Jerome, Arizona: Where Structures Fascinate — and Sometimes Fall

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Can you see five street levels in this photo of Jerome, taken from about halfway up the hill?  Five doesn’t include the sixth one being excavated and filled by the backhoe at the very top.

Why be interested in Jerome buildings?

Well, as a boom and bust town, Jerome has a wild assortment of structures, in widely varying degrees of destruction and reconstruction:

The "tamale ladies" house, kept around by the owner because it's picturesque -- and historical.

The “tamale ladies” house, kept around by the owner because it’s picturesque — and historical. Can’t say how much longer it will last.

The Chief Surgeon's house, about three streets down from the very topmost Jerome street and very near the Grand Hotel, The Grand Hotel was formerly the "big mine's" 4th hospital building. The surgeon's house, perhaps the most elegant and elegantly situated building in Jerome, is now a B&B.

The Chief Surgeon’s house, about three streets down from the very topmost Jerome street and very near the Grand Hotel, The Grand Hotel was formerly the United Verde Copper Company’s 4th hospital building. The surgeon’s house, now the most elegant and elegantly situated building in Jerome, is a B&B.

The Jerome Grand Hotel, said to be haunted, and a bit funky. It's restaurant is called The Asylum and features a Freudian Slip martini

The Jerome Grand Hotel, said to be haunted, and indeed, even now, a bit funky. Its restaurant is called The Asylum and features a Freudian Slip martini.

About three streets below the Grand Hotel is where our current abode, The Kelly House, is located. The photo below shows typical structures (shacks, shanties, modest houses) strewn throughout the town. These are just down the hill and around the corner from the balcony of our upscale apartment.

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The concrete wall shown at the top of the photo reinforces the flattened hillside on which the Civic (or “City”) Center is located. It was once the Clark Street Elementary School, where employees of the Big Mine (the United Verde Copper Company) went to school:

Jerome Civic Center: note the Mogollon Rim and Verde Valley beyond the building itself.

Jerome Civic Center: note the Mogollon Rim and Verde Valley way beyond the building itself.

Recycling buildings was perhaps essential in a place where half the land is taken up by mine and mine tailings, and where the amount of buildable hillside is limited. So, hospital #3, which suffered a landslide on its south side, became an Episcopal Church and then, as property of the Jerome Historical Society, a place for their archives. It’s very elegant inside.

The Jerome Historical Society Archive Building. And yes, that's the main highway through Jerome that one sees on two levels.

The Jerome Historical Society Archive Building. And yes, that’s the main highway through Jerome that one sees on the switch-backed two levels.

The Powder Keg Church has been restructured as a private residence. It originated as a church built by the "Mexicans" (anyone with a hispanic surname or visage or language) who built it from the barrels that the blasting powder for the mines came in. Now it looks like an Italian villa -- if it weren't for its background of mine tailings. The mine is the United Verde Extension mine, a rival of the UVCC.

The Powder Keg building, photo above, has been restructured as a private residence. It originated as a church built by the “Mexicans” (anyone with a hispanic surname or visage or language) who built it from the barrels that the blasting powder for the mines came in. Now it looks like an Italian villa — if it weren’t for its background of mine tailings. The mine is the United Verde Extension mine, a rival to the UVCC.

The former "Mexican" church, now a private residence. The United Verde Extension mine tailings form the backdrop.

The former “Mexican” church, now a private residence. The United Verde Extension mine tailings form the backdrop.

Many large building are partly inhabited and partly derelict, waiting for newly minted millionaires to save them.

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The Jerome Hotel, just up the street, has the art co-op on its first floor. The long low building to the right of the 6 story hotel is the Douglas Mansion, now a state park and museum, another repurposed building. James Douglas, who built the mansion, built a "hotel" for his workers. It house the clinic for the United Verde Extension workers; later he built a grander building that ultimately became the Jerome High School and is now part of a complex of art studios.

The Jerome Hotel, just up Main street from our apartment, has the art co-op on its first floor, and nothing, so far as I can see, on the upper floors. The long  yellow building to the right of the 6-story hotel is the Douglas Mansion, now a state park and museum, another repurposed building. James Douglas, owner of the United Verde Extension mine (smaller sized but equally as lucrative as the United Verde Copper Company up the hill)  built the mansion as well as a “hotel” and clinic for his workers. Later he built a grander hospital building that ultimately became the Jerome High School and is now part of a complex of art studios.

This charming building was a brothel, and is located on the eastern downslope of Jerome's city center. It is just about to fall down the hill, but I fell in love with it.

This charming building was a brothel, and is located on the eastern downslope of Jerome’s city center. It is just about to fall down the hill, but I fell in love with it.

