©Wolfgang Kaehler

Miners, Madams and Hippies


Greg, a slender refugee from LA, points out a building that was an upscale brothel owned by Madame Belgian Jennie. “She became the richest woman in Arizona,” he explains. “Later in life she hooked up with the wrong boyfriend who shot her to death.” And so go the tales of former a copper mining town Jerome, Arizona, today a National Historic District that clings to the hillside above Cottonwood. Greg, owner of Ghost Town Tours, with a chiseled face topped by an army green beanie, guides us through crooked streets on a walking tour. The shady stories go on and on, one out-doing the other: the first Chinese restaurant in Arizona above an opium den, the street where a prostitute would serve 50 men a night.


“At one time there were 15 brothels in this town and 24 saloons,” he explains. As he points out that in the late 1800s, William Clark made Verde Copper Company the wealthiest mine owned by one man in the world, a scraggly man with a long white beard sitting on a bench, calls out, “Yeah, he beat out Bill Gates.” Greg does an amazing job of telling us the crazy stories and history of an astonishingly successful copper mining town also known to be one of the raunchiest, wildest places in the west. But Greg also helps visitors understand the social structure of the town with Irish Catholics on top of the hill, Eastern Europeans in the middle, Mexicans below and Chinese living a reclusive existence to avoid taunting do to discrimination.


After the mines closed down in 1953, the population of Jerome eventually plummeted from 15,000 to only about 50. But then came hippies escaping the draft of Vietnam. Today former hippies and artists make this town an appealing haunt to visit, gallery hop, and enjoy a great lunch.

Take a Tour: You will learn lessons from Greg about history and life in the west not mentioned by your high school teacher. Visit Ghost Town Tours at


Stop for Lunch: We loved Grapes, a restaurant with a charming little outdoor patio, the best Mediterranean salad I have ever tasted, and a variety of pastas and pizzas.

For more photos please visit:  www.wkaehlerphoto.com

Posted March 1, 2011 | Categories: Blog and Travel. Tags: Arizona, brothel, Ghost town, historic, history, Jerome, Mining Town, travel, travel blog, and travel photography.

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