Leaverite Society of Jerome AZ

In 1982, I showed an interesting rock that I found near Jerome to the President of the Mingus Gem and Mineral Club. “Could you please tell me what kind of rock this is?”

“Young lady, what you have there is a genuine leaverite.”

“What is a leaverite?” I asked.

A smile curved into his lips: “One you leave right there.”

Leaverite bridge by Michael Grab

Oh, what Michael Grab does with leaverites. www.gravityglue.com

The Leaverite Society

In 1985, Dana Driver, Susan Dowling and myself formed the Leaverite Society of America to provide some humorous counter balances to Jerome’s contentious politics.

Before two months went by, The Leaverite Society had 75 paying members, most of them Jeromans. All had a major love affair with rocks. Rocks were fun. They weren’t jealous or possessive, weren’t political, and didn’t talk back! The ideal companion for us leaverite philanderers!

‘Leave No Stone Unturned,’ was the first motto of the Leaverite Society. “Hot Rocks or No Rocks at All” was the second. After the disastrous pot bust of 1985, which led to the arrest of sixteen Jeromans, including two members of the Jerome Town Council, a Leaverite Society member who wished to remain anonymous proposed a third motto: “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”

At our first official meeting, Georgia O’Keefe was given an honorary membership. Once a week she arranged her living room around a special rock.

The Leaverite Society made commemorative hats, held potlucks, complete with rock scavenger hunts, and published two newsletters. The second issue featured a love story by Tikky Trachyte (the inimitable Katie Lee), and an article by Ayers Rock (Joe van Leeuwen’s moniker) on the Cock-of-the-Rock, a bird that inhabits the rocky ledges and shallow caves of South and Central America.

Cock-of-the-rock

The cock-of-the-rock is the national bird of Peru. Jo van Leeuwen of Jerome, Arizona proposed that the bird be adopted as the mascot for the Leaverite Society of America in Jerome AZ. Image is in the public domain. See: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/30221/30221-h/30221-h.htm. From a free e-book, Birds: illustrated by Color Photography first published in 1897 by the Nature Study Publishing Company, Chicago, IL.
Book is on-line and the photographs of birds and their descripts are beautiful.

It also included a fiendish British-type crossword puzzle by Whitecliff (Dana Driver’s Dad) called “100 Arabs-Egyptian Rock Group.” British crosswords are known for containing clues that are both straightforward and cryptic. I couldn’t even guess the straightforward answers to “Seek complaint in first-class rodent,” “Utah resident hunting antelope in Nepal,” or “He takes his half of the road out of the side.” I did not know one Leaverite Society member who solved the puzzle.

Geologists

Geologists you’d expect among the rock lovers of this fabled billion dollar copper camp. They’re serious leaverite hounds.

In the seventies and eighties, dozens of world-renowned geologists roamed the area around Jerome to figure out when and how the super rich massive sulfide ore bodies formed. They’re the ones that turned Jerome into a fabled and very wealthy copper mining city.

Jerome Arizona’s ore bodies are called massive sulfides not just because they are large (some geologists describe roughly shaped spheres that can extend a mile or more down into the earth), but because they are so dense with precious ores, like copper, zinc, gold and silver. The official definition massive sulfide ore bodies are those contain more than 50% minerals to a ton of rock.

The ‘when and how’ answers that geologists came up with are straightforward—the massive sulfide ore bodies are 1.738 years billion years old, and were formed in hot springs vents in deep undersea volcanoes virtually at the same time as the large undersea volcano that hosted them—the copper colored Cleopatra formation that dominates views when people look up at Jerome from the Verde Valley.

Jerome AZ illustration by Anne Bassett

The twin pyramid-shaped mountains that dominate Jerome are the Cleopatra formation. Illustration by Anne Bassett-www.jeromeartistannebasset.com

Incredibly more convoluted are answers to the questions about how the ore bodies remained intact over immense and varied cataclysms over such a long period of time and the dynamic processes that led to a tip of the United Verde ore body being exposed to the air, which enabled its discovery. The geology of the Jerome area is a giant, intricate puzzle with quite a few missing pieces.

According to Verde Valley geologist Paul Handverger, “The Jerome area is one of the most interesting geologic phenomenons of North America. Much more interesting than the big ditch,” (the Grand Canyon.)

One could earn a PhD in geology by studying just this small patch of real estate.

The Quest for Gold

During his quest for gold in Northern, Nevada, John McNerney found a new method for its discovery—and a new use for gold. He designed a mercury detector that used gold film sensors to analyze minute quantities of vapor rising above the soil deeply buried gold deposits. John founded Jerome Instrument Corporation in 1979 to manufacture these detectors.

One irony: although some geologists bought a few mercury analyzers as a prospecting tool, the major market turned out to be the United States Navy. Its submarines needed to instantly know when mercury based instrumentation broke and fouled the air. Mercury is toxic to the nervous system and can turn people into mad hatters.

As an aside, John’s wife Iris was convinced all Jeromans were wacky because of the mercury that exists in the soils underneath Jerome’s feet.

The second irony is that John is now avidly against the opening of new gold mines because of their environmental destructiveness. He helped lead a major movement in Todos Santos, Mexico against a mine that would have likely fouled an area aquifer. ‘Aqua vale mas que oro’ was their rallying cry. (Water is worth more than gold).

Jewelers

While geologists were combing the hills, perhaps many as forty people in Jerome were jewelers, carvers and sculptors. Dana Driver and Susan Dowling, two founders of the Leaverite Society were jewelers. I just liked leaverites. (My husband liked to build retaining walls on our property.)

