I don’t know exactly what it is about Jerome that makes me feel immediately so comfortable. Is it the crumbling stone, decadent neon lights, or perhaps the canopy of stars that hangs over all of this? Whatever the attraction, on a glorious Sunday evening, I sat in Paul & Jerry’s Saloon on Main Street. Paul & Jerry’s has been serving drinks for almost all of its 131 years of existence, claiming to be Arizona’s oldest family owned bar.
From my perch on the barstool, I basked in the atmosphere. I watched a woman celebrate her birthday by dancing to the tune I was playing on the jukebox. I listened to George, the indulgent bartender, explain why he didn’t believe in ghosts. This made me think of the words Louis Armstrong would sing with such sentiment, “What a wonderful world.” At least right here in Jerome it was, I thought.
Jerome hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years
Located 100 miles north of Phoenix, the historic copper mining boom town of Jerome sits a mile-high atop Cleopatra Hill. During its feisty history, fires ravaged the clapboard town. And due to the 30-degree incline of the mountainside, fickle gravity pulled a number of buildings down the slope. But the hardy residents persisted and always rebuilt.
Known as the “wickedest town in the west,” saloons and brothels lined the streets. They were fueled by over a billion dollars worth of gold, copper, silver and zinc that was extracted during a period of over 70 years until the last mine closed in 1953. Then the remaining 50 to 100 resilient souls promoted the town as a historic ghost town. In 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government.
Today Jerome is a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of about 450 (including dogs and cats). From its twisting streets, you can witness the surrounding splendor of the Verde Valley almost 2,000 feet below. Or you can reflect on the breathtaking views of the terraced red rocks of Sedona. Many of the buildings used by the entrepreneurs were built after the fires of 1894 and 1899. Businesses include a generous mix of artists, craft people, musicians, writers, recluses, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and ever hardworking winemakers.
What to See
Jerome State Historic Park
100 Douglas Rd, Jerome / 928-634-5381 /
is is a must see. Here you can learn more about the fascinating history of this town through photographs, artifacts and minerals in addition to a video presentation and a 3-D model of the town with its underground mines. Don’t miss the displays outside which include taking a peek down the 1900-foot Audrey mine shaft.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park
3505 W. SR-260, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322 / 928-567-2840 /
You can pet a snake or feed a giraffe by taking a side trip to Out of Africa, the Verde Valley’s own wild animal rescue park.
Verde Canyon Railroad
300 N Broadway, Clarkdale, AZ 86324 / 800-582-7245 /
Sit back and relax once you climb aboard the Verde Canyon Railroad for a leisurely train ride from Clarkdale to Perkinsville and back—into Arizona’s other “grand canyon.”
Gold King Mine and Ghost Town
403 Clark Street, Jerome AZ 86331 / 928-634-005 /
In 1890, when the Haynes Copper Company dug a 1200-foot-deep shaft in search of copper, they found gold instead. The site is now a museum where visitors can see demonstrations of antique mining equipment and the operation of a turn-of-the-century sawmill. The diversity of items at the Gold King Mine can be mind boggling. If you are a photographer, this can easily be an all-day excursion.
Tours of Jerome
110 Main St. Suite 1, Jerome / 928-639-4361 /
Discover even more about Jerome by taking a walking tour or wine tour. If that is not enough, find out why Jerome is known as one of the most haunted towns in Arizona by taking a haunted tour!
For the More Adventurous
If loftiness is not your thing, stay on the ground with a horseback ride through the high-desert, www.TrailHorseAdventures.com or go off road in a jeep through the red rocks of Sedona, www.PinkJeepToursSedona.com.
Where to Eat
The Bordello of Jerome
412 Main Street, Jerome, Arizona / 928-649-5855 /
Beautiful small restaurant serving lunch and dinner with full bar. As their Facebook page states, they feature flavors for carnivores and vegetarians alike including a homemade veggie burger or portobello burger, exotic meats such as bison, boar or venison burger, kale and quinoa salads, falafel and hummus, and fresh soups just to name a few of their flavorful offerings.
Where to Stay
Ghost City Inn
541 Main St, Jerome, AZ 86331 / 928-634-4678 /
Even if the name may suggest it, you may or may not encounter otherworldly spirits here, but you will definitely encounter innkeeper Ingrid Sarris and her wonderful hospitality and equally wonderful breakfasts!
Built around 1890 as a boarding house for employees of the nearby copper mines, the Ghost City Inn has experienced many incarnations including a restaurant, art gallery, ashram, and even a funeral home. The building experienced major restorations as late as 2014 but still retains some of the uneven floors and original beadboard ceilings. All six, unique rooms have private bathrooms, Direct TV, ceiling fans, and air conditioning.
However, if it is spiritual phenomenon that you seek, the Ghost City Inn is said to remain home to a female spirit who is most often seen in the Cleopatra Hill room. Another male spirit has been spied in the hall outside the Verde View Room in addition to other unusual occurrences. The Inn was even featured on Ghost Adventures airing on the Travel Channel.