Fifteen hundred retaining walls can be found from the historic Victorian-like homes at the top of Jerome, Arizona to the homes at the bottom of Deception Gulch—less than one aerial mile. They are among the town’s most impressive and enduring architectural treasures.
Many walls are hand-stacked, one stone over two, much like the ancient walls of the Anasazi.
Most hand-stacked walls have no mortar between them. Properly built, the rocks “weep” and act as natural drains. They have an elasticity that enables them to shift and settle. In 1976, a small quake shook glasses in Paul and Jerry’s Saloon. The epicenter of a 3.2 earthquake in 1984 was located five miles outside of Jerome. It sounded like an underground train ambling through the town’s underbelly. Some rocks tumbled, but the walls held.
Here are photos of some of my favorites hand-stacked walls. There are many! I’d like to hear about your favorites.
Most rocks for Jerome’s retaining walls are quarried from within a seven-mile radius of town. The walls contain rocks from the same formations that are dominant in the Grand Canyon—1.8-billion-year-old schist, maroon Tapeats sandstone that holds millions of tiny shells, limestone of the Martin Formation and cherry-streaked Redwall sandstone, the ruby-colored Supai sandstone, and black lava basalt. They tell of the ancient seas that once covered the area and the tumult of volcanoes and earthquakes.
Some spectacular walls take a bit of a hike to get to. This one that is close to the entrance to the old Hull Mine can be found by hiking up canyon in Deception Gulch.I used to access it from behind my old house by scrambling up to an old drainage ditch that is now a big rock tumble.
Some walls are collages that are made with just about anything that builders found laying around—discarded telephone poles, bedsprings, engine blocks, woodstove doors, corrugated tin, laundry buckets, refrigerators, and discarded tires that were filled with stone. Jerome’s builders recycled almost everything long before it was fashionable.
The last wall that my husband Walter built at our old house was in the back under the mesquite trees.