Friday, February 6, 2015

Copper Town ... Better Known as Jerome!!

The copper mining town of Jerome sits in the Black Hills of Arizona, on Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley.  Built on top of 88 miles of copper mining tunnels, it's no wonder it has had problems over the years from cave-ins and faults, causing it to slip down the mountain.  In it's heyday in the 1920's, it boasted 10,000 people, due to two ore bodies that formed on the mountain where two mine companies pulled out the richest copper deposits ever found in the world.  When copper prices dropped drastically, so did the population, to around 100 people in the mid 1950's.  Thanks to those 100, it became a National Historic Monument in 1967.
Although the name on the sign above the door says Copper Cloud Saloon, this building was originally a hotel with a bar in back.  The owners have done everything possible to keep it in this condition of arrested deterioration, collecting over $6,000 in coins tossed by tourists which is given to the local Historical Society every year.  
Hull Avenue is the home to the old Studebaker dealership.  The gas pump is original, as is most of the building, including the floors.  Around back, there is a large concrete slab (much of which has been broken up by slides) that covers the pit where oil was changed.  It was a big hole in the ground that mechanics would drive over, allowing the men in the hole access to the oil filters.  When the second story collapsed into the hole, it was filled in and covered with concrete.
Just to the left is Queen Street, with a spectacular view of the valley below.  The wall only of this building has been saved ... sort of, I didn't want to get too close ... to hold the sign of a glass blower.
To the right of the above picture, on Queen Street, is the residence of the Cuban Queen ... only that's not really true.  This sign, a new addition to the fence around this amazing building, holds a love letter from a miner to the Cuban Queen, a very well known bordello madam in Jerome, who probably worked across the street.  In those days, African Americans weren't accepted at all.  After marrying famous jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton in San Francisco, she moved to Jerome, where she tried to bleach her skin and straighten her hair, to become Cuban.  She was a great success as the owner of the Cuban Queen Bordello, until one night one of her girls was murdered, whereupon she kidnapped a little boy (possibly the prostitute's child) and disappeared.  Don't you just LOVE these stories??  This one is true, according to author Peggy Hicks who spent many years investigating the facts.
This house, supposedly the Cuban Queen's Bordello, was actually a working girls residence.  The prostitutes worked across the street.  I sure wish someone would try and save this magnificent building.  Maybe I'll look into that!!
I spent most of the day walking around town, checking out all the spots I've missed in the past.  The jail that slid down the hill while occupied, stopped when it hit Hull Avenue.  Instead of fixing the problem, they just rerouted the road around the jail.  When it began to slide again, they finally pushed it down the hill to it's current site, Sliding Jail Park.  Take a peek inside ... the bed is still there.
Up the hill is Jennie's place ... another bordello.  It takes a lot of working girls to keep all those miners happy!!  You can barely see Jennie in the picture ... she's in the middle, wearing the black dress on the second story balcony.  Jerome didn't fair well when it came to fires and their wooden buildings.  Almost the entire town burnt down on at least three occasions, including Jennie's Place.
That's when she built this BRICK building, shown here and in the above picture.  Put a balcony back on and it will look exactly like it did many years ago.
This is Walter Vogel and his brother Otto, bartenders at this Saloon, along with a group of cowboys and miners.  At age 21, Walter was shot and killed by Dave Schriber, who accidentally went to the wrong building to pay his debt before being evicted.  When he was told he didn't owe anything, in a drunken rage, he shot Walter and ran to the Montana Hotel, followed closely by Officer John Hudgens.  When the smoke dissipated from the gunfight, Dave was dead and Officer John shot in the arm.  Vogel was sent home to be buried in Connecticut ... Schriber is buried in the Jerome Hogback Cemetery.
In the basement of the saloon (now retail store), the prohibition era escape tunnel was found, along with tons of bottles buried in the basement, so as not to be discovered serving alcohol!!  
Now a western store of sorts ... mostly furniture ... it contained this nice cowgirl pillow which permanently resides on my couch!!  Here's another tidbit ... the owners of this store, Tim and Tim, are taking part in the furniture creation special being aired by Ellen DeGeneres.
If you walk around back of the buildings, you can find more interesting info ... this was actually the area where many prostitute cribs were located, very small board rooms with nothing more than a bed.  They were torn down to allow access to the back of the building for restoration.  Doesn't look like much restoration has been going on however!!
Here's another great story.  This was a three story bordello, only 12 feet wide and 20 feet deep.  There was a porch on the back at the main level where men waited their turn.  Purchased in the mid 1960's, the current owner remodeled the upper floor for living quarters and the bottom floor for crafting her "stuff" for sale.  You can find anything here from beaded bras to pasties.  I guess she's keeping up the tradition.  The porch to the right was added on, then enclosed later to hold more "stuff", including many relics from Russia, where her brother has lived most of his life.  
As I left Jerome, I went UP the hill, following Hwy 89A for several miles up a ridiculously steep, narrow and winding road.  I remember Dan Chance telling me once that he mistakenly started up this road in one of his older motorhomes, and couldn't get turned around.  He must have taken up both sides and then some!!  There is a parking lot towards the top now, where you can get a nice view of Cottonwood and the Verde Valley below.
Obviously I love the old stories and buildings.  If you're ever in the area, definitely stop in Jerome and take in the ambience.  Just be in town by 9:30 am to get a parking spot.  

If I were really crazy, I'd buy a building here and restore it!!  Hmmmmmmm


  1. No sooo crazy an idea. I see many positives to this project.....keep you busy, find period furnishings, employee the locals, meet new people. I'm just sayin' Patty

  2. We loved Jerome. And if you take the road straight ahead by the fire station, we loved the old Gold King Mine.