Louise Speaks: These towns are not in Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” but living in Arizona this is one of my favorite areas. I keep asking myself, “how did some places make Patricia’s book and how did she leave out some of the most interesting places to see?”
Jerome is one of those places. The drive over Mingus Mountain is not for those that are afraid of heights or if you don’t like narrow winding roads. However, if you can handle those two things the drive is well worth it. Although it is only 11 miles, it will take anywhere from one to two hours to go over the mountain. The elevation is 7,726 feet so there is plenty of snow during the winter months. There are a few campgrounds and plenty of hiking trails along the way, but our destination was Jerome. The Mingus Mountain Scenic Road was designated on May 13, 1992, by the Arizona Department of Transportation. This route rises from the expanse of the Prescott Valley abruptly to the heavily vegetated Black Hills. In Yeager Canyon the road is visually and physically enclosed by the vegetation and canyon walls. Descending from the top of Mingus Mountain to the Verde Valley there are spectacular views of the Mogollon Rim, San Francisco Peaks and the red sandstone cliffs of the red rocks. This scenic road makes a smooth transition into the history of this mining area as it meets Jerome, Clarkdale and Cottonwood.
Jerome is at the base of this scenic byway. It is a town in the Black Hills of Yavapai County. Built in the late 19th century on Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley, it is more than 5,000 feet above sea level. It is about 100 miles north of Phoenix along State Route 89A between Sedona and Prescott. This is a great route to take on your way to Sedona (see Post Red Rock Country). Supported in its heyday by rich copper mines, it was home to more than 10,000 people in the 1920s. As of the 2010 census, its population was 444. To encourage tourism, the town’s leaders sought National Historic Landmark status for Jerome; it was granted by the federal government in 1967. In 1962, the heirs of Jimmy Douglas donated the Douglas mansion that was built-in 1916, to the State of Arizona, which used the mansion to create Jerome State Historic Park. By sponsoring music festivals, historic-homes tours, celebrations, and races, the community succeeded in attracting visitors and new businesses. These businesses include art galleries, craft stores, coffee houses, and restaurants. Oh and don’t forget the many wine tasting establishments scattered through town.
In the late 19th century, the United Verde Mine, developed by William A. Clark, extracted ore bearing copper, gold, silver, and other metals from the mine. The United Verde Extension (UVX) Mine, owned by James Douglas Jr., depended on the huge deposits. In total, the copper deposits discovered in the vicinity of Jerome were among the richest ever found in any time or place.
Jerome made news in 1917, when strikes involving the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) led to the expulsion at gunpoint of about 60 IWW members, who were loaded on a cattle car and shipped west. Production at the mines, always subject to fluctuations for various reasons, boomed during World War I, fell thereafter, rose again, then fell again during and after the Great Depression. As the ore deposits became exhausted, the mines closed, and the population dwindled to fewer than 100 residents by the mid 1950s. Efforts to save the town from oblivion succeeded when residents turned to tourism and retail sales.
Over its 77-year life (1876 to 1953), this mine produced nearly 33 million tons of copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc ore. The metals produced by United Verde and UVX, the other big mine in Jerome, were said to be worth more than $1 billion, giving Jerome the nickname of “the Billion Dollar Copper Camp.” Taken together, the copper deposits of Jerome amounted to “some of the richest ever found on Earth”. Today the mines are silent, and Jerome has become the largest ghost town in America.
Jerome had a post office by 1883. It added a schoolhouse in 1884 and a public library in 1889. After four major fires between 1894 and 1898 destroyed much of the business district and, in 1898, half of the community’s homes. Jerome was incorporated as a town in 1899. Incorporation made it possible to collect taxes to build a formal fire-fighting system and to establish building codes that prohibited tents and other fire hazards within the town limits. By 1900, Jerome had churches, fraternal organizations, and a downtown with brick buildings, telephone service, and electric lights. In addition to banks, hotels, and stores, were the thriving businesses associated with alcohol, gambling, and prostitution. These business served a population that was 78 percent male in 1900. In 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be “the wickedest town in the West”.
