Did You Know: Jerome Is One Of Arizona's Two National Historic Landmark Districts

Published: Friday, October 23, 2015 - 2:08pm
Updated: Monday, October 26, 2015 - 1:23pm

(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)
A view of Main Street in Jerome, Arizona.

It was a hustling and bustling place back in the day. And it was also among Arizona’s largest cities. Today it’s nationally recognized as a historic site.

Jerome sits about 5,000 feet above sea level, just over 100 miles north from Phoenix. The town was once a ghost town, but today it’s a cozy place with lots of history. Did you know the town of Jerome is one of two districts in Arizona designated as a National Historic Landmark? 

 “Jerome was at one point, the third largest city in Arizona with a population of 15,000 people," said Wes Yeager with the Jerome State Historic Park.

 “Early on in Jerome’s history what you’re looking at, is you had the professional miners from Europe that came over here. A lot of Slavic people, a lot of Irish were here, Cornish, you had a large immigrant population. Later on it switched to a Hispanic population," Yeager said.

Jerome was established in the mid-1870s. The town started as a small mining camp. Since this was so remote miners just stayed here, set up makeshift shacks and families followed. About 10 years later, copper mining in these parts boomed and Jerome was born.

“Once the railroad came across in northern Arizona through Flagstaff, Kingman, that’s where all of a sudden there was the potential to expand. And when they brought the railroad down on into Prescott, then you had the ability to get men, materials, the population in here," said Yeager.

By 1914, Jerome had two mines. The town is perched on the Cleopatra Hill and sits on one of the two quarries. There’s an estimated 100 miles of tunnels beneath it.

Mining in Jerome hit a peak in the 1920s — with thousands of people living here.  By the 1930s, Hispanics made up about 60 percent of the population.  Jerome had parks, schools, churches, and a hospital. But the Great Depression slowed the growth into the 1950s.

“Jerome’s population at that point dropped to less than 100 people up here," said Yeager. "That’s really where Jerome gets the moniker for ghost town. I mean, when you go from 15,000 people to less than a hundred, it’s gonna look pretty bleak up here.”

And although mining continued for several more years, the town was left desolate with only a few residents still sticking around.  It wasn’t until the 1960s when new and old community residents decided to preserve the area. 

“If you’re in the main business stretch up here in town all of those buildings are original up in town, from the mining days. We’re talking early 1900s," Yeager said.

 For about 10 years starting in the 1920s, sections of Jerome were sliding little by little. This was blamed on erosion and mine blasting.

In 1931, a middle section of the town finally gave way and the jail slid about 200 feet across Highway 89-A. It’s still there for the public to visit as part of the original town.

Updated 10/26/2015 at 1:23 p.m.

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