By Lisa Peters
My father (now in his 80s), who has not been in Arizona for a very long time, recently came to visit. Needless to say there have been a lot of changes in Sedona and the Verde Valley since he was a boy growing up here. Even so, for all that has changed, a lot has stayed the same. His memories of the place that I now call home were so much fun to hear.
We love to encourage visitors to get out there and explore the history of the Verde Valley while they’re on their Sedona vacation. One of the places I highly recommend for a fun day trip is the historic copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona.
Jerome, located 5,200 feet up on Cleopatra Hill, was once the 4th largest city in the Arizona Territory. Between the late 1880s and early 1950s Jerome was a thriving mining camp producing an amazing 3 million pounds of copper per month. Now that’s a lot of copper! My Grandfather, once a foreman at the mine (not a small accomplishment for a Native American at that time) loved to tell stories about his time working in the mine and living in Clarkdale.
Apparently housing was made available to the mine’s workers in the town of Clarkdale and what your job was at the mine determined where you lived in Clarkdale. This seems strange to us now, but it was common then in many “company” communities. This was the “wild west” and communities took care of their own. As told to me by my father, who was a child at the time, “Clarkdale became a tight knit community, and outsiders were not always welcomed with open arms. In fact I can clearly remember a few times the town chased out some undesirables”.
As far as his stories about Jerome, let’s just say it was a little bit wild. Back in the day, Jerome was pretty much off limits for my father and his siblings! By the time my dad was old enough to go up the hill to see what all the talk was about, the mine and the town were slowing down.
The Phelps Dodge Mine closed in 1953 and in 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government. Though things have changed in Jerome since the mining days and it is now known as “America’s Most Vertical City” and “Largest Ghost Town in America”, you can still walk the streets of Jerome and feel the history. He could not get over the fact that when we drove around Clarkdale his childhood home was still there, and that Jerome, though now a artist community, still feels like the town of his childhood.
So get out there and experience some of the history that surrounds us in the Verde Valley! The Best Western PLUS Inn of Sedona is a great home base for day trip explorations of all that the Verde Valley has to offer. Talk to our Concierge for maps and great ideas.