Historic Homes in High Places

Jerome and Montezuma Castle, Arizona - March 2009

The View of Peter Pergola
Rich copper deposits made Jerome a major boom town at the turn of the last century and attracted immigrants from around the world. European stone masons helped erect a substantial community of multi-story buildings on the steep slopes of Mingus Mountain overlooking the Verde Valley. Among the many graves in the cemetery below the town is that of Peter Pergola, a stone mason whose came to America from Italy in 1875.

A Shell of its Former Self
The mines went into decline during the Great Depression and finally closed completely in the 1950s. The city that once had a population of over 15,000 soon became a 'ghost town' with fewer than a hundred people and the abandoned buildings began to fall into disrepair. Artists, hippies and later summer home seekers rediscovered the town in the 1970s and 80s and restored many of the buildings, but a few reminders still remain from the town's darkest days.

Mansion on the Mountain
James 'Rawhide Jimmy' Douglas bought the Little Daisy Mine and pumped a half million dollars into its development without finding significant ore deposits. Days before his money was about to run out, the miners hit a large vein of 45% copper - one of the richest copper deposits ever discovered. Now a very wealthy man, Douglas built a large white mansion for his family near the mine (now the site of a State Park Museum). The building in the background is the shell of the Little Daisy Hotel - a lodging house for miners.

A Lady of the Night
A near full moon rises over one of the few remaining structures from the boom camp's red light district around Hull Avenue. This small duplex served as prostitute's cribs (a combination home and 'office') in the 1920s and 30s. Note how the plaster on the edges of the building have been textured to appear as stone blocks and the door and window frames are mostly just paint and plaster features .

Sunset Row
Jerome clings to the steep slopes of Cleopatra Hill like a miniature version of San Francisco - streets are stacked one on top the other rather than side-by-side. Every building in town looks out across the Verde Valley toward the distant red cliffs of Sedona and Oak Creek like audience members sitting in the raised seats of a giant auditorium.

The Traveling Jail
Miles of mine tunnels running beneath the town and years of blasting has so destabilized the surface that many buildings continue to slowly slide downhill at the rate of a couple inches per year. The jail was in a bit more of a hurry.. in the 1930s it moved over 200 feet from its original location and now sits on an entirely different street.

Jerome Saturday Night
The intersection of Main Street and Jerome Avenue is the heart of the old business district. The 'Spirit Room' in the historic 1898 Conner Hotel is a popular biker bar and one of the oldest businesses in post-mining Jerome. The tall building next to it is the Liberty Theater built in 1918.

A Home for Miners
Aside from Douglas's United Verde Extension (UVX) company at the Little Daisy Mine, the other big operation at Jerome was William Clark's United Verde Company that worked the original mine on the eastern edge of town. The financial success of both companies allowed them to build housing and recreational facilities for their employees that were above par for the times. The UVX built these apartments on Clark Street for its unmarried miners.

Orion on the Roof Tops
After darkness falls, the gift shops close, and the visitors head to their homes or hotels, the empty streets are recaptured by starlight, shadows and ghosts.

Real Ghost Town!
The Gold King Mine 'Ghost Town' covers the site of a smaller mine a few miles west of Jerome. After the mine closed, the owners used the property as a junk yard for collecting old cars, machinery, rusted things and chickens. The few miner's cabins and sheds were dressed up as a saloon, store, etc to make an old west town of sorts for tourists (there was never an actual town here). Although not very authentic and more than a little hokey, the rows of old engines, trucks and associated debris is still a fun visit for anyone having a passion for one-stroke engines, vintage cars or tetanus.

Cliff-side Condo
The miners at Jerome were not the first in the area to build homes in hard to reach places. A thousand years earlier, the prehistoric Sinagua people (related to the Anasazi - or Ancestral Puebloan - cultures of the Four Corners) built numerous cliff-dwellings and pueblos through out the Verde Valley. Early settlers named this one Montezuma's Castle because they thought it must have been built by the Aztecs of Mexico. Today it is a National Monument near Camp Verde.

Montezuma Well
A few miles from the castle is Montezuma's well - a water-filled sink hole caused by the collapse of a limestone cave. Numerous springs have turned the depression into a small pond that is over 40 feet deep and a popular refuge for ducks and turtles. The Sinagua were also attracted by the rare reliable water source and built homes in the crater walls (some are visible below the rim on the far side of the pond).

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