Jerome, which is about 100 miles north of Greater Phoenix, was ahead its time. By the 1880’s, when Arizona was just a territory, Jerome was already hopping thanks to its mining industry. We are talking post office, public library and even a schoolhouse. Sadly, the boom town got a little too hot in the 1890’s. Literally. They had four fires in four years, which destroyed much of the region’s infrastructure.
But the mining community didn’t let the fires flame them out. In fact, they incorporated as a town so they could collect taxes and rebuild stronger. And they did. This time, however, they built their fair share of saloons and brothels along with the post office, school, churches and library. Let’s just say that come 1900, it was a party (for a certain type of person).
Things rolled in the region through World War I, especially when the need for the area’s minerals and ore skyrocketed. But, the party came to a devastating end starting around the Great Depression. By 1950, the population reportedly fell as low as 100 people. At one point, it was among the biggest ghost towns in the United States. A combination of art and history ended up saving the region. First, the town was able to get designated a National Historical Landmark in 1967. This, combined with a crowd of forward-thinking creative types who re-located to the area have helped Jerome roar back to life yet again, this time as a thriving arts and tourist community with dozens of restored historic buildings, specialty stores, galleries and restaurants.
Here are some “musts” when making a weekend trip up:
Several historic buildings are still standing, many of which have been modernized and refurbished to welcome guests. Among them is The Clinkscale, which was first built as a mercantile in the 1800’s and gained notoriety as the first store Levi’s were sold west of the Mississippi in the 1900’s. Lovingly restored and re-opened in 2020 as a hotel and restaurant of the same name, the property gives a nod to the past with exposed brick, hardwood floors and brown leather and steel accents, yet it is ultra-modern in its furnishings, technology and creature comforts, including flat-screen televisions, plush bedding and walk-in rainfall showers in each of its rooms. The elegant and modern vibe continues into the restaurant, which offers American-fusion cuisine with a touch of French flare as well as daily brunch.
History is on proud display throughout the city as it is at The Clinkscale thanks to a bevy of other attractions, notably the Jerome State Historic Park, Audrey Headframe Park and the Mine Museum. Notably at Jerome State Historic Park, there is a 3-D model of the town and its underground mines to help visitors of all ages visualize what life was like back then. Similarly, the Audrey Headframe Park showcases what was once a massive, working mining shaft that helped gold, copper and silver make its way down the hill for transport. The Mine Museum does a fine job of tying these two landmarks to Jerome’s timeline while also accurately depicting the good, bad and ugly of the region in its heyday via saloon, gun and cultural displays and artifacts.
Sip and Savor
Another way in which Jerome comes to life is through its wineries, thanks in great part to Maynard James Keenan. To some, Keenan is better-known as the front man for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, but not in Jerome. The U.S. Army vet and Grammy Award-winning vocalist grew up in Michigan working on local orchards and farms. When he moved to Jerome in 1995, his passion for working the land continued, and he got interested in winemaking. By 2004, he had launched his first label, Caduceus Cellars, and opened an accompanying tasting room in Jerome. Keenan soon gained a following for his earthy varietals, helping earn the Arizona wine industry worldwide acclaim along the way. Today, beyond Cadeceus, there are a handful of other great wine stops to make in the area as well, notably Cabal Cellars and Passion Cellars.
Because one cannot exist on wine alone, there are also a host of excellent eateries beyond the Clickscale from which to choose, including Haunted Hamburger, Asylum and Grapes (which re-opens this fall after a renovation is completed to the space).
Finally, nestled between the tasting rooms and landmarks are also dozens of specialty stores and galleries, many offering paintings, crafts and jewelry from local artisans. Just some of the galleries to visit while “up the hill” include Cody DeLong, featuring fine oil paintings of the Southwest; Pura Vida Gallery, home to crafts and jewelry from over 100 local artisans; and the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, which features 30 to 40 local artists’ works at any given time.
Featured photo credit: Donna Chesler