Flamingo pendant by Dana Driver

Jeweler Dana Driver’s beautiful pendant beach stone and silver pendent. See others at: http://www.danarocks.com

For a few years, Dana Driver, president of the Leaverite Society, became fascinated with beach stone. She polished them, incised them with gold and silver, made them into pendants, flowers and insects. www.Danarocks.com. Dana is among artists that continuously reinvent themselves and stretch artistic boundaries. A few years after her fascination with beach stone, she got into making fine jewelry from bottle caps, tin cans and bits of rusty metal.

Susan Dowling collected malachite and azurite from Jerome’s mines and made rings and pendants.www.foxazhandmade.com

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowlng

Malachite ring by Jeweler Susan Dowling.

As a child, Jesse Dowling, Susan’s entrepreneurial son, sold leaverites to tourists for extra candy money. (Today, Jesse serves on the Cottonwood City Council.)

I’ve always marveled that Bob Hall, who makes some of the most delicate hand-faceted bead necklaces, has also built some of Jerome’s largest hand-stacked retaining walls, including the wall behind the Jerome fire station and the wall flanking the basketball court, adjacent to the sliding jail. Retaining walls are Jerome AZ’s most overlooked architectural treasure, even though hundreds are in view every day.

Granny and the Freight Train Hoppers

In mid-June, my 28-year old grandson Aaron told me he was going to ride the rails for three months—just like the legendary railroad hobos. He and his girlfriend Crystal, her small dog Honey, and their 20-year old friend Diego are freight train hopping from Santa Rosa, California to see Crystal’s mom in New Hampshire and then back.

Hobo Aaron and Granny

Close up of Freight Train Hopper Aaron and Granny at the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture.

A Working Vacation

Aaron’s game company’s boss told Aaron he could send illustrations while he was on the road. He carries a laptop and smart phone in his backpack. That qualifies Aaron’s vagabond freight train hopper adventure as a ‘working’ vacation, and since the narrow definition of hobo is a migratory worker, perhaps Aaron could even be called a hi-tech hobo.

Aaron has the brains, stubbornness, wits, sweetness, and moral integrity of our family. He feels kinship with the poor, the blue collar and the disenfranchised and he has a terrific loathing of cops.

In riding the rails, Aaron is defying the establishment and courting the wrath of the rail cops. On the one hand I admire his courage; and on the other, fear for his safety. I know that he will learn a lot about how the poor and disaffiliated are treated.

As for me, I’m happy to see the counter-culture traditions alive and well. They were a large part of my life in my music biz days in San Francisco and my time spent living among the hippies in home sweet Jerome, Arizona.

Rendezvous with the Freight Train Hoppers

The freight train hoppers got off the train in Dunsmuir, California, a town near Mt. Shasta, where I picked them up for a short two-day rendezvous. It was serendipitous timing. We were visiting our friends Bob and Sue Swanson in Weed, Ca.

“How about putting up our grandson Aaron and his girlfriend for a few days, “ we asked.

“Sure no problem.” They were immensely gracious when two turned out to be three and a dog.

“So how’s it been so far?” we asked when we were together for dinner that night.

“We spent one of the worst days of our lives cooped up in open box car for ten hours a in 100 degree heat outside of Sacramento. There were rail workers all around so we didn’t dare get out. We kept hoping the train would leave. Finally Crystal had to break for a ‘whiz’. Not too long after, a rail worker came by and told us the train wasn’t leaving at all; and that we’d best beat it. He kinda’ knew we’d hop the next train going north”

“How did you keep the dog from hyperventilating?”

“We kept giving her drinking water and dripped water on her head the whole time.”

The freight train hoppers were icons of good guests. They helped. They weren’t underfoot and disappeared for hours at a time. They kept everyone joyful company when it was wanted. They made some repairs to the porch deck. As Sue said when they finally departed, “I never washed one dish.” They hid a card signed by all of them where Sue would find it along with a beautiful necklace and a lovely stone and crystal flower.

Sue wrote me an email: “It almost brought me to tears.  Please pass on my heartfelt thanks, along with my joy at having the opportunity to meet them all.  Even though I met Aaron as a teenager, it was a pleasure to see the fine young man he has grown into.”

Makes a granny proud!

The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture

The next day, I took Aaron and the others for an outing to the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture (BBCRC) near Weed, California. The name is someone a misnomer for what is essentially a hobo museum set up in two refurbished boxcars at a former depot and siding for the Southern Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific). I knew about the center because when we were in Weed in 2010, Bob and Sue took us to its first art show, a soulful event for this little known subculture,

Interior Black Butte water tower

The Black Butte water tower is a marvel of railroad graffiti. Photo by Aaron Austin

Their web site http://www.bbcrc.org describes their operations in terms that sound like they’re lifted from a Sierra Club brochure. “We combine our core focus on railroad culture with inclusive community-building, local ecological conservation, sustainable food cultivation, and habitat restoration.”

What we saw was a hobo center that is maintained by a skeletal scruffy-looking crew that lives in a few funky trailers. They run a transient commune, have an organic vegetable garden, clean up debris and plant trees. To raise money, they sell t-shirts, patches, zines and stickers.

As we looked around, a woman and a few dogs came out of the trailers to greet us. She told us there was a ‘work’ party in swing and walked us over to the museum, where she turned on the lights. Besides her, we saw was; a scruffy bearded guy that was lying on funky a couch outside one of the box cars; and a few others flitting in and out of the trailers.

Aaron and company offered to come back the next day and pitch in; the person who checks us out nodded and proceeded to leave us alone.

The BBCRC Box Car Museum

We explored the boxcar museum. One car had a photo history of the old Southern Pacific Railroad from 1901-2012 , including one showing a spectacular train wreck at the top of the Black Butte grade in 1901. Most unusual is a neatly arranged library of hobo culture—maybe a hundred books, magazines, videos, CDs—catalogued in a notebook bibliography.

