Once upon a time there was a small mining town named Jerome that was situated a mile high on Cleopatra Hill somewhere in the desert between Prescott and Flagstaff, Arizona.

Jerome, a story book town

Now some citizens referred to their historic and picturesque copper mining settlement as “America’s most vertical city”, as it is nestled high on the side of a mountain at 5,200 feet with a 30-degree incline overlooking the Verde Valley.

Drive to Jerome from the north

Drive to Jerome from the south with Verde Valley below

Other folk in the area called Jerome “the largest ghost town in america”, for during the late 1800’s it was believed to be the 4th largest city in Arizona and today boasts a population of only 450.

Mining town of Jerome

Jerome hotel

The town started in 1876 as a community of tents where miners of various ethnic origins from all over the world came to live and carve a new life in the wilderness.  It grew into a thriving mining town which sat on what was the largest copper mine in Arizona.  Jerome had the reputation of being “the wickedest town in the west” with the busiest brothels, numerous highly-patronized saloons and overflowing jail houses.  Even today characters of similar dubious-looking appearance and disposition can be seen frequenting the historic streets.

Colorful characters of Jerome

At its peak, the mines of Jerome produced 3 million pounds of copper in a month, until one day the industry began to decline at the beginning of the Great Depression.  Most of the mines closed in the 1950’s after World War II and for 20 years it was a ghost town.  Many of the abandoned houses were sold at ridiculously cheap prices and moved to other areas of Arizona including Flagstaff.  Then during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, hippies from California moved into the remaining abandoned homes and carved a life for themselves creating art of every genre and selling it on Jerome’s streets.

A Jerome hippy van

Jerome tourist at outside art display

Today Jerome is a mecca for artists who make up one-third of the town’s population and can be seen any day of the week displaying their merchandise in the exquisite shops that line the narrow winding streets, parking lots and alleys.

Colorful shops lining Jerome's narrow streets

One of the most intriguing shops situated admist the colorful streets of this fairytale town boasts itself as the “world’s largest kaleidoscope shop” in which can be found kaleidoscopes made by over 90 different manufacturers.

Inside world's largest kaleidoscope shop

Kaleidoscopes of every shape and size and made of various material including wood, brass and glass adorn the colorful shelves of this enchanting shop, the most expensive kaleidoscope selling for $3,300 .

Recognize this kaleidoscope face? If not, click to enlarge.

The word on the Arizona streets today is that there is a mountain full of copper still beneath Jerome’s own narrow streets and popular tourist shops, and all the artisans and other local town folk express no desire to move anywhere else because they expect to live happily ever after on Cleopatra Hill.

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8 Responses to Jerome

  1. wind dancer says:

    Shanomi, Just a great job on words and pictures. I know I was with you on this venture but your words just don’t do my trip justice. It’s like another world and I didn’t go. Just love everything you did.

  2. Sharon Sudduth says:

    Love the photos and one day I would love to go there too! Enjoying your blog very much!
    The fall views are fantastic! Cousin, Sharon

    • Shanomi says:

      Hey cuz…thanks for the feedback. Nice to know that you are following; I never know who’s reading unless they sign up or make comments. So thank you. I was very close to dropping in to see you as I approached Tennessee, but I was anxious to get to Arizona before snow arrived. I had just come through the aftermath of the freak New England snow storm and didn’t want any part of another one. It’s been very cold since I arrived in Arizona; in fact, Nova Scotia has been warmer most days – go figure.

  3. J E Blain says:

    I haven’t been to Jerome – but through you – I feel I have. Great photos and narrative. The kaleidoscope shop sounds fantastic and your photo is amazing. Not bad for a cell phone!
    Keep ’em coming – it is such a delight to be on your travels, with you.

  4. Shanomi says:

    Thanks Peg for all your positive feedback. You’re dear.

  5. Peg Widdes says:

    Wonderful pix! It’s such a treat to be following your adventures. Keep those posts coming…

  6. Wally and Karen Brown says:

    Having enjoyed lunch in Jerome several years ago, we loved the trip down memory lane. We always knew you were very special so when we saw your image in the kaleidoscope thought it was a “rose” until we enlarged it. How appropriate. Enjoying being a part of your “adventure”. We have peace knowing you are where you are meant to be. With much love and admiration. Wally and Karen

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