Welcome To “Wicked City”!
Well, it looks pretty serene now, but recently I toured America’s most notorious town, known as “Wicked City”! This plaque explains why:
“A Lawless Town Of Wild Women And Hard-Drinking Men…”
Just my kind of place! Listen, I love a “wicked city” as much as the next person, and that plaque says it best:
“a city of 4,000 people with saloons, dance halls, gambling hells, houses of shame, and every damning infamy…”
When I was working in Phoenix and heard that America’s most notorious city was less than two hours away – I had to see it for myself!
You reach Jerome, Arizona from highway 89A, which is off the I-17 highway in the middle of the state. The town is located on Cleopatra Hill, which is 5,200 feet high – situated between Prescott and Flagstaff.
You come across this sign, sitting across a valley from the town.
Jerome was a copper mining camp, growing from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community. Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory. The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920’s.
I like the copper car that greets you, just sitting along the side of the highway.
I found a great article at “AZcentral.com” that gave me some great facts about the town, such as:
Work in Arizona’s copper mines was difficult and tedious. It’s little wonder that miners looked for some kind of diversion at the end of their shift, or that Jerome has been frequently called the “Wickedest Town in America.” Gambling and prostitution were common.
“There was a lot of drinking. They were miners,” said Colleen Holt, archives manager for the Jerome Historical Society. “When they had 150 bucks in their pocket, it was hard not to spend it.”
After most parties comes the cleanup. Not so in Jerome. Every day brought new shifts to the mines, more traffic to the saloons, more garbage in the streets, more smoke from smelters.
“Outhouses were stuck out on the back of everybody’s lots, and people would throw their slop out. There were donkeys and pigs running around,” Holt said. The air was dirty. Money was tight. Health care was poor. People died of tuberculosis, influenza, scarlet fever, measles and starvation.
The Depression of the 1930’s slowed the mining operation and while World War II brought increased demand for copper, afterwards the town slowly closed down. In 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government, and currently has a population of about 450.
When you drive into town, you see some abandoned buildings, suggesting a “ghost town” lost to time, but in fact, there is a small but vibrant community that keeps the spirit of the town alive!
Welcome To Main Street!
As you can see, there are still many businesses catering to visitors, although this isn’t a good place to get some gas…that said, there is vintage Conner Hotel on the main street that is charming:
As you can see, Jerome still has an active police force, conveniently located next door to the Mile High Grill, where I popped in for a breakfast big enough to satisfy any copper miner:
There is one of the original blast furnaces from the town – and the story nicely printed next to it, so read away to get more history…and then wander the streets to see other signs of a town that is still celebrating it’s “wicked past”…
Jerome’s Famous Sliding Jail!
The last remnants of “wicked city” is its famous “sliding jail” – rather than explain, I will share the plaque that tells you all you need to know:
As you can see, “wicked city” has no need for this jail any longer – but the town is a great place to see remnants of the “wicked” past, with the sliding jail gazing out at the copper mines that once brought such raucous life to this area:
At one point in history, this copper mine produced an astonishing 3 million pounds of copper per month. Now, it’s a fun place to visit, have a bite to eat and then hit the road.
I only know about Jerome because of a terrific website I found that goes all over Arizona exploring – check out “The Wandering Chick” here:
I drove through Jerome on my way back from another tourist attraction in Arizona – a BIG one:
The Grand Canyon is rightly one of the seven wonders of the world, and if you want to see more of it, you can click on my story here:
Let me know if you’ve ever visited “Wicked City!”