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Powder Box Church

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1939–1941, Sabino Gonzales. 1055 Douglas Park Rd. (off Douglas Rd.)
  • (Photograph by Jason Tippeconnic Fox)
  • (Photograph by Jason Tippeconnic Fox)

This vernacular edifice, purportedly built from discarded wooden cartons of blasting powder or dynamite, along with wire mesh and plaster, received its name from its structural materials. In truth, its building materials were no less humble: empty government-issued ammunition boxes and lumber donated by the UVCC and UVX mining companies. Built between 1939 and 1941 by Sabino Gonzales, a local barber, along with his fellow Methodist congregants, the church served Jerome’s Mexican-American Methodist families.

Nestled on a hill along the winding road to the Douglas Mansion, the small church’s form mimics its materiality in that its most suitable adjective is “boxy.” A rectangular, two-story nave with a front-gable, shingle roof is adorned by a centralized, projecting tower with a steeply-pitched hipped roof and four corner towers with pyramidal roofs, also shingled. A short flight of steps leads to the entrance, marked by a wooden door sheltered by a simple and shallow portico carved from the central tower (the upper mass of the tower acts as an overhang). Minimally fenestrated, the starkly whitewashed walls (originally colored an earthy brown) contrast with the light brown of the wood shingle roofing, while the building’s overall verticality is reinforced by the tall, spindly juniper trees planted alongside its rear and side elevations. In execution, the Powder Box Church’s form is very similar to that of the Arts and Crafts–style Haven United Methodist Church (1927) on Jerome’s Main Street, the Anglo-European–dominated congregation from which Gonzales and his followers split.

Gonzales acted as a lay pastor for a congregation that, at its peak, counted 63 members. As it dwindled to 7 members (mostly Gonzales’s own relatives) in the mid-twentieth century, Gonzales closed and sold the church. Today, the former ecclesiastic building is a private residence.

References

Clements, Eric L. After the Boom in Tombstone and Jerome, Arizona: Decline in Western Resource Towns. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2003.

Young, Herbert V. They Came To Jerome: the Billion Dollar Copper Camp. Jerome, AZ: The Jerome Historical Society with Bird Printing, 1989.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Heather N. McMahon
Coordinator: 
R. Brooks Jeffery
Jason Tippeconnic Fox

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