Relive Arizona history Saturday at ghost town’s festival

Fairbank's schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

Fairbank’s schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

It’s festival time in Arizona! Late winter and early spring bring some kind of event to every town all around the state. There’s a festival, show or fair for just about anything and everything — gem shows, coin shows, gun shows, car shows, horse shows and RV shows. There’s a fest for science and technology, beer, wine, pecans and gourds. Chandler — my own hometown — alone claims several this time of year: a science spectacular, a classic car show and fests for barbecue and beer, jazz, ostriches, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It would be possible to travel from town to town around Arizona for weeks on end celebrating one festival after another.

You have another option for this Saturday. For a change of pace, consider a road trip to ghost town to celebrate and learn more about Arizona history in one day. Pack up the family and head to southeastern Arizona for Fairbank Day.

Fairbank is a ghost town north of Sierra Vista along Highway 82, 10 miles east of Highway 90. It was primarily known as a railroad stop for trains transporting silver ore from Tombstone to the mill works in Charleston, Contention City and Millville. At its peak, Fairbank recorded 100 residents, several stores, houses, saloon, stagecoach station, and of course, the depot.  River flooding and a rare Arizona earthquake caused the decline of the mines and mills, which trickled down to a decreased necessity for the railroad stop at Fairbank.

f3By the 1940s only a few buildings remained but it wasn’t until about 1974 that Fairbank bid farewell to the last businesses and residents. A few structures from Fairbank’s 1880’s heyday still can be viewed at the site, including the Adobe Mercantile Building, a couple of houses, stable and schoolhouse. Most of these aren’t accessible to the public however. The school building which was constructed in the 1920s to replace one destroyed by fire, has been restored and operates now as a visitor’s center, gift shop and museum.

Fairbank Day observes the long history of the town plus the local area around the San Pedro River. Activities include: townsite tours, guided hikes to the nearby ruins of Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, train robbery reenactments, Spanish settlement recreations, prehistoric settlement archeology presentations, U.S. Calvary demonstrations, book signings and discussions by local authors, plus music and food. Donations from the event will benefit the Friends of the San Pedro River organization, which provides support for conservation efforts, advocacy and education in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management.

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

There's obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

There’s obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

Vistors can take a short "hike to history" on one of the nearby trails

Visitors can take a short “hike to history” on one of the nearby trails

 

How Fairbank looked about 1890 (From Wikimedia Commons. Image in public domain - copyright expired.)

How Fairbank looked about 1890

 

Fairbank ghost town has its 'day' this Saturday

Fairbank ghost town has its ‘day’ this Saturday

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Start Jerome, Ariz. tour at historic state park

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Enjoy the views from Jerome Historic State Park

 

Visitors to Jerome, Arizona are smart to choose Jerome State Historic Park as their first stop when they come into town, to discover the town’s rich and colorful history. Stories of wealthy mining families, town fires, floods, gambling, prostitution and ghosts are circulated at Jerome State Historic Park.

The park comprises the James Douglas family mansion, separate carriage house, and exterior exhibits of a stamp mill crusher and several mining cars. Jerome Historical Society maintains the Audrey Headframe Park, located just west of the mansion, also worth a visit.

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Gargoyle greets visitors to the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

When arriving in Jerome with our out-of-state guests, Jerome State Historic Park usually is our first stop. The five-dollar admission fee is money well spent. The 28-minute video presentation seems much shorter, probably because it’s packed full of exciting tidbits about Jerome’s most notorious characters and earthshaking events. I highly recommend seeing that video first, before you tour the rest of the mansion. Everything you’ll be seeing behind the display glass will make more sense, plus you’ll really have a greater appreciation of your other stops in historic Jerome.

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Rock specimens on display inside mansion rooms

 

At Jerome State Historic Park, you’ll learn about the Douglas family, the rise and fall of Jerome’s mining industry and other significant events, offering a deeper understanding of the town, its culture and colorful past. Plan to spend at least an hour at the park, if not more. Afterwards, you’ll want to take in all the panoramic views as you stroll around the grounds and exterior exhibits.

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Surveying instruments are part of Jerome Historic State Park railroad exhibit

 

Interesting side note: the Douglas family didn’t spend much time at this mansion. It was used more for entertaining guests, investors and mining company VIPs. The home was a model for opulence, complete with wine cellar, marble shower, even a central vacuum system — very innovative for that time! But the mansion also served as party hall, as mine officials hosted a huge Christmas party for the miners and their families each year.

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One of the main living areas in the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

Tips for visiting Jerome: When planning a walking tour of Jerome’s shops and cafes, first pick up a historic building and business map at the visitor center. Consider parking at the spacious lot located just past the Fire Station on Perkinsville Road. That way, you’ll have an easy walk to the shops, starting at the United Verde Apartment building, then making your way down to each street level. The first Saturday of each month is the Jerome Art Walk.