Preserving our history is a focused duty

[Source: Prescott Daily Courier]

Photo Credit: Arizona State Parks

When the chips are down, Arizonans truly have grit.

Case in point: The Jerome State Historic Park, with the Douglas Mansion as its crown jewel, will reopen in all its glory on Thursday, thanks to the determination of people who value its significance in Yavapai County’s history.

Two major forces came together to shut the park down in 2009: a crippled state budget that forced the Legislature to cut money for state parks operations and the mansion’s crumbling adobe walls and roof.

But, the “closed” sign that went up on the park’s gates didn’t sit well with the people who treasure the vestiges of Jerome’s colorful past – and for good reason.

Jerome, which rose atop Cleopatra Hill, was once one of Yavapai County’s boomtowns, rich with copper that lured prospectors, investors and promoters who sought wealth from its depths. The little burg quickly grew from a cluster of tents and mining shacks to a flourishing company town, burgeoning with Americans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians and Chinese, a cosmopolitan mix, all with hope that Lady Luck would smile on them.

The Douglas Mansion is Jerome’s most prominent landmark. Visible from every direction in the hillside town, the formidable edifice presides over the state park. The luxurious landmark was once the home of mining magnate James Stuart Douglas, owner of the Little Daisy Mine, and featured a wine cellar, a billiard room, marble shower, steam heat and a central vacuum system. The museum resonates with history of life in Jerome during its heyday as a major Arizona mining town.

When Jerome’s mining industry went bust and the town faced certain destiny as a ghost town, folks got together and stood guard over its historic buildings. The mansion became a state park in 1965 and Jerome became a national historic landmark in 1976.

The same strong will for preservation prevailed again when the park closed in 2009. One of the first to step up was Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis who was successful in persuading his board colleagues to appropriate $30,000 of county park money for three years to benefit three state parks in his District 3.

The Douglas family donated $15,000 to help repair the building. The Arizona State Parks board allocated sufficient Heritage Fund grant money to rebuild the roof, fix the adobe walls, reinforce the chimneys and paint the exterior.

Voila. The grand dame shines again, all thanks to the tenacity of people who appreciate the significance and colorful contribution of Jerome and the Douglas Mansion to Yavapai County’s historical tapestry.

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