallery. Nelly Bly is the world’s largest kaleidoscope store. Kaleidoscopes here range from bitty to really big — and the prices match. There’s even a kaleidoscope planter in front of the store with live flowers for the color elements.

• There are several wineries in town. Caduceus, owned by Maynard James Keenan, lead singer with the band Tool (ask your grandkids), and Bitter Creek, with the best view in town.

• Merchants Gathering in the 1905 Studebaker/Marmon dealership houses several interesting businesses including Cody DeLong’s art studio and Casa Latina, featuring Latin American art, jewelry and clothing.

Jerome is south of I-40 on a scenic route that goes from Flagstaff through Sedona and on to Prescott. It’s a detour well-worth taking.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond-based travel writer.

1
Text Only
Features
  • Fall gardening season has arrived

    Even though the temperature is hot and there are still summer vacations on the calendar, it is time to start thinking about planting your fall garden.
    Most Oklahoma gardeners are still reaping the rewards of their spring gardens, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension consumer horticulturist, but it is not too early to plan for fall gardening crops.

    July 23, 2014

  • Receive 10 free dogwood trees from Arbor Day Foundation

    Add color to your landscape year-round by joining the Arbor Day Foundation in August.

    July 23, 2014

  • Authorities update Simpson’s saga

    Investigators are attempting to locate the owner of a dog named Simpson to determine whether or not his injuries were due to an accident or man-made, an official said.
    On July 1, the Logan County Sheriff’s Office investigated reports of an injured dog near the intersection of Western and Simpson in south Logan County, Lt. Tom Kutay said. Officers responded and took several statements of a dog being found with injures to its back, Kutay said.

    July 22, 2014

  • Whataburger celebrates children’s superhero spirit with ‘Super-Duper’ event

    It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Super Duper Celebration! In the heart of every child lives a superhero and on Thursday Whataburger restaurants will celebrate the superhero spirit in all of us with an evening of family fun from 5-7 p.m. at its location at 421 S. Broadway.
    Customers can spend quality time with their little heroes and treat them to a superhero-themed celebration of food, activities and giveaways. Children 12 and under dressed in a superhero costume will receive a free kid’s meal. There will be a Whataburger photo booth and Whataburger’s mascot, Whataguy, will also be present to join the fun.

    July 22, 2014

  • Shopping smarter for family necessities can help the environment

    There’s a growing trend among consumers to make choices reflecting the goals and values that matter to them most.  In fact, two out of five people say they’re more inspired to try a natural product that does something good for themselves, their family and the planet, according to a recent study conducted by Toluna for natural products brand Tom’s of Maine.

    July 21, 2014

  • Back to school lunch Build a better bag

    Brown bag lunches and back to school go hand in hand. As you’re gearing up for the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to stock the pantry with healthy sack lunch options and after school snacks, too.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pets

    This is a list of animals that have been found and are at the Edmond Animal Shelter, at Interstate 35 and Covell in the Cross Timbers Municipal Complex. Call the shelter at 216-7615 for more information.

    July 21, 2014

  • Kids Cook Simple ways canned foods get children cooking

    When it comes to teaching children about healthy eating habits, there’s no better classroom than the kitchen.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls The Canebrake offers summer recipe for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls

    The Canebrake, a destination hotel and spa in Wagoner, is offering the following recipe from its restaurant for Garden Vegetable Spring Rolls with Avocado Wasabi Puree.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 21, 2014