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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.