Wicked City, Jerome; America’s Largest Ghost Town is Full of Surprises

My best friend and I agreed that of all the places we have traveled together, Jerome was the one with the most unexpected surprises at every turn. We literally had no idea what was coming next, the whole time we were there.


Scowling town familiar in the form of an orange cat ? I’m listening.

As we were entering Jerome, Arizona, we pulled off to check out the overlook. While we were admiring the view, we met a dude in a camper who told us about this cat. Sure enough, he greets everyone that comes to town just like this.


The whole town is sliding downhill, and a great portion of it has already been lost? Wow, that’s whack.

Jerome sits at a 30 degree slope on the mountain. A combination of gravity, erosion, traffic, high winds, landslides, underground tunnels, and probably a well-deserved Native revenge hex keeps it shifting downhill at a steady rate.

Its famous Sliding Jail and the Cuban Queen Bordello are just two examples. I’ll tell you more about that later.


Maynard James Keenan of TOOL lives there and has a store named after his second most famous band, Puscifer? Oh, he owns the barber shop downstairs, and that winery next door? Checks out.

I am not the biggest TOOL fan, but what an interesting thing to walk into.


Puscifer is filled with an abundance of records, CDs, and memorabilia, including that of Keenan’s own bands. They sell home décor and clothing, pet accessories, collector’s items, and have a comical shrine.


My Mid-Mod and antique-loving pal was thrilled with all of the vintage items for sale. We enjoyed this Art-O-Mat machine where you insert money, pull a lever, and get a tiny one-of-a-kind, handmade piece of 50s/60s kitsch art.


Barbifer, the barber shop, is located downstairs.


Caduceus Cellars & Merkin Vineyards (combined) is another one of Keenan’s ventures.


Some of Verde Valley’s most popular wineries include Caduceus Cellars, The Original Jerome Winery, Echo Canyon Winery, and Bittercreek Winery. You can plan your own tour or schedule a guided tour from Sedona into many other towns in Verde Valley.


They have a haunted hamburger restaurant called The Haunted Hamburger? Now they’ve done gone and done it.

Haunted Hamburger is located in the historic Jerome Palace building. We had already eaten, but the food looked so, so good.


Spooky former hospital turned hotel with an asylum restaurant? Let us in.

In 1926, United Verde Hospital built a new facility in Jerome. It had five stories and was made of concrete. Concrete! If only they knew what a power move that was at the time, or perhaps they were aware of Jerome’s history of structural disasters.


UV’s hospital was the last major structure built in Jerome before the mines closed, and the building is still standing in all of its glory.

When the mines closed in the 1950s, the owner hired caretakers to live there. After its last caretaker ended his life in the 1980s, the building sat abandoned until the current owner purchased it in 1995.


The Jerome Grand Hotel has a variety of room styles to choose from, many overlooking the valley, and incorporates original sunrooms and connecting balconies.


Allegedly the Grand Hotel is haunted. The current owner does not believe in hauntings or ghosts, but goes along with the haunted hearsay and allowed an asylum “themed” restaurant to set up onsite.

Asylum, despite its name, is an upscale fine dining restaurant that is actually pretty plain, despite some of the silly horror house signs that advertise it.


The Surgeon’s House next door to the hotel was built in 1917 for the hospital’s Chief surgeon, and today it is a B&B.

The view up here is amazing.


Historic inn with a haunted speakeasy? Say no more.

David Connor built this hotel, for the first time, in 1898. He used stone and brick from Cottonwood and the surrounding area.

Just one year later, it was one of many buildings that burned down in a deadly blaze, but Connor had the foresight to take out an insurance policy on his building.


So he rebuilt.

Then another fire destroyed the hotel, but he rebuilt it again.

The Connor Hotel, even though the building says Hotel Connor, is one of the longest-standing businesses now on its third round. Its guest rooms remained open until the economy and tourism declined during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and after that the only tenants were the retail shops on the ground floor.


Jerome entered its Ghost Town status in the 1950s, but within the next decade, a growing amount of artists and “hippie” communities moved in.

Ghost Town-based tourism started up, and much like today, local businesses owners got on board hoping for a chance to breathe new life into their livelihoods. It worked!

The Spirit Room bar is a lot of fun, with a saloon theme and live music most nights.


There is an original Wild West saloon that has been open since the 1800s? Yah, let’s stop in.

Paul & Jerry’s was built in 1899 after the previous Senate Saloon burned to the ground.


Fortunately, it survived the rest of Jerome’s disasters, making it the oldest continuously running saloon in Jerome and the oldest family-0wned saloon in Arizona.


Historical Society & Mine Museum with Ghost Tours? Say even less, fam.

