Welcome to our page, where we provide an overview of what we've grown fond of calling
Welcome to our page, where we provide an overview
"Our Home in Jerome"
of what we've grown fond of calling
As a couple, we’ve both had a passion for gaining a deeper understanding of the impact of art and architecture in society. In late June 2023, after years of dating, we made it official and were married in a 600 year old structure that was actually built by Cameron’s ancestors in Scotland.
Bethany spent many years living in Arizona, so when it came time to put down roots, Jerome was an obvious choice. Over the next couple of years, we will build a small 800 square foot single family home at 300 Queen Street, a site that has played an important role in the history of Jerome and Arizona.
From the late 1800’s to 1917, this tiny lot housed over a dozen families in basic metal and wood mining shacks. A fire devastated the block and in June 1928 the UVCC announced the construction of “a centrally located and well-furnished recreation center” for mine workers and families, to be built on Rich Street (now Queen Street) with land donated from UVX. The amenities included lighting to enable nighttime swimming, a diving board, and a shower and changing room. As almost all of the workers were Mexican or of Mexican descent, the town council referred to it as ‘the Mexican Pool’ - however, upon opening UVCC and UVX representatives used the name “the workers pool”.
In 2021 and 2022, we held a series of public meetings and spoke in front of the Town Council and Design Review Board sixteen times. We met and discussed the project with SHPO in Phoenix, Arizona and their staff visited the site in 2022 to inspect the pool and other historic structures. We even tracked down and interviewed the last person to swim in the pool (who was only a few years old at the time).
Last year, we gained building approval, engaged licensed building engineers and architects as well as cultural and historic preservation experts. Currently we are identifying the right construction team and waiting until material costs readjust after the volatile fluctuations in pricing from 2021-2023.
Below is a more in depth history on the site and as we discover more we will continue to add!
Thank you for your interest in ‘our home in Jerome’. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.
Above: Sanborn maps of the site, which was once divided into many lots.
Left: Town Council building doors.
Building with History
Cameron began his career preserving Brancusi monuments in Romania in the late 1990’s. Over the past 30 years he learned the importance of taking the time to uncover the history of a place and ensure that what is built works with the context of the community it sits within. His work has led him from Afghanistan to Japan to South Africa as well as rebuilding communities in the United States ravaged by natural disasters.
When integrating new construction with historic preservation, it is vitally important not to duplicate the architecture of the time as it may confuse the visitor over what is original and what is an interpretation. One of the major requests from SHPO is not the ‘disney-fication’ of historic preservation. It is our aim to create a home that reflects the history of the site as well as restore the original pool structure with a visual connection to surrounding elements such as the sliding jail.
Due to the growing threat of water insecurity, the town of Jerome has requested we do not restore the pool to working order and for it to remain empty. The home we are building has been located and scaled so as to ensure the town of Jerome continues to have an unobstructed view of Sedona and the Verde valley. Below please find a more in depth analysis of the site and the history of ‘the workers pool’.
Working class housing in Mining Towns of Arizona
Perched on the edge of Cleopatra Hill, upwards of 15,000 people have lived and worked in an area that was the center of the US mining industry. During its’ peak, over 80% of the mine workers were from Mexico or from Mexican heritage. While the mining companies executives lived at the top of the hill, almost all the hispanic workers lived in a densely crowded section of town known as Mexicantown. (Also originally inhabited by Austrian and Italian immigrants)
This area was filled with single pitched roofed homes made from materials used in the mines and heated by simple wood stoves. While Jerome has never been a formally segregated town, in the 1920’s the makeup of residents above Hull Street were almost all European or born in the United States of European heritage and those below were either Mexican or born in the United States from Mexican heritage.
Thanks to the Jerome Historical Society and many private individuals, countless buildings have been saved. However the homes of the original workforce have often been overlooked with a number of appointed and elected officials recently noting in public meetings that these homes are ‘unworthy’ and were a blight on the town.
As we look to embrace broader perspectives and engaging diverse voices, historic preservation should encourage conversations around our complex and often challenging history.
It is vital that as we look to honor the legacy and architectural history of Jerome, we must look to tell the honest story of the homes of the working class. Generations of mine workers built Jerome with blood and sweat so we should not neglect their contribution to the unique and distinct architectural legacy of Jerome.
One of the last remaining structures we believe best encapsulates this struggle is La Piscina Mexicana. Through this unique property, we will continue to investigate and understand social inequity in our architectural history. Our team, made up of cultural and land use specialists, have helped create a building and plan that reflects the story of the neighborhoods past but also looks to the future.
1898-1917: From shacks to neighborhood
From before the formation of the town until 1917 the site grew from two to nine homes. We know only a little about each structure but four have unique architectural histories;
8/306 Rich/Queen Street was owned by Francisco Madrid. The Madrid family built a number of the surrounding buildings and rented them to transient miners. Foundations remain on site and have not shifted in 120+ years ago. Clear utilities are embedded within the foundations. During the time of the pool, the foundations were used as additional seating.
9/307 Rich/Queen Street was one of the largest homes and was built prior to the 1890’. It was the only home on Rich St with a terra-cotta chimney and appears to be one of the first worker housing built in Jerome with access to utilities. In the future the footprint of this structure would become the pool changing rooms and showers.
