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6:59 AM Mon, Oct. 15th

Jerome State Historic Park reopens Thursday; Douglas Mansion makeover in the spotlight

Jerome State Historic Park, closed in 2009 because of state budget cuts and the need for major repairs, will reopen with a special celebration on its grounds at noon on Thursday.

The heart of the legendary site is the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 by mining magnate "Rawhide" Jimmy Douglas, onetime owner of the Little Daisy Mine in Jerome. The mansion was a hotel for mining officials, investors and family and features a wine cellar, a billiard room, steam heat, marble showers, a central vacuuming system, minerals and mining artifacts and remarkable vistas overlooking the Verde Valley's expanse.

The mansion and its lawns, complete with vintage mining equipment, became a state park in 1965 and was designated a national historic site in 1976. Over the years, the state park has attracted millions of visitors to its hilltop setting and to the town of Jerome below.

State budget woes and the mansion's crumbling adobe walls and roof closed its gates in 2009. But a cadre of town folks, Yavapai County, the Arizona State Parks Board and the Douglas family came up with a plan for alternative financing to ensure its survival.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors agreed to Supervisor Chip Davis' request to appropriate $30,000 from the county parks fund for three years to help open parks in his District 3; State Parks allocated money from Heritage Fund grants toward the project; and the Douglas family donated $15,000 to the cause. The town's 500 residents were also vital participants in the Douglas Mansion's revival.

A state parks blog, which is no longer posting entries because the project is complete, traces the refurbishing from the time work began in summer 2009 on the mansion and carriage house to painting the exterior its original tan color to installation of aluminum lath to restoring the chimneys to their original condition and all the way to rebuilding the mansion's adobe parapet walls.

At the time the board of supervisors kicked in the $30,000, Davis responded with a "Woo-hoo!"

And, now that the mansion will reopen, Jerome Mayor Jay Kinsella said, in a State Parks press release, "We are going to find every way possible to keep this park open and generating tourism for our economy. The story of the copper mines in Arizona is fascinating to tourists and especially how $800 million in copper was taken from the mountain beneath this town."

In the same press release, Renee Bahl, executive director of State Parks, noted Yavapai County's commitment and added that Jerome State Historic Park alone attracts 60,000 visitors annually. "Yavapai County understands that their businesses thrive on the 2.3 million visitors that move though the State Parks system each year," she said.

Park entrance fees will be waived for the celebration and mansion tours on Thursday. After that, the fees will be $5 for adults and $2 for children.

State Parks officials are looking for volunteers or groups to serve at the mansion and its grounds to interpret the history of the Douglas family, miners and mining and the geology of the region. For information about becoming a volunteer, call toll-free at 800-285-3703, visit www.AZStateParks.com, or look up AZStateParks on Facebook and Twitter.