Jerome, AZ — The Charms Therein

Why am I so absolutely enthralled with this tiny tourist-swamped hamlet called Jerome?

Well, there’s the sun, of course, which comes up over the Mogollon Rim through our front windows:


And goes down behind Cleopatra’s Hill, spreading a shadow slowly across the Verde Valley and making the Rim glow:


And then there are the structures (see the last post), which hang out over the sidewalk and the ravines, a bit like New Orleans, with more verticality and less class (and maybe more instability).  Jerome’s housing and streets are clearly a precursor to the New Urbanism:




There aren’t many pretensions in Jerome. No gated communities (although there is one gated house belonging to a vineyard owner); beautifully restored mansions and uptown buildings sit cheek to jowl with what in Portland we would think of as public hazards:




There’s kitsch everywhere — or perhaps we should call it Post-Modern Art:




And there are those moments of unexpected beauty, like the purple cactus in front of the ivy and (just out of sight) blooming iris:


Or the Rim in the middle of a snow storm.


The stairs of Jerome deserve a whole blog of their own. Because the village is on a mountainside, stairs become essential. And often they are matters of convenience — some rocks stacked up haphazardly, so you can get from this level to that. The best ones are sort of hidden– the kids all know where they are — and can be contrived of easily traversed cement regularities combined with broken bricks that are treacherous underfoot.  The photo below shows the stairs leading to the town hall, where the pensioners walk to pay their water bills. I found it when I was looking for the library, which is right next to the water bill paying place, and downstairs from the municipal court.


The curve at the bottom of these stairs (top of the pictures) is not a camera artifact; it’s a fact of the street, which curves back around the base of the concrete wall which supports the ground on which the Civic building rests, dives down a cobbled one-way-ish lane, double curves around the Methodist church, and brings you out on highway 89A — all without having to traverse the switchbacks and tourist vans that roll through the narrow winding  streets of uptown Jerome. It’s one of Jerome’s little secrets that I figured out while lolly-gagging instead of painting.

Our favorite stairs go by that purple cactus and is perfectly suited to our foot size and step length. It took us two weeks to find them, although they go right up from the center of town.


People emerge from places like these unexpectedly — no one is there, and then, someone, usually a local but occasionally a bewildered tourist, pops up from behind some scraggly foliage.

The town tests its siren at 11:50 every morning. I know at that point I can stop painting, ’cause Jer will be along soon to take me home to lunch.


The Town Hall is not the Civic Center (where one pays ones water bill or goes to court).  It (Town Hall) is next to the Mile High Grill, where doughnuts are readily available. The Civic Center includes the library and the humane society.

The oddments of Jerome go on and on: a guard rail on one of the upper streets, for example:


And a street sign for an all but deserted street which used to be the Nob Hill:


There are plaques everywhere — the historical society, in a town of 400 inhabitants, has done a fine job of identifying structures:


But there are many bits of Jerome that entertain without words:




What can I say? There’s sun. There’s character. There’s breathing room. There’s painting space. In short, there’s Jerome.



Oh and I forgot the Kaleidoscope shop, the rubble of the Main Street Slides that have sometimes been turned into parking lots, the necessity to cross streets at right angles because the curves in both directions means your life could be at risk, the fact that the curves and verticality of the streets prevent cars from going more than 15 miles an hour, which saves your life every day, and the triumph when you can walk uptown without someone asking (because of red face and gasping breaths) if you are OK.

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18 Responses to Jerome, AZ — The Charms Therein

  1. I am so happy you’re getting this time in Jerome & recording it for all the rest of us. I lived in Jerome in 1970-71, before the tourists came.
    In fact, I lived in the apartment (with the green sunscreen) just to the right of your second stairs photo in this posting. The pool table at the Spirit Room was the center of social life. I met my wife in Prescott & one of our early dates was a spectacular meal at the House of Joy, no longer open but shown in your photographs in much the same condition as I remember it. I have fond memories of many of the buildings you are recording. Not the least being a member of the Yavapai Apache tribal basketball team (not of the tribe) and playing in the gym of the former high school out on the point. Have a wonderful time.


  2. Reva Basch says:

    I’m just enthralled with your view(s) of Jerome. I had no idea a place like this existed.

    btw, I have a neighbor last-named Giroux; I’ll have to ask if she has roots there.


  3. Reva Basch says:

    I’m just enthralled with your view(s) of Jerome; I had no idea a place like this existed.


  4. Thank you for coming to The Kelly House in Jerome & spending your month here exploring and truly getting to know and appreciate our little world. Please come back. Great photos and wonderful words.
    Have a safe trip home.


