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Until recently, I had never even heard of Jerome, Arizona. Itâ€™s not that far from Sedona, and maybe thatâ€™s why. But, when â€œTrue West Magazineâ€ began touting Jerome as possibly the â€œbestâ€ town in the Old West, that was good enough for me.
From Phoenix, I took I-17 north to Camp Verde, then Arizona 260 northwest to Cottonwood, and finally Arizona 89A west to Jerome. The entire drive was uphill, and by the time I reached Jerome, high atop Cleopatra Hill, I was at 5,200 feet.
Jerome would not have been founded in 1883 were it not for the rich veins of copper ore that lay underneath Cleopatra Hill. In time, a staggering 1,500 tons of copper ore were being extracted every month. The attendant blasting caused many of Jeromeâ€™s buildings to start sliding down the hill.
The population rose to 15,000 in the 1920s, but after the copper boom went bust in 1953, the population fell to about 50 in the mid-1960s. Jerome was deserted.
Eventually, Jerome was â€œre-discovered,â€ and today it is populated by artists, beatniks, writers, hippies, proprietors, recluses, and JPG-types.
Jeromeâ€™s museums, saloons, cafÃ©s, and small stores are lots of fun.
But nothing can compare to Jeromeâ€™s old buildings, almost all of them hanging over the side of the hill, clinging for dear life.
Jerome has been called the â€œlargest ghost town in Arizona.â€ I am not surprised. The old mining town has quite a lurid history.
The store shown in the upper right featured the most remarkable copper pieces. I thought of Peggy Gardnerâ€™s copper creations, which I saw last month when I visited Peggyâ€™s studio.
More to eventually follow. As always, thanks for stopping by!
Also by Richard Knight
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