The box car library at the BBCRC

Aaron (left), Diego. Crystal (right), and Honey the Dog. The two boys pick out some of the books from the extensive library of hobo literature. Aaron, far left, is reading American Nomad by Richard Grant, Deigo is engrossed by Rail Road Semantics and Crystal copies out some of the hoboglyphs, the symbols that were part of a written code developed by hoboes and painted on gate posts or telegraph poles to let them know if a place was safe, would provide food, etc. http://weburbanist.com/2010/06/03/hoboglyphs-secret-transient-symbols-modern-nomad-codes/   Photo by Diane Rapaport

I picked up a book called Blackfoot Indian, which was published in 1935 by the Great Northern Railroad. It featured paintings by Winold Reiss, a German born artist. The paintings of Indian culture were the basis of the railway’s advertising for almost 40 years.Rare book at BBCRC

Frank Bird Linderman, an ethnographer and writer from Montana, who supplied the text for this rare book, wrote: “The Blackfeet instinctively opposed the coming of white trappers and traders.
Nevertheless the fur companies built forts on the upper Missouri in the heart of the
Pecunnie country; and nowhere has the white man stooped so low for gain as in the
fur trade of the Northwest; nowhere has he been so reprehensible as in his treatment
of the plains Indian. The enforced inoculation of a large band of
visiting Indians with the virus of smallpox taken from the pustules on the body of a
stricken white engages at Fort Union, whose blood was known to be otherwise unclean
is revolting enough, especially when one knows that the step was taken wholly in
the interest of the traders who hoped to have the scourge over with before the fall
trading began. It is even more revolting when one learns that all the vaccinated
Indians perished.” http://www.gngoat.org/blackfeet_history.htm

I’m always outraged when an ethnic culture that has been subjugated and murdered becomes advertising fodder.

The BBCRC Work Party

The next day I dropped Aaron and his friends at the center. My husband and I and Bob and Sue took off for a mini vacation in Port Orford on the Oregon Coast.

Black Butte water tower

Aaron and Granny at the water tower of the old Black Butte depot and siding. Photo by Crystal Latsyrc.

Aaron sent an email describing the ‘work’ they did at the BBCRC.

“We built a Cob oven, chopped wood, cooked, dragged some kegs out of a spring fed pond where they were being kept cold and set them up for the punk acoustic show. Some bearded guys kept rudely ordering us around. The harder we worked, the more impolite they got. When the show finally started, the music was great.”

So much for the BBCRC’s claim to ’inclusive community-building.’

The Freight Train Hoppers Journey On

The freight train hoppers jumped a train out of Dunsmuir and made it as far as Eugene, Oregon where they picked up a homeless person named Moriah. A friend drove them all to Portland, where they all hopped a train to Seattle.

Black Butte volcano in central California

Black Butte is a volcanic spur of Mt. Shasta in central California. It is located between Shasta City and Weed,CA

“Beautiful ride to a town near Seattle where we were stranded for a few days. Right after the train stopped, a rail worker found us in the boxcar, told us train wasn’t going any further, and said that he “hadn’t seen us.” So we got into some shade under an overpass by the tracks, in full view of some construction guys. We didn’t think they’d have any reason to care about some bums lounging under a bridge, but they must have called the cops, because they showed up really fast. The overpass was out of the rail yard, so they couldn’t really prove that we’d been trespassing. They gave us written warnings. I assumed they don’t have much to do around here, if they can respond that quickly to some folks sitting under a bridge. Then later our friend Moriah got hassled for begging at a freeway on ramp. The town seemed generally unfriendly to the homeless. But we did find a nice, secluded spot to camp, and I think we’ll be fine, until we are ready to move on. We need to be somewhere else to catch the next train, because if we get caught here and already have written warnings, we’ll get ticketed for sure.

I told Aaron I hoped he was taking notes and photos so he could write a graphic novel. I’ll bet a nickel it would be a best seller.

Maybe they’ll get to the other hobo museum in Britt, Iowa.

Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa

The Museum started in the 1980’s with a box of artifacts. The reality of a hobo museum took hold when the Chief Theatre was purchased by the Hobo Foundation with money willed to them from an unknown hobo. Collections have come from all over the world. http://www.hobo.com

Updates from time to time on my Facebook page.

Art: The Soul of Jerome, Arizona

The major reason Jerome is an unusual art mecca is because its resident artists are deeply entwined in the collective identity of the town. Artists are the heart of the town’s quirky, and sometimes contentious, soulfulness.

Since 1970, the annual ratio of artists to residents has averaged 25%—at least 100 out of 400 or so of its permanent residents. Few other art towns/cities can claim that high a percentage. Artists nourish and encourage each other, giving rise to a feedback loop that challenges them to improve and flourish.

Artists in Jerome Arizona are Business People

Many artists own successful shops and galleries. They help disprove clichés that artists should starve for the sake of their art and aren’t cut out to be business people. The oldest of the uptown galleries is Made in Jerome, co-founded in 1972 by potter David Hall and two students from Prescott College who were eventually bought out by Hall. Others artist-owned galleries and shops in the main part of town include Nellie Bly II (painter Diane Geoghegan) www.dianegeoghegan.com, Aurum Jewelry (co-owner artist Sharon Watson) www.aurumjewelry.com, Raku Gallery (glass blower and potter Tracy Weisel www.Rakugallery.com, Designs on You (owned by Leigh Hay Martin, a gifted quilter) www.designsonyoujeromeaz.com, and Caduceus Cellars (owned by noted vintner and rock star Maynard Keenan) www.caduceus.org. Artists own and operate all the studio businesses in the high school complex.

