After their mines closed, most Southwestern U.S. mining boom towns became ghost towns. If you get off the main highways, they're easy to find.
Jerome, Arizona, a copper mining town that grew up from its birth in 1876 to become a thriving home to 15,000 residents in the 1920s, went that way, too—but in name only, writes Diane Sward Rapaport, in Home Sweet Jerome. While Jerome's population did dwindle to only 250 residents after the copper mine owners boarded up the mine shafts, the town was too stubborn to die. Its residents, an eclectic mix of artists, war veterans, hippies and misfits, found ingenious ways to keep the town alive.
Rapaport's book captures the quirky strategies undertaken by those who stayed so they could continue living in the place they called home. One of the first actions was advertising the city as a ghost town to attract tourists. They also battled vandals by getting hippy renters, who often grew pot in their backyards—and they got political. There were also frequent battles to stop the mine owners' attempts to tear down all the buildings to avoid liability. The town, after all, was built atop underground holes.
The author writes from the vantage point of having been one of the residents dedicated to saving Jerome for thirty-two years, a battle that ended with the town's placement on the National Register of Historic Places—a "ghost town " that attracts over a million visitors annually, although at the last census the population was only 450.
Home Sweet Jerome is a book for all who love to read about real people and their foibles, often in their own words. It's a book for history buffs who are interested in alternate endings. And it's a book for people who love landscape and place.
While the writing is not always polished, the stories are fascinating.
Diane Sward Rapaport arrived in Jerome in 1979 with her husband for a less harried way of life. Among many achievements she graduated magna cum laude from Connecticut College, and earned a Masters Degree in Renaissance Literature from Cornell University. Visit her blog.
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