http-equiv='refresh'/> Tin TeePee/Log Cabin: Scotty’s Castle

Friday, January 3, 2014

Scotty’s Castle

Several readers told us not to miss Scotty’s Castle and are we ever glad we didn’t let the 114 mile one way trip deter us!!  An amazing place and an amazing story!  There was a guy, Walter Scott, he rode with Buffalo Bill in the Wild West Show.  He conned wealthy east coast men into investing in his non-existent gold mine in Death Valley and Albert Johnson was one of those investors.  But Johnson was a little smarter than any of the other investors—he came out to see the mine, realized he was being conned and didn’t care.  He and Scotty became the best of friends—in the castle brochure Johnson is quoted, “We have been partners for a long time.  Scott has a great appetite for money and I like to feed it.  He has always repaid me—in laughs.” 

Albert Johnson’s wife Bessie came out west from Chicago and she too fell in love with Death Valley—they decided to build a vacation home and thus Scotty’s Castle was born.  It was neither a castle nor did it belong to Scott but calling it Scotty’s Castle was just fine with the very private Johnson’s. 

The structure was started in 1929 and building was still going on in 1931.  Johnson recognized the power of owning water and built the house in Grapevine Canyon where above the house site is located a spring producing 300 gallons of water per minute.  The mechanics of the house were way ahead of its time—they had a solar hot water heating system:

IMG_9736A freeze damaged the solar heating structure beyond repair—it is in the budget for restoration.

The house never used candles or gas light fixtures, it always had electricity supplied by Pelton wheels powered by the water coming down the canyon.   IMG_9726The electricity fluctuated, making the lights dim and brighten, the Johnson’s didn’t like this so Mr. Johnson called up his friend Edison, as in Thomas Edison and ordered a huge bank of batteries—the Pelton wheels produced the electricity and it was stored in this bank of nickel iron batteries.  ALL the batteries had to be filled with water TWICE a day! 

IMG_9721Does this give our solar powered RV friends battery envy???


The plans for this house were just incredible—one of the non-completed designs was the swimming pool.  This photo shows only half of the pool—it was huge with a bridge going over the middle of it—it was to have been lined with beautiful blue tiles with special tiles around the top—many of these tiles are still stored in the basement tunnels. 


The depression and the creation of Death Valley National Monument put a halt to the construction efforts.  When surveyors came to mark the boundaries for the park it was discovered Mr. Johnson had built his house on land he didn’t own.  It took him six years to finally strike a deal to buy back the property from the US government—property he had all ready paid for once. 


IMG_9713IMG_9714Ornate blacksmithing!!



This place was simply awesome—that such a structure could have been built in the middle of nowhere using technology way before its time--Michael and I both so enjoyed both the tours we took—park rangers dress in period costume to give the tours and both rangers we had were outstanding!  We took a tour of the underground/mechanical workings and the house.  Tomorrow I’ll include some more photos and a little more of the story. 


  1. A great post. Thought you might enjoy it. Isn't it an amazing place? We didn't do the underground tour. Might have to go back for that.

  2. I agree - that place was amazing. Especially when it's just sitting out there in the middle of no where.

  3. A stunning place for sure! Why..I think the name "castle" is appropriate.

  4. This is one place I can't wait to visit. Thanks for the tour!

  5. That was definitely a place designed well before its time. We'll be adding it to our bucket list when we visit the area. Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  6. Scotty's Castle is definitely on our must-see list now for sure. Thanks for the great tour, pics and history lesson.

    Hard to imagine just "calling up Thomas Edison for some electricity advice". Hmmm....maybe I should give my friend Bill Gates a call..!

  7. That seems like a place to put on our bucket list too.... very interesting!

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard

  8. We did not get out there during our recent stay in the area due, to endless rain. It is on our 'to do' list and our interests were piqued with reading your blog. Most interesting.

  9. Great story! Brought back memories of our visit a few years ago. There is another intereting place not to far away called the China Ranch Date farm. We thought is was a very interesting place and history.

  10. Thanks for the tour will need to get there ourselves.


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