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Of course, if you have enough money (and a strong stomach) you can shore up all kinds of buildings. But you might also need to carry good landslide insurance; Jerome has 88 miles of mine  shafts under its hillsides and  they have, in the past, given gravity a bit of help.

The old jail, after most of Main Street slide down the hill. The jail didn't tumble, so it was saved as a tourist attraction.

The old jail, after most of Main Street slide down the hill. The jail neither rolled over nor broke apart, so it was saved as a tourist attraction.

Parking in Jerome has its hazards.

Parking in Jerome has its hazards.

But if you have some money, you can creat all kinds of quirky buildings.

But if you have some money, you can create all kinds of quirky buildings.

I think, perhaps, I know some of the history of most of the big buildings that still stand in Jerome; and I know a bit about some of the smaller ones. But I would like to know more. Everyone tells us that we missed the “real Jerome”, the Jerome of multiple falling down shacks, when you could buy something totally derelict for $10,000 and get a piece of level land and build a dwelling without worrying about building codes and zoning laws. I can see the remains of the old town dump across one of the ravines, although now the town has a very efficient waste management system, which makes my desire for the good old days a bit less.

But there’s just enough of the old town left, and just enough new and renovated bits, to please my desire for history — and my enjoyment of  modern conveniences. So here’s some longer views of the structures of Jerome, AZ.

Jerome above the unnamed gulch fronting the cemetery.

Jerome above the unnamed gulch fronting the cemetery: at the top of the photo is the Jerome Grand Hotel.

Sycamore Canyon, to the east, across a pitted Jerome parking place.

Sycamore Canyon, to the east, across a pitted Jerome parking place and just at the tip of the Verde Valley.

Tailings pile from the United Verde Copper Company, hovering above "Mexican Town."

Tailings pile from the United Verde Copper Company, hovering above “Mexican Town.”

–June

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6 Responses to Jerome, Arizona: Where Structures Fascinate — and Sometimes Fall

  1. Olga says:

    What a wealth of material for plein air painting! The one which appeals to me particularly is the fifth in the post. The whole place is a living palimpsest. I imagine that this must have been what the ruined towns and cities of the Roman Empire must have looked like in the Middle Ages. Fascinating.

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    • june says:

      Hi Olga, The scene you chose is one that I want to paint before we leave. It’s in plain sight of the balcony, which helps a lot, although the confusion of materials and lack of perspective makes it a bit daunting. I am also struggling with the colors; I blame it on too much sun, so when I paint I think I have a relatively subdued set of hues that turn violent in regular light. But that might be just an excuse:-)

      In our readings about Jerome I keep coming across artists who have painted or drawn the town, although I’ve only seen one plein air renderer in the month we’ve been here. There are some at the Old School, but they must find hidden niches to paint from. If I lived here, I’d like to trace some of that art work from the 50’s forward and see what’s been done. There’s a lot of touristy craft/art available, but I haven’t seen much that’s very serious.

      “A living palimpsest” — what a fine phrase. I keep imagining what archaeologists would make of this place in 500 years. The overlay of upscale buildings with the shacks underneath, the stairs to nowhere and the crumbles of old walls — in fact, it looks to me like some of the walls were held together in the same way as the Sinaguan Ruins at Tuzigoot, down in the valley. Not much more than a mortar of local muds. The Sinaguans were in the valley about 1200 AD and Tuzigoot is being maintained by the National Park Service. Here’s a Tuzigoot link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuzigoot_National_Monument

      Thanks for your comment. In my mind, I’m considering what I might do with this month once I return to Portland, and the palimpsest idea is one that I keep coming back to.

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  2. patgaig says:

    I loved this post and all the photos of the quirky buildings. That’s probably why. You kept the “nature” bit to a minimum. But I feel exhausted. What an effort to get anywhere by foot. Yikes. What if you run out of toilet paper? 7 million steps and 6 hills later = dehydration and no need for the paper.

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    • juneu says:

      So glad you noticed the minimalist views of nature — did it just for you, Pat. I would write more but I just took a walk so need to drink a gallon of water and take a nap. And catch my breath:-0

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  3. Carla Preston says:

    Thank you for the postings on Jerome. What a very interesting place. It reminds me of Butte, Idaho City and other similar places all in various stages of disrepair but holding on enough to invite you into its story.

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    • juneu says:

      Thanks, Carla. In fact, the United Verde Copper company (the Big Mine) was owned by the guy who owned the Butte Copper Company. We got to know a little of Butte when we were in Basin Montana in 2007. Jerome is a great deal smaller, so somewhat easier to comprehend. Clark, the mine owner, kept trying to control his towns; Clarkdale, down in the Verde Valley, was his last attempt — a completely company town. 3 saloons and no brothels! And if you or anyone in your family misbehaved, you got sent away. All things I’m sussing out by hanging out:-)

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