Made i Jerome Pottery, Jerome, AZ

Jane Moore’s paintings on pottery, available at Made in Jerome, are famous and very lovely. (www.madeinjerome.com)

Jerome Arizona Artists Participate in Politics

Even more unusual is that many Jerome artists participate in politics. In a town that has at least 110 volunteer positions, artists quickly learned that if they wanted a say in the safety, restoration and future of the town, they needed to actively involve themselves. Artists helped draft Jerome’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning and Design Review ordinances. Artist have been elected to the Jerome Town Council and appointed to serve on Planning and Zoning and Design Review; voted by members of the Jerome Historical Society to serve as board members; and served on the Jerome Fire Department and fire auxiliary. Their contributions help counter the oft-spoken opinions that the hippies that moved to Jerome were spaced out, stoned-out good for nothings and that artists shouldn’t meddle in politics.

Painter Anne Bassett currently serves on the Jerome Town Council said, “People who don’t protect their liberty, lose it. I’ve tried to protect against the developers and further the respect for Jerome’s historic elements. From the beginning of when hippies moved in and became the majority, we have been working against the mainstream. Our high appreciation for diversity is a unifying strength. I’m still a hippie and proud of it.”

DeCamp House

The DeCamp house on Company Hill in Jerome AZ. It sits on the edge of Paradise Lane. Illustration by Anne Bassett (www.jeromeartistannebassett.com/

 Jerome Arizona Artists Donate Generously to Benefits

Musicians and artists have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last few decades by donating services and art for benefiting Jeromans who are sick and needy or to organizations like the library, humane society and fire department. They also donate generously to the Children’s Christmas party every year to ensure there are gifts for every child in Jerome. Thank you artists!

Organization of the Community of Jerome Artists

Just after big mining abandoned Jerome in 1953, the first artists that moved in organized to support each other and draw attention to Jerome art. Roger Holt who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute moved to Jerome in 1954 and lived there until the mid-1960s. Shan Holt, his wife, started a group called The Verde Valley Artists. Shan found a patron and friend in portrait artist, Lilli Brant, who became president of the group. As the town struggled to survive, Lilli’s husband, the renowned geophysicist Arthur Brant, predicted that someday Jerome would become an art destination.

In 1975, The Verde Valley Artist group morphed into a formal nonprofit called the Verde Valley Artists Association (VVAA), which started featuring non-Jerome artists for major Jerome exhibitions. One featured Paolo Soleri, the Italian architect who built the futuristic desert city Arcosanti, which was based on the fusion of architecture and ecology, which Soleri termed arcology. Another show featured Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days.

"Morning at the Little Daisy" by Lew Davis

“Morning at the Little Daisy,” by Lew Davis, owned by the Phoenix Art Museum. Davis grew up in Jerome, not wanting to admit to wanting to be an artist in a community of miners. After he moved out of Jerome, Davis painted a series of paintings depicting life in Jerome.

The VVAA began a student art show that toured the state and sponsored studio tours. Many artists reported they sold their first pieces of art to people attending those tours.

These activities garnered support from many Verde Valley businesses, which had been standoffish and suspicious of Jerome’s hippies and helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination.

Support of Arts by the Jerome Community

From 1953 forward, the community of Jerome has actively supported the artists. The Jerome Historical Society donated the space to the Verde Valley Artists and rented space to other artists at very low costs; and voted some of their income to buy art, as did the town of Jerome. Both the society and the town have extensive and valuable art collections, as do many of its residents and businesses.

Paul Handverger, a board member of Verde Exploration Ltd. (Verde Ex), helped persuade them to purchase Mingus Union High School in 1972 for $25,000 and target artists as renters. The first renter was fine arts painter Jim Rome, who had a gallery uptown and a large following. Clothing designer Ava Guitterez was second and she eventually opened a shop on Main Street. Artists Margo Mandette and Robin Anderson turned one of the buildings into a showpiece gallery and studio. Don Bassett, an artist who made humorous assemblages from iron scrap and bedsprings, was given a small apartment and free rent in exchange for being caretaker.

Art studios abound in the old Mingus Union High School

What used to be a high school is now an art focal point in Jerome AZ. Photo by Bob Swanson (Swansonimages.com)

Last but not least, the town’s aesthetics draw artists to it like bees to honey, just as they were drawn to other towns with exceptional aesthetics, such as Sedona, Taos, New Mexico and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Few other art towns, however, command the spectacular 180-mile panorama view that Jerome has from its steep mountain perch.

Late afternoon in Jerome AZ

Views from Jerome, AZ are often subjects of photographers and painters, only one of the reasons it is the most photographed and painted town in America. Photo by Ron Chilston (www.ron-chilstonartistwebsites.com)

 

An Art Museum for Jerome AZ—Wouldn’t it Be Great?

Jerome, Arizona needs an art museum that would introduce its numerous visitors to the marvelous art created here by painters, sculptors, photographers, jewelers, potters, etc. during its four major eras: mining days 1876-1953; ghost town years (1950-1960); restoration (1970-2000); contemporary Jerome (2000-present). Many artists, such as Lew Davis and Roger Holt, are nationally acclaimed.

Oil painting by Roger Holt

Oil painting by Roger Holt depicting Jerome in its ‘ghost town’ era.

The town of Jerome owns some art created by Jerome artists and it hangs in some of the town offices, meeting rooms and libraries. The Jerome Mine Museum on Main Street has a small collection of very fine oil paintings depicting mining days. The Jerome Historical Society archives has a considerable photography collection, only a very small portion of which has been printed and is on display. The Jerome State Historic Park has a small collection of photos and paintings. Some of that art owned by these entities is museum quality and should be protected and displayed in one location.

Sadly, however, much of the great art created in Jerome AZ before 1990 is gone—to families of artists that have died, to museums, and to visitors and residents of Jerome and the Verde Valley who had the good sense to buy it.

