Jerome, Arizona. Hanging On Over A Hole in the Ground

Posted on October 30, 2014


DSCN1283Jerome, Arizona, clings precariously to the side of Cleopatra Mountain, gingerly sitting over 88 miles of tunnels left over from its mining heyday.


Jerome during its mining heyday.

Once the most productive mining operation in Arizona, it brought in over a billion dollars of copper, silver and gold before the ore ran out in the early 1950’s.

And when the ore ran out, the people did, too.

Once home to 10,000 hard-working, hard-living souls in the 1920’s, only around 100 people were still hanging around by the late 1950’s.

By the 1960’s, many of those remaining had no connection to the mines – they were part of the flood of  ‘flower children’ migrating west, inspired by climate and counter-cultural acceptance, and – no doubt – the availability of vacant buildings. Most were artists, writers and musicians, who, over time saw the economic advantages of their unique location.

Efforts to save the town from oblivion succeeded when these residents turned to tourism and retail sales after receiving National Historic Landmark designation in 1967.

The transition from nearly-ghost town to upscale shopping destination depended much on the talents of the original ‘starving artists’ who launched the first galleries, coffee houses, wineries and gift shops that now fill today’s downtown retail district.

It’s one busy place – at least until everything closes for the day, then it’s just a little home town to the approximately 450 people who live there full-time today.

images (2)But buildings stuck to the side of a mountain have a way of moving around.

Over the years buildings have collapsed or shifted or slid down the hill to completely new locations.

Most of the houses have a differential between the front and back of more than twenty feet. So you frequently park and walk into the top floor of a three story building.

The Visitors Center of the state historic park is located in the former home of an owner of the mine. In the basement of the building is a seismograph, constantly tracking movement of the ground below, as well as seismic activity in other parts of the country.DSCN1290

It’s a fragile environment at best, but it is something to see – while there’s still something left to see.

Posted in: Travel - Arizona