When the Hotel Jerome officially opened Nov. 1, 1917, it was a sensation, a wonder of modern comfort and construction.
A story in The Verde Copper News Oct. 29, 1917, praised the hotel as "the newest, most modern, most comfortable, most attractive and most nearly fireproof hostelry in Northern Arizona."
The Hotel Jerome had 60 rooms, each with its own telephone connected to the lobby and the outside world via Jerome's telephone system. During World War I, it wasn't easy for any business to purchase such an extensive telephone system.
An Oct. 27, 1917, story in The Jerome Sun explained just how many amenities the hotel would offer. "In each room there is a fine shower bath with hot and cold running water. In each suite there is a tub bath." Nearly half of the rooms boasted a private toilet, and every room had a steam radiator.
The new hotel also offered much for the people of Jerome. The lobby, with beautiful white tile, became one of the town's favorite lounging places, and it provided a restroom, "especially for the ladies."
One of the hotel's principal features was a dining room in the basement. A men's social club also was located in the basement level. A pool hall, cigar store and newsstand were opened under lease. Next door to the pool hall was a three-chair barbershop with tub and shower.
If the hotel's conveniences were first class, the construction of the building was cutting edge - for 1917.
Owners were Rudolph Rothermel and his son-in-law Harry Parker. Arthur Kelly of Los Angeles was the architect, and the first design for the hotel was brick. But that plan was scrubbed because of fire danger.
The entire hotel was constructed of poured-in-place concrete, even the stairs, and the interior walls were plaster over wire lath and steel channels. The only reason the building was classified as "nearly fireproof" instead of completely fireproof was because the war made it nearly impossible for the doors and window jams to be built from steel. Those had to be built with wood.
The rectangle 53-by-74-foot, four-story building with two sub-floors consumed 6,000 sacks of cement, three carloads of plaster and three carloads of reinforcing steel.
A 1987 historic structure report by Otwell Associates Architects says the hotel prospered through the 1920s and closed sometime in the 1930s due to the Depression, which closed the mines and smelter. But the hotel came to life briefly during World War II when it housed miners shipped from Michigan to mine copper for the war effort.
After the hotel finally shut down completely, the windows, doors and electrical and plumbing fixtures were removed for salvage.
Lew Currier came to Jerome in 1970, and the building was empty then. Currier said he doesn't know how long it sat empty before he arrived in town. "The town offices were in there at one point," he said.
Currier, who was town clerk from 1981 through 1983, knows that the clerk's offices, along with utilities and planning and zoning, were located in the hotel lobby, which was made into the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery in the mid-1990s.
Some of the municipal offices were in the hotel lobby from 1981 to 1983. "It was basically all the offices for the town," Currier said. "We had the safe in there."
Currier's wife, Mimi, ran the Verde Valley Transit Authority out of the building for three or four years beginning in 1983.
Al Palmieri said there was a mini-mall in the hotel after the town moved out. "There was an antique shop," he said. "It was named the Turquoise Spider."
Palmieri said the hotel was used as a shopping location because "A lot of shops in town were still empty."
Nowadays, the hotel houses two art galleries and the Kids Art Workshop each summer.
But the Hotel Jerome may have a shot at a new life, a resurrection of sorts.
Town Manager Brenda Man-Fletcher has been working with some agencies and the Drachman Institute to see if a renovation of the hotel into affordable-housing apartments is viable. She also is working with Beverly Browning, a successful grant writer. Man-Fletcher said having Browning on board to secure the necessary grants - probably about $4 million worth - could be the key to breathing life into the proposed project.
Palmieri, who will take over as mayor of Jerome later this month, said he thinks the time for such a project is now.
"If we don't get the money to do this, that building is wasting away; it might be closed," he said.