Three shows that occurred in Jerome within the last fifty years gave residents and visitors glimpses of the greatness of artists that once lived in Jerome.

Lew Davis: The Dean Arizona Artists

During the nineteen seventies, the Verde Valley Art Association in Jerome AZ sponsored a show of the art of Lew Davis, dean of Arizona artists, who grew up in Jerome during its mining days. The show included one of his most famous pieces, “Morning at the Little Daisy.” VVAA Director and musician Pat Jacobson and Arts Coordinator and jeweler Susan Dowling went to Phoenix in Pat’s pickup truck and borrowed all of Davis’ paintings from museums and collectors.

"Morning at the Little Daisy" by Lew Davis

“Morning at the Little Daisy,” by Lew Davis, owned by the Phoenix Art Museum. Davis grew up in Jerome, not wanting to admit to wanting to be an artist in a community of miners. After he moved out of Jerome, Davis painted a series of paintings depicting life in Jerome.

Other VVAA art shows featured the work of Arcosanti visionary Paolo Soleri and nationally renowned Verde Valley sculptor John Waddell.

The VVAA shows of Arizona artists and Jerome artists’ studio tours helped place Jerome on the map as an art destination. Shows of Jerome resident artists introduced their art to visitors and gave many artists their first sales.

1999: Images of Jerome

The Jerome Historical Society sponsored an art show in 1999 called “Images of Jerome: A Centennial Retrospective: 1899–1999.” The show depicted the culture of the community during three distinct periods: mining era, ghost town years, and restoration. A collection of more than one hundred paintings, photographs, jewelry, stained glass, tiles, sculpture, and pottery were displayed that were created by artists and artisans that lived in Jerome. The art was of excellent quality.

“Miner Pushing Ore Cart” by William D. White.

“Miner Pushing Ore Cart” by William D. White. This painting was the poster cover for
“Images of Jerome” exhibition in 1999. The painting was part of a series commissioned by Phelps Dodge Corporation in the mid-1930’s depicting copper miners. After the society formed in 1953, The American Legion loaned six of White’s paintings to the Jerome Historical Society and they were eventually accessioned by them.

I produced that show on behalf of the society. It was a propitious time to remind those of us who helped rescue the town of our deep attachments here and our roots into every aspect of its culture. The art was gathered from about 150 homes, studios, and businesses in Jerome and from the society’s collection in the Mine Museum. Curators ML Lincoln and Karen Mackenzie put in more than four hundred volunteer hours. They were astonished to find homes so chock full of Jerome art that they looked like miniature art museums. “These were not wealthy people collecting art as an investment but art to treasure as you would a good friend,” ML said. “Artists traded among each other or bartered their work for carpentry or bookkeeping or another piece of art. It was all very personal.” Lincoln and Mackenzie photographed all the art that they saw in people’s homes and donated the slides to the Jerome Historical Society for their archival records.

Vincent Family Art Exhibit

In 2012, Henry Vincent, a well-known Cottonwood CPA and resident of Jerome AZ had a showing of the art his family had gathered, much of it from Jerome artists at the old Manheim Gallery in Old Town Cottonwood. It was called the Vincent Family Art Exhibit and comprised more than thirty art works that had never been on public display and were not for sale, the majority of it by Jerome artists. Henry’s father Tom and mother Frankie remodeled a home in Jerome and moved into it in 1962. He began collecting art from Jerome artists. Their three children, Ed, Maeve and Henry continued collecting it.

The show included a painting of the Vincent family home called “First Snow” by Jerome artist and resident Robert Knudson and four or five paintings by Roger Holt the celebrated American artist, Roger Holt, who had exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery, and Carnegie Institute. Holt and his wife, Shan, arrived in 1954 and lived in Jerome until the mid-1960s. They founded the Verde Valley Artists, which morphed into the Verde Valley Art Association in 1975.

Where Could a Jerome AZ Art Museum be Located?

But where could this museum be?” I was asked whenever I mentioned my idea to people in Jerome on a recent visit. No one disputed that it was a good idea; but they did become very dubious that a museum could find a home here.

At some point, Verde Ex could explore the possibility of donating/selling/granting some or all of the old Mingus High School buildings for an art museum. It’s a logical idea: it has the reputation already as an art studio center and has adequate parking. Verde Ex needn’t displace any of its renters, many of them artists, but it could stipulate that whenever the renter gave up the space, it would become part of the new museum.

Would Verde Ex by up for selling? That would have to be explored. Could money to buy some of all of the complex for a museum be raised from donations and grants: no doubt.

OR??????

But Wouldn’t It be Great

If an art museum did exist in Jerome AZ?

Wouldn’t it be great if special shows could be brought up to Jerome by artists that visited or lived here? Like Lew Davis. Or the great Edward Weston who photographed Jerome in the thirties.

An art museum could raise the funds and persuade the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. to help mount an exhibit here in Jerome of some of the collection of William Andrews Clark, the man who started the first of Jerome ‘s great copper mines. Like his collection of rare laces. Or world-renowned collection of majolica pottery.

Wouldn’t it be great for Jerome artists, before they died or moved away, to donate one or two pieces to the museum, instead of it evaporating out of town, never to be seen again. I’m thinking of the great work by artist Paul Nonnast, who died a few years ago, and whose home and studio are on the market. Or stained glass artist Nancy Louden. Or the tiles and magnets of Jade and Rosie? Or some of the work of jeweler Shorty Powell, who lived here in the sixties. I’ve never seen any of his art.

Wouldn’t it be great if some of us who own some of the great art that has been created here in Jerome could leave it as a bequest to the new museum?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one place our tourists could see the fantastic art that was created here in all eras of Jerome’s fantastic and colorful lives.

