So many people have told us that must do tours in Death Valley were those at Scotty’s Castle - both the house and underground tour. We made our reservations a few days ago for today. So early this morning we were on our way (it is 70 miles north of Furnace Creek).
Before I show you the pictures, a bit of history.
A lengthy history can be found at: http://www.nps.gov/deva/historyculture/scottys-bts-pag11.htm
Here is a shorter history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotty's_Castle
“Construction began on Scotty's Castle in 1922, and cost between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Prospector, performer, and con man Walter Scott born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, also known as “Death Valley Scotty”, convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Mussey Johnson to invest in his gold mine in the Death Valley area. Though initially angered when the mine turned out to be fraudulent, Johnson was fascinated with the colorful Scott and the two men struck up an unlikely friendship. By 1937, Johnson had acquired more than 1,500 acres in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located.
After Johnson and his wife made several trips to the region, and his health improved, construction began. It was Mrs. Johnson's idea to build something comfortable for their vacations in the area, and the villa eventually became a winter home.
The Johnsons hired Martin de Dubovay as the architect, Mat Roy Thompson as the engineer and head of construction, and Charles Alexander MacNeilledge as the designer.
Unknown to the Johnsons, the initial survey was incorrect, and the land they built Death Valley Ranch on was actually government land; their land was further up Grapevine Canyon. Construction halted as they resolved this mistake, but before it could resume, the stock market crashed in 1929, making it difficult for Johnson to finish construction. Having lost a considerable amount of money, the Johnsons used the Death Valley Ranch to produce income by letting rooms out, upon the suggestion of Scott. The Johnsons died without heirs and had hoped that the National Park Service would purchase the property, and in 1970, the National Park Service purchased the villa for $850,000 from the Gospel Foundation, to which the Johnsons had left the property. Walter Scott, who was taken care of by the Gospel Foundation after Johnson's passing, died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty's Castle next to a beloved dog.
The springs of Grapevine Canyon provided the water supply for the ranch and were used to generate electricity. The springs, located about 300 feet higher than the villa, generated enough water flow and pressure to turn a Pelton wheel, which ran the generator that furnished the villa's electricity. The power was regulated and backed up by a large bank of nickel-iron batteries in the house's tunnels. The springs provided enough water to meet all the needs of the ranch, with enough left for other uses. A water fountain was constructed in the Great Hall, where water dripped down a rock face creating evaporative cooling and into a catch basin for recirculation. A 1930's solar hot water heater, much larger than today's solar water heaters, is near the main house, and a large stock of railroad ties salvaged from the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad is in the area.”
Okay, so I did copy that but I do have pictures.
First the outside - notice all the little things on the house - such an attention to detail:
A sundial - and it was accurate:
One of the main doors. We started the tour here after we all put booties on:
The clock is atop the powerhouse:
The visitor center:
The pool that was not finished - so sad:
Inside the house - the pictures did not come out too well, so I just picked a few. The house was very open with a central area open to the ceiling. All rooms went off this central area. On the second floor there was a walkway all around and looked down on this central area.
There was so much attention paid to detail not only in the building but the furnishings as well.
What a wonderful tour and so great to hear all the stories.
We then met our tour guide for the underground tour. Albert Johnson was so ahead of his time when it came to cooling the house, plumbing, and electric.
One of the tunnels:
Another one - the windows look out into the pool. The piles along the hallway are all the tiles that were to be used in the pool:
There was a huge bank of batteries that stored all the power needed to run the household.
Another great tour.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND doing both tours if you are in the area. When you think about the era that this was built and the remote location of the castle - it truly is an engineering wonder.
Afterwards we walked around the back of the powerhouse and up the hill:
LOTS and LOTS of timber:
On top of the hill - Scotty’s grave:
Views from the top - the powerhouse:
The castle - the courtyard to the right was never finished along with the pool in front:
Some of the other buildings on the property:
Notice the burnt trees in the picture above and below. There was a fire that came thru in the summer and went up the canyon. They were very blessed that the historic buildings escaped.
Another view beyond the castle:
What I found really interesting is that the park service has tried to keep the building and property just like it was in that era. That also means that none of the unfinished areas will be finished. I can just imagine how this place would look if it were finished.
We made our way down the hill, had lunch in the picnic area, checked out the gift shop/visitor center and away we went to Ubehebe Crater, which I will cover in Part 2.
Stay tuned - .