Jerome’s personality has changed dramatically in the past 30 years. Once a thriving mining camp between the late 1880s and early 1950s, Jerome is now a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of about 450 residents. It includes a variety of artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and fallen-down-building landlords. Jerome is an enchanting town, and a photographer’s paradise. From its external appearances it hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years. Many of the buildings used by present-day business folks are those built after the fires of 1894 and 1899. A number of the buildings have been restored and more are planned for restoration. Due to the 30-degree incline of the mountainside, gravity has pulled a number of buildings down the slope. To the delight of some, one of those buildings was the town’s jail. Those buildings still standing make for interesting visiting and with a little research you can find their historical significance. One notable section is the “Cribs District.” You will find this area across the street from the English Kitchen, in a back alley where all the buildings were are part of Jerome’s ill-famed “prostitution row.”
Jerome has several Bed and Breakfasts and the famous “Grand Hotel”. The Jerome Grand Hotel is a historic hotel that is currently in use. The hotel’s motto is “Arizona’s mile high historic landmark”. The Jerome Grand Hotel was originally constructed in 1926 under the name of the United Verde Hospital. This magnificent 5 story Spanish Mission Building was not only built on a 50 degree slope overlooking the entire Verde Valley, but it was built-in under 9 months. The building was a masterpiece of architecture because at the time of mining, the building was fireproof and could withstand the blasts of 260,000 pounds of dynamite. The hospital opened in 1927, and in 1930 the United Verde hospital became the most modern and well equipped hospital in Arizona and possibly in all of the western states. The hospital, however was closed in 1950, as the mining operations started to peeter out. The building stood unused for the next 44 years until the rehabilitation plans began in 1994. After two years of renovations the Jerome Grand Hotel opened it’s doors in 1996.
The Otis Elevator, which was first a self-service elevator, was installed in the Jerome Grand Hotel in 1926. The elevator serviced all five floors of the hotel. This elevator is still in use today, in fact it is the only elevator in the hotel. The elevator is regularly inspected by officials to be sure there is no faulty equipment and that it is safe for public use. This elevator is different from modern elevators because it travels at 50 feet per second, rather than the normal 800 feet per minute. In addition, the Kewanee Boiler, which was also installed in the hotel in 1926, provides low pressure steam to all of the rooms in the hotel. The Kewanee boiler is fired up by natural gas, and can produce between 800,000 and 2,500,000 BTU’s. The Kewanee Boiler also utilizes a dual pump figure, so if a worker needs to repair one of the pumps, the other one can still function without having to be shut off. Many other historic features have been preserved and are placed throughout the hotel. The hotel serves as a small museum of enjoyment for generations to come.
Lets talk about what the hotel is really famous for. After the United Verde Hospital became the Jerome Grand Hotel, many alleged hauntings began to occur. According to ghostlyfavorites.com. “Due to the high level of activity in the hotel, it is a quite popular destination for amateur ghost hunters”. Guests that have stayed at the hotel reported to hear coughing, labored breathing, and even voices coming from empty rooms. Guests also reported smells coming from rooms, such as flowers, dust, cigar smoke, and whiskey. Others report light anomalies and the television sets turning themselves on with no explanation. Two guests have also reported seeing the apparitions of two ladies, one in a white gown, and another one in a nurses outfit. Many deaths have been reported at the site, including the death of Claude Harvey, who was crushed to death by an elevator, the suicides of two maintenance people, both by hanging, and the deaths of many patients during the United Verde Hospital stage of the hotel. The hotel was featured on TV shows, such as Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. The last time Paranormal Challenge visited the Grand Hotel, they said they obtained so much footage and information that they have enough footage to do an entire show, not just a segment.
The ghost sightings started in the 1930’s with the nurses working at the hospital saying “You’ll see him”, “We call him Clyde or Scotty”. After the hospital closed in 1950 and for the next 44 years, the stories of ghost sightings, spirit orbs, paranormal and supernatural activities continued. Renovated into the Jerome Grand Hotel in 1994, the reputation of the old hospital and the ghost sightings continued. The current owners did not want a haunted house or a haunted hotel. They played down the fact that certain guests saw ghost sightings and captured pictures of supernatural orbs. Guests would constantly tell the employees “Do you know this place is haunted?” Jerome being known as Arizona’s largest ghost town, the owners said “If the guests want a haunted hotel, then let them have it.” The ghosts seem positive and everyone seems to have fun with the hauntings.