Fall in Jerome AZ

“Fall in Jerome” by Mark Hembleben, a plein air artist currently living and painting in Jerome. Hembleben has an art studio in the old Mingus Union High School. This painting would be one of my candidates for a new art museum in Jerome AZ. (www.markhemleben.com).

Wouldn’t it be great if there was one great art museum where visitors could recognize how deeply entwined art was in the history and collective identity of Jerome?

Ghosts of My Verde Street Home

If you are a student of Jerome AZ’s history, as I am, you study ghosts, the people that came before you, that grew up in the house you live in, planted the crab apple and apricot trees you eat from, plundered the mountain where you now walk your dog and try to figure out what they created or destroyed has to do with the present and future.” (From the prologue to Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City.)

Meeting the Ghosts 

Sometimes you get to meet the ghosts that built the house you lived in; who whispered to you when you buried Whiskers the Manx cat near the apricot tree, “Thanks for giving us a cat to be our companion. We’ve been wishing for one for a long time.”

Verde Street Home in Jerome AZ

The house at the end of Verde Street in Jerome AZ built by Nikolai Domanovich in 1926. (Photo by JoAnn Braheny)

 

I was visiting Jerome AZ in May and received a phone call from Barbara Beneitone, one of the children that lived in our home at the end of Verde Street before the mines closed. “My Mom and sister and brother are going to be in Jerome. We’d love to take you to lunch.” I had been corresponding with Barbara through Facebook: she was one my loyal blog readers.

At Grapes Restaurant on Jerome’s Main Street, I met Barbara’s 91-year old mother, Doris and her first-born son Don Schumacher and his wife Mary, Barbara and her sister Suzy and her partner Roy Harbin. Missing were Louis and Debbie, two other children. Doris was a sturdy, lovely woman with a lot of energy and a big heart, much like her children.

After lunch, we went over to their old house, unlived in since we sold it three years ago, full of foxtails, neglect, and a lot of memories. My husband Walt and I, children Max and Michael, Amanda the dog and Whiskers the cat lived there for 35 years. The house sits sentinel over Deception Gulch.

The Beneitone family in Jerome AZ

The Beneitone family in May 2014 on the driveway of the Verde Street home in Jerome AZ: left to right: Suzy, Barbara, Doris. and Don. (Photo by JoAnn Braheny)

History of the Ghosts

“The house was built in 1926 by Marguerite and Nikolai Domjanovich, my parents,” Doris told me. “They were Croats from Delnice, Yugoslavia.  I was 3-months old when we moved to the house. Mr. Lopez, Sr. helped. He lived in the house below you. Sometimes the kids threw stones to see if they could hit his tin roof.”

Doris and her husband and four kids lived on the bottom floor of that old house.  Suzy slept in the closet in the bedroom Louis, Don and Barbara slept in the hallway in bunk beds. Upstairs lived Mitzi Bobbitt, Doris’ sister and her husband. “We were one big happy family in a little house,” Barbara said.

The first house that Marguerite and Nikolai lived in was near the baseball field (now a big, open flat spot near the Gold King Mine). Nicolai’s brother George was accidentally killed by a baseball hitting his chest. The family built the home at the end of Verde Street because they did not want to confront the ghosts of that memory every day.

The family and I walked back to the patio where Walt built his last wall, the one with the drill press embedded in it, and stood under the mesquite tree. It was a particularly tranquil, private spot. The men admired the walls. I told them Walt built ten massive walls to protect the house from tumbling down the mountain. Don showed me the remnants of the walls his father built. I showed him the one Mr. Bobbitt built.

Drill press wall Jerome AZ

Wall with drill press in Jerome AZ built by Walter Rapaport. (Photo by Diane Rapaport)

The apricot tree their family had planted just below the patio was still there, barely alive through a few winters of drought and disregard. They made jam from the fruit, Don told me. Just below was the garden his parents kept, full of beets, turnips, cabbage and carrots. Doris made sauerkraut from the cabbages in barrels located in the old shed. She’d serve it with ‘pigs in the blankets.’ The spot was protected from the smoke of copper smelters in Cottonwood and Clarkdale AZ.

“On special occasions, we’d go up to Walnut Springs for a picnic and a swim with pails full of sauerkraut and potato salad,” Don said. The remains of the concrete swimming pool are still up there.

The old Walnut Springs Pool near Jerome AZ

The swimming pool at Walnut Springs, two miles up the mountain from Jerome AZ circa 1918. (Private collection)

Their father and grandfather were miners, such a different life than the one we led in Jerome. What seemed like plundering the mountain to me was a better job for their grandfather and his brother than ones in the mines in Michigan, where it was brutally cold, and those in the low-ceilinged coal mines of New Mexico, where her grandfather to had to work stooped. He was six feet, nine inches tall and had to work stooped.

Most of the family moved away in 1950. The men helped tear down the interiors of the electrical plumbing and woodworking buildings on the 500-level and recycle tools and materials for mining elsewhere. Doris’ widowed mother stayed behind. She did not want to leave Jerome.

I stood with Doris at the top of the steps. “My grandfather made the copper railings and set them in iron pipes.” It gave us something to hang on to when we went down the two sets of steps. By now they were tipping toward the patio ten feet below the wall. Where my peace roses still bloomed was the location of an old bin for storing coal for the stove her mom and she cooked on.”

The Tug of Jerome

I didn’t have much desire to go down those steps with Don, Barbara and Suzy and look around. Neither did Doris. We hadn’t back since we left and we felt sad.  Lifetimes had passed, not to be measured in years. We both had tears.