In the late 1950s, Jerome’s 50-ish remaining Ghost Town residents came together to form the Jerome Historical Society and open the museum/gift shop.


Members negotiated with local building/property owners to not only stop bulldozing historic buildings, but to help preserve them and rebuild the tourism industry.


In 1967, Jerome and most of the UV mine properties were designated a National Historic Landmark.


It began offering guided tours and ghost walks, and a few other entrepreneurs in Jerome followed suit.



The Mine Museum has an enormous collection of relics and artifacts from Jerome’s early days, buildings that no longer exist, famous people from the time, memorabilia of the mines and brothels, historic records and documents, weapons, appliances, equipment, machinery, automobiles, uniforms, and tools.


If you exit the building, walk up the stairs, and to the right a bit, there is a nice spot to view the valley.


The Back Story
This place was a hell of a good time.

And speaking of a good time, Jerome was founded in 1876 as a copper mining town. Most of its population in the 1870s and early years were male miners, and the rest were prostitutes. The streets back then were lined with nearly NINETY gambling halls, taverns, saloons, and brothels.

The red light district went by many names like Crib District, Prostitution Row, Tenderloin District, and Husband’s Alley, though it was about the only place to go in Jerome back then that was not a mine or one’s own bed.

Jerome quickly earned the nickname Wicked City in a New York Sun article of 1903, and its rowdy miners had quite a reputation.


The women of Jerome also made a name for themselves. Some, at least.

Madams Nora “Butter” Brown and Jennie Bauters were two of the richest and most famous women in all of Arizona territory. Butter owned the first brothel in town, in what is now the Sullivan Building. Jennie’s Place is now the location of Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes.

Cuban Mary, Madam Pearl, and Rose Lily were three other well-known Madams with successful brothels, though theirs were located in the “less respectable” parts of town inside shacks known as “cribs.”

At some point, all brothels were banned from Main Street and relocated to Diaz Street aka the Crib District. This historic part of town is near the English Kitchen, which is now called Bobby D’s BBQ at the English Kitchen. This site is Arizona’s longest-running dining establishment, though ownership and menus have surely evolved.


Jerome is located in the Black Hills of Yavapai County, at the top of Cleopatra Hill which looks out over the Verde Valley. It is about half an hour’s drive southeast of Sedona, and is more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

Between the two cities, you will drive through the Verde Valley, the towns of Cottonwood and Clarkdale, the Tuzigoot National Monument, and continuous beautiful desert views.

The Jerome State Historic Park, Douglas Mansion, and the Audrey Headframe Park are at the northern edge of town. To the west is the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town, Woodchute Mountain, the Mingus Mountain & Historical Landmark, and the city of Prescott.


The first people to live in this region were the Hohokam, from around 700 BCE to at least 1125 BCE. They were also the first to mine the region, searching for malachite and azurite to use for jewelry and adornment.

Spanish explorers landed in the area in 1585 but were not interested in the copper deposits or other stones, and continued on in search of gold. Eventually, as per usual, white people from Europe and New England moved in and forced the Hohokam to leave their native land.

During the Mexican-American War, this region became part of Mexico, but ended up becoming part of the United States after a series of many battles and treaties.

Jerome was named after a wealthier financier named Eugene Jerome, the 2nd cousin of Winston Churchill, though neither he or Churchill ever set foot in the town. He was a lead guy in the United Verde Copper Company, which set up mines in Jerome.

Soon, Jerome became a cultural melting pot as miners came in from China, Mexico, Ireland, England, Croatia, Germany, Italy, and other countries.


It did not take long for the fires, explosions, and landslides to start plaguing the new town.

Many of Jerome’s original buildings were burned down, rebuilt, burned down, rebuilt, slid down the mountain, and were rebuilt again. The disaster records are endless, yet the people rebuilt and kept moving every time.

When Jerome was incorporated in 1899, a new standard set of building codes were implemented, structures were made of stone and brick instead of wood, and a fire department was created. It helped some.

Jerome has nearly 90 miles of underground mining tunnels and mineshafts, a manmade liability that led to countless underground fires, explosions, floods, sinkholes that swallowed entire city blocks, and so. many. deaths. It was not until 1918 that underground mining was halted and workers resorted to pit mining instead.

Jerome took its last major hit during the Great Depression of the 1930s when the value of copper hit rock bottom, and within a few years the mines and railway routes closed.

Within its seven decades of operation, Jerome miners produced over one billion dollars worth of copper and other minerals before the mines closed, but by the 1950s, Arizona’s fourth-largest city had become a Ghost Town with less than fifty people.


Today, Jerome remains America’s largest ghost town.

We learned that a ghost town typically has to have 100 residents or less. I reckon any time #101 shows up they have to start killing folks. Right?

