Saturday, November 23, 2013

Death Valley Ranch (AKA Scotty’s Castle)

PB200019(Jan) The story starts out with Walter Scott, a veteran of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his two pieces of gold. “Scotty” was veritable story teller and sold shares in his Death Valley gold mine from New York across the states to California. One of the buyers was a wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson. He was a civil engineer who broke his back in three places in a tragic train accident which killed his father. He amassed a fortune with his very successful National Life Insurance PB200023Company.

After several years went by with no word and no dividends from Scotty, Johnson headed west to check out Scotty’s Death Valley gold mine. What he found there was Scotty! No gold mine but a golden friendship, a simple cowboy lifestyle he loved and a climate that suited his health. His wife, Bessie, liked Death Valley, also, and so Albert had a simple block vacation home built for them in the desert. Bessie, whom he had met at Cornell University, was not into simple however and architect’s plans were soon sought for a more elaborate Spanish influenced adobe castle.

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We took a tour of this amazing castle and also, the underground tour that showed all of the ingenious ways they used water power from a near by natural spring to produce electricity for their isolated home. The Pelton Water Wheel Turbine installed in the 1920’s is still capable of operating today.  


Part of the huge bank of Edison batteries that provided electricity, on the left.
Our guide showing us the Pelton Turbine system on the right.


Our tour of the house took us in through the massive front door into the main living area with it’s huge wrought iron chandelier. This is where the Johnson’s and Scotty entertained friends from past President and wife Herbert & Lou Hoover to Will Rogers. Scotty’s Bedroom and the Solarium were on this floor as well as a sitting room, the dining room & kitchen. Upstairs were the Johnson’s private rooms and guest bedrooms for important visitors. (Click on any of the photos to enlarge.)

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Across the galley way upstairs where several more stylish guest bedrooms and a fabulous music room with several organs, one of them a huge player pipe organ. Valuable antiques are displayed through out the house, including two Don Quiote tapestries, an European scrolled gate and King Ferdinand’s wooden chest.

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We strolled the grounds, walked up to Scotty’s grave on the hillside above the castle and ate our lunch under the shade of California palm and native cottonwood trees. Scotty’s Castle is located on the northern end Death Valley National Park.


Albert and Bessie Johnson were Scotty’s source of gold for the rest of his life. Albert was quoted as saying, “We have been partners for a long time. Scott has a great appetite for money, and I like to feed it. He has repaid me – in Laughs.”


Sharon Del Rosario said...

I've always enjoyed visiting Scotty's Castle. You wrote a great report, and I'm glad you went on both tours. Such an interesting place!

Rick Doyle said...

We are planning to visit Death Valley on our way home from Palm Springs next April, so thanks for this very interesting and informative tour and pics of Scotty's Castle.

This will be at the very top of our list of places to visit for sure.

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