What we had in common is our love of Jerome, the home that meant so much to all of us in our lives, the children that grew up there and scrambled over those craggy cliffs like goats. We understood without words what it was to feel the tug back as we left Jerome for another life in another city, another set of people and circumstances.

Doris and her family had always hoped to move back to that house. For them, as for me, Jerome was a favored place on earth and we shared an almost supernatural attachment to it. For us this crazy, patchwork town will always be home sweet Jerome.

Jerome, AZ 2014—America’s Loveliest Town

Jerome AZ is home when I come back to visit, as familiar and comfortable as my new home in Hines, Oregon. I was hugged back into its warmth and beauty by friends and family.

I strolled through streets that are full of magic and surprise. It’s not just the highly individual houses and gardens, but coming upon staircases that climb to nowhere, secret pathways, gussied up pink flamingos, an old dental chair planted in the grass, the body of a 1951 Chrysler New Yorker floating on a pedestal adjacent to the New State Motor Company.

Fantasy garden in Jerome AZ.

Karen calls this her Jerome AZ fantasy garden. I call it the garden of magic and surprise. lovely Lady Bank roses cascade up the large tree and the peace sign is lit at night. Photo by Karen Mackenzie

It was late spring. Thousands of trees in hundreds of varieties had greened up. Apricots and peaches were plumping out; it would be a bonanza year. Pink, red and yellow roses cascaded off porch trellises. It made me feel like I was walking through a terraced arboretum decorated with people-sized dollhouses.

It was difficult to imagine that in 1953 Jerome and the surrounding mountains were denuded of vegetation.

Unlike virtually any other American town, Jerome, AZ is framed in by a wild rocky landscape. The entire town is encompassed in about one square mile. There are no perimeter condos or trailer parks; no big box stores; no fast food franchises, no blighted neighborhoods. The land surrounding the town is owned by that is owned by mining and other large entities and the US Forest Service.

Jerome AZ illustration by Anne Bassett

The entire town of Jerome AZ is encompassed in about an aereal mile. Illustration by Anne Bassett (www.jeromeartistannebasset.com) for Diane Rapaport’s book, Home Sweet Jerome—Death and Rebirth of Arizona’s Richest Copper Mining City (homesweetjerome.net).

Every stroll shows me stupendous backdrops of craggy copper-colored canyons above Jerome or sweeps my eyes 1700 feet down and across the Verde Valley to the carmine and buff buttes, which form the ramparts known as the Mogollon Rim. The lighting effects produced by any kind of weather are entrancing.

Late afternoon in Jerome AZ

Views from Jerome AZ are stupendous, especially when their are storm clouds. “Heaven on earth” is what photographer Ron Chilston calls it.  (www.ron-chilston.artistwebsites.com)

The mining history of this once fabled city is everywhere present. Just up from the post office on Main Street, I can take in the elegance of fifteen lovingly restored Victorian houses, built by William Andrews Clark, the mining mogul reputed to be richer than Rockefeller. My eyes can look at the big buildings that dominate most every neighborhood and remember how derelict they looked when I moved to Jerome in 1980. Now they are architectural showcases, lovingly used and enjoyed.

DeCamp House

The DeCamp house on Company Hill in Jerome AZ. It sits on the edge of Paradise Lane. Illustration by Anne Bassett (www.jeromeartistannebassett.com/

The restoration efforts led to Jerome AZ being declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. A decade before, the commercial district had been designated as a National Historic District.)

The white Douglas Mansion, the largest adobe brick structure in Arizona, once belonged to Jimmy Douglas, the second wealthiest mining mogul in Jerome, AZ. The mansion is now a meticulously cared for state park and museum. Nearby, the Daisy Hotel, once a miner’s hotel, and, after the fifties, an informal child’s skateboard and hide and seek playground, is now a handsomely restored home for its owners. The old hospital has become the Grand Hotel with its gracious maroon awnings. The Mingus Union High School complex is crammed full of remarkable art studios. The old elementary school houses town hall, offices and public library.

I always gawk at Jerome’s retaining walls, its immense, and somewhat unheralded, architectural treasure. The walls behind the new fire station and down by the basketball court near the sliding jail are built with rocks so large you’d think giants lifted them. Other walls are built with trestles from old railroad beds, steel sheets, or even bedsprings. Still others are huge concrete edifices. Some 1500 retaining walls have been built in Jerome AZ and they are as individual as the homes that people have restored. The walls keep the town from toppling down the mountain.

Wall on Highway 89A, Jerome AZ

One of the first Jerome AZ walls that drivers notice on their way up from the Verde Valley is right on Highway 89A. It was built by Mexicans and Italian stonemasons in the 1930’s as a WPA project. The limestone rocks are quarried from the Martin formation just outside of town. The rocks have settled and withstood a few rumbles, which accounts for some of their curved lines. Photo by Bob Swanson (SwansonImages.com)

The Jerome Historical Society (http://jeromehistoricalsociety.com/) has displayed many mining artifacts in its parks and streets: iron ore carts, the coal coker, the huge half steel spoke outside its mine museum on Main Street. They have transformed an old Audrey head frame below the Douglas State Park Museum into a museum mini park. I stand on top of the glass walkway and look down almost 1900 feet into the old elevator shaft, a view enhanced by dramatic xenon lighting and specially designed mirrors. I saw an old elevator ‘cage’ and wonder if it was the same one that once transported me almost 5000 feet down into the large mine caverns.

Audrey Headframe

The Audrey headframe was part of the elevator that took employees down into the United Verde Extension Copper Mine in Jerome AZ.

After more than sixty years of restoration, the ghost town derelict that Jerome became after 1953 is gone. It is arguably the most photographed and painted town in America. Visually, Jerome, AZ gets my vote for the loveliest town in America.

Fall in Jerome AZ

Fall in Jerome AZ by plein aire artist Mark Hemleben (markhemleben.com).