Somehow the population had peaked to about 15,000 by 1929, but less than 450 people live here now.


Main Street
Downtown Jerome is actually in the northern part of city limits. Main Street, along with Clark Street and Hull Avenue running parallel on either side of Main Street, are the primary streets in downtown.

On Main Street you can find Jerome Tours, Laughing Mountain Gift Shop, Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes, Puscifer, and Four Eight Wineworks among other local shops.

Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes is the largest store of its kind in the world. It is in the former brothel building owned by Madam Jennie Bauters called Jennie’s Place.


The Original Jerome Winery has been selling its labour of love by the bottle here since 2001.

Jerome Winery

Next door to Jerome Winery is the Liberty Theatre & Gift Shop. The Liberty was once a bustling silent film theater from 1918 until it closed its doors in 1929. Talkies were the new film craze, and owners did not want to invest in the costly upgrades.

The building has since been used as a bar, café, Lutheran church, and is now an antique store.


Connor Hotel & Spirit Room, Jerome Historical Society, Paul & Jerry’s Saloon, and Jerome Park are all on the way to the old Bartlett Hotel ruins.

In 1895 the wooden Grandview Hotel was built, but burned down only three years later. The brick Bartlett Hotel was built in the very same spot in 1901 with lavish guest rooms, retail spaces, offices, a bank, and pharmacy.

The News, Jerome’s longest-running newspaper, also made its home in the Bartlett Hotel for more than twenty years. In the 1930s, major landslides ruined many of Jerome’s structures, including the Bartlett Hotel.

Its ruins were sold off and reused for other building structures. Today you can see most of the exterior walls, an old water closet, and change thrown all over the courtyard by tourists.


The Clinkscale Restaurant, Miner’s Pick Rock Shop, Amore Pin-up Boutique, and more shops, below.


Hull Avenue
At the intersection of Main and Hull Avenue, the Flatiron Café and the Bordello of Jerome Restaurant.


Bordello collapsed a few years ago and had to be renovated/reinforced, and went right back to business as usual.

It definitely capitalizes on the sleazy brothel jargon and history of its building, advertising its daily special items as Red Light Specials and such. The food looks amazing but the environment is an acquired taste.


House of Joy, like most buildings in Jerome, was a brothel at some point and is now a gallery/studio.


The Jerome Sliding Jail is the old Jerome jailhouse that was blasted off its foundations after an explosion in 1938.

It was so powerful that the building was moved 225 feet downhill, where the historic site stands today. The rest of Jerome’s business district was not so lucky, it totally buckled and had to be rebuilt.

At the time, we did not know what this site was and the road was blocked off, so I did not take any photos. Basically it is the front partial sides of the old jail, crumbling away from the rest of its brick and mortar walls, and held together by protective wrought iron gates. Very cool to see in person, so don’t skip it now that you know what it is!

The Jerome Visitors Center/Chamber of Commerce is a great place to pick up brochures and learn more about the town.

Jerome Visitors

BB’s Boutique and other shops continue on down Hull Avenue.


Clark Street
Gulch Pottery, Coppertown Coffee, Cornish Pastry, Jerome Ghost Tours, Miss Kitty’s General Store, Wicked City Saloon, Haunted Hamburger, and Jerome Clubhouse Art Gallery are just some of the eclectic and unique businesses on Clark Street.

You can also access Hill Street to reach the Jerome Grand Hotel from here.


Be sure to wander down all the open alleys and small streets for cool finds. We found this blast furnace on display across the street from the Mine Museum. This is one of two furnaces that were found from the United Verde Copper Company.



Returning back down the mountain, we passed a cluster of remodeled buildings that are now hotels and bed & breakfasts.


Many still have their original facades and appearances, and even though they may look outdated from the outside, the interiors are lovely from what we saw. I SO wish we could have stayed the night.


There was a mystery building we tried to scope out but could not figure out which access road would take us there, so we just admired from afar.

I later learned that it was once the Little Daisy Mansion, a 40-room hotel built in 1919 for the United Verde Extension mining camp. It sat empty for decades until a couple bought it in 1995.


At the time, it was just four concrete walls with no roof. The couple spent ten years remodeling it after purchasing it for $190,000, and after the husband died, it was listed on the market for almost $7 million!

Today, it is privately owned but available for short-term event rentals like retreats and weddings.


It is amazing to think that this wicked little Wild West town turned into a wine-lovers art paradise after more than a century of disaster, rebuilding, and perseverance.


In the area for a while? Follow us to the Desert Botanical Gardens & Tovrea Castle, a hot air balloon ride, the Amitabha Stupa Buddhist Peace Park, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona, and a tour of the Verde Valley.

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