Monday, March 23, 2009

The Town on a (Steep) Hill

As the guidebooks say: "Located high on top of Cleopatra Hill (5,200 feet) between Prescott and Flagstaff is the historic copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona. A unique place to get away from the routine in our lives."

Getting away from the routine indeed. What group would build a town on a mountainside with a 30-degree incline? Many of the stores and homes seem to be sitting atop their neighbors on the street below.

Many of the buildings used by present-day business folks are those built after the fires of 1894 and 1899. It was during the '30's that dynamite blasts combined with general shifting caused parts of the town to crack or slide. One particularly powerful blast caused a whole block to slide down to the next level, and the "sliding jail" came to rest a block from its intended location.

Jerome was a mining town and bore all the signs of a mining town. As the 20th century began, it had become an around-the-clock, three-shift town boasting 13 hotels, 21 bars, and 8 houses of prostitution, prompting the New York Sun on February 5, 1903, to proclaim Jerome to be "the wickedest town in the West".

World War II revived the mines for a short time, but mining towns die young, and by 1953, after belching copper for more than 70 years--800 million dollars worth--the great shafts were silent.

A number of the buildings have been restored and more are planned for restoration in this funky artists' colony. Jerome's Grand Hotel, the last major building constructed and one of the highest public structures in the Verde Valley at 5240 feet, seems to hover over the town like a protective mother.

How this 30,000 sq. ft., five level building of poured in place, reinforced concrete, was constructed on a 50 degree slope is an engineering marvel even by today's standards!

Today, it is the members of the Jerome artists' community who produce marvels of expertise in a variety of media. The former mining town is alive with works from minds.

Today was a travel day--10 hours from Phoenix to Virgin, UT via Kingman, AZ. We leave Arizona with memories of good times with family members and of the sunsets. A few of these memories are shown here.

One of the residents of this cactus in shown here.

The full moon provided enough light to show the beauty of this plant at night.

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