Blooming Agave Parryi near Jerome AZ—Candles of Flame

In April and May, thick maroon shafts grow from the wild hearts of the Agave, plump and erotic. The plant resembles a giant artichoke. Agave stalks can grow as fast as two-to-three inches a day and as high as fourteen to sixteen feet.

Young Agave parryi stalk

Photo of a young Agave stalk by Ivette Soler, who calls herself the ‘germinatrix,‘ (a play on the word gemination or spark of creation). She has written many delightful garden blogs. http://thegerminatrix.com

Agave Parryi near Jerome Arizona

Diane Sward Rapaport standing close to a very large Agave parryi stalk near Perkinsville Road about a mile from Jerome AZ. Photo by JoAnn Braheny.

During May, and early June, the shaft of the agave sends out horizontal stalks that hold blooming candelabras on each end, with dozens of little candles of yellow and red flames on each. You can see hundreds of flowering agave about one mile out of Jerome on Perkinsville Road in the limestone formations above the Gold King Mine and many dozens in the same formations as you drive up to Jerome from Clarkdale on Highway 89A just as you near Jerome.

Candles of fire: Agave parryi in bloom.

The flowering candelabras of the Agave parryi hold dozens of candles of fire.

Agave parryi in bloom

The Agave parryi blooms once every twenty to twenty-five years.

You’ll also see the agave’s cactus companions: yellow flowering prickly pear cactus and carmine flowers of the hedgehog cactus. It’s been a bonanza year! The desert is blooming.

The Agave flowers only once every twenty to twenty-five years (longer in colder climates) and then dies, leaving the brown withered central stalk and candelabras, the candles of flame now upright stems. New plants grow from the root systems.

Some species of agaves are also called century plants, even though they flower much sooner than once every hundred years.

In the Verde Valley, the agave is officially called Agave parryi. The genus ‘Agave’ is from the Greek word ‘agavos’ for admirable, noble, splendid and refers to its noble appearance. The genus ‘parryi’ honors the botanist Charles C. Parry (1823-1890), a highly respected doctor, explorer and naturalist, who was highly acclaimed as a collector of botanical plants.)

The Agave Parryi is not Native to the Verde Valley

The Agave parryi is a cultivar that was imported and planted by the Sinagua (700 to 1125 A.D.) to complement the planting of squash, corn and beans, flax and cotton. The agave plants were brought up from Southern Arizona. The methods of planting and irrigation were learned from their Hohokam neighbors.

The Sinagua planted the agave on the outskirts of gardens by making a large hollow in the soil, planting it, then filling the hollow with rocks.  The method had two beneficial effects: it helped retain water and stopped rodents from digging them up. The agave was also planted in the rocky, fast draining, south facing hills surrounding large gardens in such places as Cow Flats (near Henderson Ranch) and Beaver Flat.

Roasting Agave

The Sinagua and the Yavapai that migrated into the Verde Valley from the West around 1600 dug up the agave and roasted the heartas one of their staple foods. They dug up the agave when the stalk was ten or twelve inches high and the outer leaves green and fleshy. This ensured that maximum plant sugars are concentrated in the crown, making for a sweeter, juicier agave heart once cooked.

According to an account written by William H. Corbusier, an assistant surgeon with the US Army stationed on the Rio Verde Reservation from 1872 to 1875, wrote about the method used by the Yavapai as noted by Corbusier.

When a supply if it is needed, the women go in charge of some of the men, or the whole party moves to the mescal fields, and sufficient is cut and baked to last several weeks. They choose those plants which are at least eighteen inches highand cut them close to the ground, then trim off projecting ends of the leaves, so that each plant forms a large ball composed of the thick bases of the leaves, and the crown on which they are crowded.They then carry them in their baskets to a suitable spot in a ravine or a canon where they dig a pit, or if an old one be in the neighborhood, as is frequently the case, they resort to it. The earth taken out is banked up to deepen the pit, which varies from, the size varying from three to ten feet in diameter, and from two to four feet deep, according to the number in the party. A large fire is built in it, on which are thrown basketfuls of stones. When these are hot, the mescal is piled on them in the form of a pyramid and covered with grass and earth. It is allowed to remain undisturbed about forty-eight hours, the women watching the pit in order to repair occasional breaks in the covering. When the mescal is baked, the pit is opened, and each woman takes out her own which she recognizes by her private mark. The plants in baking shrink and turn brown. The fibres [sic], which are coarse in the leaves and fine in the crown, receptacle, become tougher, but the fleshy part is converted into a sweet juicy pulp. Those which are not to be used soon are torn to pieces and spread on sticks in large cakes, which, when dry, are folded up for convenience in carrying. When kept for some time, the mescal becomes hard and tough, and requires soaking in water before it can be eaten. Mescal-water, made by dissolving the pulp in water, is a favorite beverage, and constitutes the exclusive diet of the sick. It frequently acts as a purge, and when dysentery or diarrhea exists often aggravates the disease. If the plant is not well cooked, or if too young, it produces the same effect.” (American Antiquarian, Volume 8, pages 276-84 and 325-39)

There is no evidence that the Agave parryi was used by the Sinagua or the Yavapai to brew mescal.

Other Uses

The leaves yield a very strong fiber from which baskets and sandals can be woven; the thorns can be used for needles and pins; and soap can be made from the leaves.

Musicians in Jerome sometimes make didgeridoos from the dried-up stalk. This wind instrument produces a deep, vibrating drone.

Didgeridoo of agave and zebra wood

Didgeridoo of agave and zebra wood designed by Jeff Lohr http://www.hallowedsounds.com

My friend Katie Lee likes to cut down the stalk of a dead agave every year and decorate it as a Christmas tree.