The hotel has many packages. For guests that choose the ghost hunting package, which is only available on certain week nights, will help with the ongoing investigation of the supernatural and paranormal activities. As part of the ghost hunting team, you are provided with an EMT meter, IR thermometer and digital camera to help document the spirits, orbs, ghost sightings, and haunted happenings at what may be one of the 10 most haunted places in America. Why a ghost town became associated with hauntings is unclear, but Jerome’s reputation for its haunted houses and haunted places is surpassed by none. Jerome is known to have more than one haunted hotel, but only the Jerome Grand Hotel was the original haunted hospital.
Clarkdale is a town where the Verde River and Bitter Creek flows through. According to 2006 Census the population of Clarkdale is 3,836. Clarkdale, formerly a mining town, is now largely a retirement community with an eye for the arts. Since it is just down the mountain from Jerome, it’s no doubt that the arts and crafts have drifted into Clarkdale. Tuzigoot National Monument , a large pueblo ruin, is located between Clarkdale and Cottonwood, on land donated to the National Park Service by Phelps Dodge in 1938.
Clarkdale was founded in 1912 as a company smelter town for the United Verde Copper mine in nearby Jerome. Clarkdale was one of the most modern mining towns in the world, including telephone, telegraph, electrical, sewer and spring water services, and was an early example of a planned community. The Clark Mansion, a local landmark, was built-in the late 1920s by William Clark III, Clark’s grandson and heir to the United Verde Copper Company. The structure, east of town across the Verde River near Pecks Lake, was destroyed in 2010 by a fire of “suspicious” origin.
The town center and business district were built-in Spanish Colonial style and feature the Clark Memorial Clubhouse and Memorial Library, both still in use. The Clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The entire original town site is also on the National Register as the Clarkdale Historic District. Clarkdale is also home to the Verde Canyon Railroad which takes trips to the Grand Canyon daily at 1:00 p.m.
Cottonwood is a larger city than Jerome or Clarkdale. According to 2006 Census the population of the city is 11,171. The City of Cottonwood is located adjacent to the Verde River at elevations ranging from 3,300 feet to 3,900 feet above sea level and experiences a mild climate. With its proximity to an abundance of natural amenities such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and Tuzigoot National Monument it continues to attract steady growth and tourism. Cottonwood is adjacent to Clarkdale. The area is unsurpassed in its variety of physical beauty with the red rocks and Mogollon Rim to the north and east and the Black Hills and Mingus Mountain dominating the western and southern portions of the valley.
As with other communities in the Verde Valley, the city of Cottonwood shares a rich and lengthy history. The region has long been home to Native Americans, particularly the Sinaugua and later the Yavapai and Apache tribes. The first Anglo settlers in the area farmed and provided goods for the soldiers at Camp Verde and for the miners in Jerome beginning in the late 1870’s. William Clark and Jimmy Douglas developed major smelters and the mining communities of Clarkdale. Today, few people recognize the size and complexity of the original “Smelter City”. Old Town Cottonwood, which is at the opposite end of town, became a haven for those seeking to be free from the prejudice and regulation of nearby company towns. Main Street was created in 1908 when Charles Stemmer and Alonzo Mason used a mule team to pull and drag through brush. You can definitely see the difference between “downtown Cottonwood” and “Old Town Cottonwood”, but both are worth visiting. Oh, Cottonwood does have a DQ should you be in the mood for ice cream.
Visiting these three towns, as well as taking the Mingus Mountain scenic byway is a great way to spend the day. There are plenty of things to do, places to eat and drink, and views that are uncomparable to any you’ve ever seen. I truly enjoy visiting Jerome. Since it’s so close to Prescott, it’s a great place to take out-of-town guests or just take a drive with the top down (I have a convertible). Since I mentioned the DQ in Cottonwood, I want to also say, if you’re in the mood for a good hamburger, you’ve just got to stop at the “Haunted Hamburger” in Jerome.
I really enjoyed the day today, and all the sites I saw, some for the first time. That being said, I would rate Jerome, Clarkdale and Cottonwood an A. It’s a part of Arizona history, quaint and not your normal tourist trap.