  5. jeaniedee says:

    Charming, indeed. It is also in the same map district as Sedona (very charming, in late Spring).

    I look forward to hearing about your travels and adventures, June. I get to visit places I’ve not been before with someone whose company I enjoy.

    I’m planning a t&a myself this summer. Honey and I are going to drive up to Campbell River, BC, Canada, to visit my niece and her family, probably in mid- to late-July. So far, I’ve written my itinerary for the Sunnyvale to Eureka phase, which we should be able to accomplish in one day. The next day will take us to the Bandon-Coquille, OR, area for a few days. Then we’re probably headed straight for Portland in one day, to stay a few days. Next, up to Seattle for another few days. Then Vancouver for a day. Then the ferry to Victoria and maybe a day there, and finally up to Campbell River for a few days. I figure if I wait until July 5th or so to start out, I should get relatively good weather all the way up and back.

    I’m thinking of coming back from Canada by way of the Olympic Peninsula, since I’ve never been to the north end of it before. Then I’ll probably visit Seattle again. After that, I might cut back to the coast, down to Astoria, since I haven’t seen much of that part of the coast. However, if Doug is along, we’ll probably head east from Seattle instead and visit a friend in the Washington Tri-Cities area, then re-enter Portland from the east side.

    By the time I’ve done all of that, I should have a rather good idea of how well Honey and I travel together, how much time we need to spend driving, and how many breaks we need in a day. I see the drive back from Portland as being more flexible because we won’t be trying to synchronize calendars with as many people. I might even take Highway 1 instead of 101 down through Northern California. I prefer to drive the coast on the northward leg of a trip because then I’m looking across the road at the ocean, but I can’t count on doing that before I know how much time and money the trip will take. Planning, planning, planning.

    The BC end of the trip reminds me that, as I recall, you and Jerry spent at least two summer holidays in the San Juan Islands somewhere when Jerry went to a Go summer camp. Doug and I have been been to Vancouver Island and Victoria before, but we never went up-island. It’s supposed to be gorgeous.




    • june says:

      Your trip sounds delish, Jean. Jer and I went to Hollyhock when Jer was doing Go — it’s on Cortez island, which is (if I’m remembering correctly) two island hops off the Big Island of Vancouver, near the top of the Vancouver Island. In fact, I think the Ferry goes out of Campbell River. We also spent time on Gabriola Island, with friends; Gabriola is an island across from Nanaimo, about halfway up the inner coast. The most gorgeous stuff, IMHO, is on the Pacific side of Vancouver Island — if you get a chance go out there. There’s a road (short trip) and a ferry (long trip) but the coast itself is really wonderful. LIkewise if you go out on the olympic peninsula, try to get to the Native American village at the northwest point — I’m braindead so can’t remember the tribe. But it’s also worth the trip.

      Your itinerary sounds great and you’ll be doing a lot of adjusting along the way — as it should be. Have fun and call us when you are in pdx. Sorry for the crude typing. I’m exhausted and about to climb into bed; tomorrow we leave for the long road trip back to Portland; lots of goodbys and packing today wore me out.


  6. Olga says:

    Thank you for all those photos and descriptions – each one full of potential pondering. You are obviously going to take home a whole library of memories from which to draw forever.


    • june says:

      Thanks, Olga. I think I may have to print out an album, so I don’t forget this place. One of the problems of living in the moment is that other moments can get lost.


  7. Leigh Hay Martin says:

    What a great essay and pictures on our beloved little town known as Jerome!
    We love people like June , who come to visit, stay awhile and “get it”…


    • june says:

      Hey, thanks Leigh. Jerome isn’t hard to “get.” Now if I can just figure out how to get back:-) I have a grand project I want to volunteer for, but first, housing….. with internet!


  8. Sue Arnold says:

    Great photos! Sent to quilters who know Leigh.



  9. Barbara says:

    One of these days you not return to Portland, and will settle down in a new home.


    • june says:

      It enters our minds, Barbara, but we have too many beloved Portland connections, family, friend, art groups, to make such a move more than just a daydream. On the other hand, 4–6 months here wouldn’t be a bad thing. If only some sugar daddy would appear and fund us…..


  10. patgaig says:

    I’m all a tingle in anticipation of seeing the paintings – eventually.


  11. terry grant says:

    Well, you have really made me want to visit. You know how I love old and odd architecture. Looks like a treasure trove.


    • june says:

      Terry, you are correct about this “treasure trove.” For one thing, a lot of the buildings were collapsing and saved by, um, shall we say, amateurs. So while they seem to be sound, they are definitely eccentric. The early wealth of the town, its vertical situation, and the difficulty of obtaining building materials made for interesting concoctions.


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