The Weekly Postcard: Jerome, America’s Largest Ghost Town

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Up in the Black Hills of Yavapai County in the State of Arizona, overlooking the Verde Valley, lies the ghost town of Jerome. But before Jerome was Jerome, it was the site of a small mine where the local Yavapai tribe mined copper for their jewelry. The town’s history goes back to the late 1800s when the first miners began digging for the rich ore deposits. During the 70 years they were in business,  Jerome’s two copper mines made hundreds of millions of dollars for their investors.

The town was named after Eugene Jerome, a New York lawyer who financed the United Verde Copper Company, but who actually never set foot in Jerome. When gold was discovered in the area people from all over the world began flocking here. The town’s population grew from 250 residents in 1890 to over 15,000 in 1920s.

 

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Historic Hotel Connor in Jerome

To keep their employees entertained, the mining companies built a lot of saloons, restaurants, brothels and even an opera house.  At one time, it’s said there were 14 Chinese restaurants in town. But all was not well in Jerome. With the growth of the population also grew the town’s bad reputation for wickedness, gamblers and bad boys. Jerome was so filled with corruption that it was named the “Wickedest City in the West” by a New York newspaper. People in Jerome were dying in gunfights, stabbed, strangled, beaten to death, overdosed on opium, or committing suicide.

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House Of Joy Brothel In Jerome Arizona

In 1953 when gold and copper deposits vanished  and the last mine shut down, only about 50 people stayed behind. Jerome was on the verge of turning into a veritable ghost town, but the stubborn western city desperately hanged on to life. Jerome had a long history of tragedy and was not ready to disappear. On several occasions fire destroyed large parts of it, but Jerome was always rebuilt. In 1938 an underground blast rocked the town’s center, collapsing the business district, including the city jail which slipped 225 feet down the mountainside. But against all odds, the town survived. Ghostly remains of these buildings can still be seen today.

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Ruins in Jerome

During the 60s and 70s some artists discovered the decaying ghost town and began moving in. Then, some residents founded the Historical Society and proclaimed Jerome largest ghost city in America. But for their efforts of preserving and restoring it, the town would have become totally extinct. Today the town’s population is about 500 residents, mainly craftsmen, inn-keepers, restaurant owners, writers and musicians. Many of the old buildings from the late 1890s still stand today and are occupied by their owners, while some of the old structures are just remains from the town’s early days.

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There are several fine galleries, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, bars and some very unique gift shops in town. The buildings have a lot of charm and character and the town’s atmosphere is that of a bygone era.

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Gift shop in Jerome

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In time, Jerome underwent  a curious transformation: from a thriving mining town in the 1890s, to a deserted town in the 1950s, to an artist colony in the 1960s. You could say the town of Jerome is actually alive and well today, but what was once the fifth largest city in Arizona, has now been reduced to a ghost of a city.

 

22 Comments on “The Weekly Postcard: Jerome, America’s Largest Ghost Town

    • Thank you, Shere, that’s very kind of you. Truth is that I love ghost towns and I keep chasing them all over the USA.

  1. It’s sad how city’s can just be abandoned with everything still there. I love how some people have gone back and given it another chance! If it wasn’t for them and their motivation so many places would just stay lost. I loved this post!

  2. I have never really been to any ghost towns, not that I can remember from when I used to live in the States and visited the west coast. You have brought Jerome alive with your wonderful storytelling and beautiful pictures 🙂 We are just planning our road trip USA in 2017. I have to come back to all your posts in Arizona for our roadtrip planning. ‘Wickedest city in the west’ love it!
    samiya selim recently posted…Five hidden gems in South Island, New ZealandMy Profile

  3. Ghost towns always fascinate me. It’s always intriguing to think about what happened to a once booming and vibrant city to transform it into a ghost town. Your photos of Jerome show how haunting and mysterious a ghost town can be.
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted…Fashion and Pantone 2016My Profile

  4. If we lived in the western U.S. we would love to join you in your ghost town forays, Anda. They sound like wonderful adventures. We don’t have anything like that in the eastern states that I know of, maybe because of our wetter weather.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…Dingle Peninsula and Beehive HutsMy Profile

    • There is actually a long list of ghost towns on the East Coast too, Linda, even in Florida. They may not be from the gold rush era, but Wikipedia lists them all.

  5. You have no idea of how much I liked Jerome. I was there half day and it was not enough time. We also visited another ghost town that is located about a mile from the city. That place is neat too. And, believe it or not, we had a great BBQ lunch there. The guys that were cooking looked like they were 15 but they surely knew how to smoke meat.
    Ruth – Tanama Tales recently posted…San Sebastian seen from Mount IgueldoMy Profile

  6. It must have been so strange to be one of the few remaining people when the town started dying out. Those ruins are eerie. I’m glad that it’s rebounded, and it looks like the current residents are embracing Jerome’s unique history. I’ll have to keep it in mind if I’m headed out to Sedona.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…The Future of TravelMy Profile

  7. What a unique location to visit! I had never heard of it before now, but I’d be quite interested to check it out. I bet it has an interesting atmosphere!

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