Jerome State Park opens with a new look

The Jerome State Park originally opened in October 1965. The James Douglas Mansion was nearly in ruins before it was donated to the State of Arizona by the D ouglas family. The mansion was built in 1916 from adobe brick.

And the state never may have anticipated an additional $1.3 million parking lot to accommodate more tourists, but both have happened. Finally, after eight months of being closed, the Jerome State Park or Douglas Mansion is now open.

“We had a $1.3 million contract for the parking lot and then spent $56,000 on the interior,” said Assistant Manager Mike Rollins. “Our parking lot was increased from 26 spaces to 58 spaces and includes a circular driveway, two RV and bus parking/spaces and a bus loading and unloading zone.”

The parking lot’s steep fee was due to the park’s topographically steep location. An enormous amount of excavation, engineering and brickwork had to be completed to create the additional 32 parking spaces. Rollins said engineering firm Dibble & Associates felt the project was such a feat that they decided to enter the design into a nationwide engineering contest.

“If this design wins, we could have our park in a number of magazines,” Rollins said. “This would be good advertising for us.”

The Jerome State Park originally opened in October 1965. The James Douglas Mansion was nearly in ruins before it was donated to the State of Arizona by the Douglas family.

The Mansion was built in 1916 from adobe brick. The luxurious home served as a place where visiting mining officials and investors could stay while traveling through Jerome. Douglas helped bring the United Verde Extension into prosperity between 1914 and 1938. UVX stock paid out over $55 million in dividends during this time, and the Clemenceau Smelter in Cottonwood was built.

The first improvements made on the mansion were limited to remodeling three rooms on the first floor for displays, converting the original dining room into a reception area and creating the 25-space parking lot. Today, the museum is fully utilized.

During its eight-month hiatus of having a new parking lot built, staff touched up the inside and added a few new things guests should enjoy. They include new oak countertops and gift shop displays; a new panoramic photo display along with the history of panoramic cameras; an improved theater with a 70-inch screen TV and DVD player and new paint.

Rollins said they peeled back four layers of paint on the interior walls to get back to the original color. Once they found the original colors, they had them matched and used them to finish the interior of the museum.

“The whole staff stayed on during the work and did interior and exterior work,” Rollins said. “We installed new area lighting outside, dug ditches, painted, patched holes, repaired cracks, cleaned, cleaned and did more cleaning and we even did our own electrical work for the lighting in the parking lot.”

Despite all that has been done, Rollins said there is still more to do. Currently, he is busy working on four more displays that will include a Jerome bottle collection, a display of old mining stock certificates, a display on the Jerome hospitals, and a display and sitting area downstairs where a 12-minute video of the upstairs portion of the museum will be available for those who are handicapped and cannot make it up the staircase.

The State Park, in conjunction with the Jerome Historical Society, also will host a Second Sunday of the Month program. The first lecture will be Feb. 10 at 4 p.m. at Spook Hall, located on Hull Avenue in Jerome. Lectures, depending on the weather, will be held either on the State Park’s veranda or in Spook Hall. The Feb. 10 speaker will be Dr. Diane Emery Hulick, lecturing on the history of photography in "Imaging Arizona." The program is free.

The State Park fees have remained the same, $2.50 for adults and $1 for students. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

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