10/308 Rich/Queen Street was one of the first homes built on piers.
312-313 Rich/Queen Street was the last home to be constructed on the lot. It was a wood frame two story metal clad home with five stovepipe chimneys, a terracotta chimney and wraparound interconnected deck that unified the two structures. Our home design is influenced by this structure as well as the auxiliary structures of the pool.
1917: Fire sweeps through mining homes
In 1917 a fire swept through this section of town possibly leaving only the slagcrete foundations of 8/306 Rich St. At this point UVX and UVCC worked together to unify and transform this lot to the important historic site we see today. The other lots ended up becoming the heart of Jerome’s thriving bordellos, including the famous Cuban Queen.
1928-1936: La Piscina Mexicana (aka The Mexican Pool)
For eight years, La Piscina Mexicana served as the only community structure within this area of town. Built by UVCC, it was gifted to the mine workers and their families as a place to gather, swim and relax. It was open from 9am to 9pm every day with a lifeguard on duty. It was one of the first pools built in Arizona and one of the first in the country to have lighting.
In the 1934 Sanborn map you can see not only the pool but the pumphouse and male and female changing rooms (complete with lighting, showers and heating). The map insinuates that although the mining company stopped maintaining the pool, the local community kept it going.
Swimming, segregation and reintegration in Jerome
Jerome has been home to three pools; Walnut Springs (now in ruins), The American Pool (built over) and La Piscina Mexicana (uncovered in 2017 and currently visible.) However the story of these pools reveal the checkered past of the evolution of the town.
Jerome is one of the few places in the United States where community structures began integrated, then segregated, then reintegrated again. In 2021, as part of our design review process, we had a cultural resource study done on the site. The team that researched and wrote a report that helped to unearth the most amazing story. By the late 20’s, it became more common for mixed gender swimming. Female swimwear became more form fitting and records show strong concern from town council members (predominantly caucasian men) on mixed race interactions, primarily hispanic male miners swimming with the towns’ caucasian women.
For the first 3 months of existence the American pool segregated “American” and “Mexican” residents, draining the pool every few days when each group was designated to use it. In a last minute decision UVCC built La Piscina Mexicana (a few months after The American Pool). By the summer of 1928 the workers pool and recreation center opened.
By the late 1930’s only the American pool remained open and was renamed as the 300 level pool.
From Rich to Queen
With the abandonment of the pool and the building of the Cuban Queen and the Queen’s Neighbor, this neighborhood transformed from housing to ‘boarding houses’ or bordellos. In the last decade Jack Guth, the previous owner of the Queen’s Neighbor (and former Mayor), convinced the town to rename the street to honor both the Cuban Queen Bordello and the Queen’s Neighbor.
Myths, Rumors and Alvie the ring bearer.
Our journey to build and live in Jerome has been an adventure. We even ended up adopting Alvie, a thirteen year old dog, who spent most of his life living on the balcony of our former neighbor Denise Guth. As a pup he was trained to howl at the mid-day bell in town. Alas every time a police car or ambulance goes past, Alvie goes into song. A sculpture of ‘Howling Alvie’ served as our ring bearer carried by Sally from the Jerome Humane Society.
Bethany Halbreich and Cameron Sinclair have led careers in civic engagement and community development, with a focus on rural revitalization and economic resilience. For the past 25 years Cameron has worked on everything from reconstruction work to small-scale rural development projects - running non profits, family foundations and community organizations. He currently runs Worldchanging Institute, a research and development organization focuses on architectural responses to humanitarian crises. Bethany has led collaborative arts programming for the past eight years, through her non-profit Paint The World, as well as an artist in her own right. Collectively we’ve both worked with historic preservation groups, government officials and highly active community groups to create many award winning programs and projects.
Previous Examples of Work
Previously Bethany and I have worked together on restoring the home of a former heavyweight champion (Floyd Patterson) into a leadership and education center for foster kids - with historic preservation top of mind. Most recently the Home Depot made a materials grant and the original boxing ring - where Muhammad Ali trained - is being restored.
Home of Champions
Biloxi Model Home Program
For four years after Hurricane Katrina we partnered with the faith based community and displaced families displaced to build and repair over 600 homes. This program had strong community engagement and was a model for the Gulf Coast.
Play Village, Denmark
This is a co-housing community in Vejle for families and individuals dreaming of a more social life based on co-creation, play and learning. The village will be a home for families across generations and professions from both Denmark, developed in partnership with LEGO and Almenr.
Al-Amir Women’s Cooperative
In Jordan, we worked alongside women’s cooperatives to create an arts based marketplace and home stay which supports over 40 female entrepreneurs. In less than a month the facility was profitable and was receiving guests from around the world.
Yoshino Cedar House
We worked with 7th generation woodworkers and lumber mills in rural Japan to create a community center that doubled as a short term rental unit. In its first year the project increased tourism by 900% and brought sustained revenue to the community.
Nelson Mandela Gateway
We’ve also worked on internationally significant long term development projects, most notably the restoration and re-imagination of Robben Island and the Nelson Mandela Gateway in South Africa. This 10 year project is a public-private partnership that will bring visitors from the heart of Capetown to the facility that held Mandela for decades.