Monday, August 16, 2010

Death Valley Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle Death Valley California
Way out in the middle of nowhere in Death Valley National Monument is a 32,000-square-foot two-story Spanish Villa that's called Scotty's Castle. Walter “Scotty” Scott, made his first visit to Death Valley in 1888 at the age of 16. He immediately fell in love with the area that ran along the California-Nevada border. Several years later in 1902, while tying his hand at gold mining in the mountains of Colorado, Scott convinced a wealthy New Yorker to sponsor a fictitious gold mine in Death Valley. For two years Walter wrote his patron describing his finds in Death Valley, all of which were lies. By 1904, a sizable sum had been invested, and Scott boarded a train east carrying a bag supposedly holding $12,000 in gold. The bag was conveniently and mysteriously stolen before he reached his destination. Such a large heist was a big story, and newspapers were eager to print it.
In 1905 Scott chartered the Coyote Special, a three-car train, with $5000 of an investors’ money in an attempt to break the rail speed record from Los Angeles to Chicago. He arrived in Chicago in less than 45 hours breaking the record. The press invented stories of a secret gold mine, which paid for his exploits and quickly gave him the moniker "Death Valley Scotty."
Gold investor Albert Johnson was among the crowd in Chicago to greet Scotty and was intrigued after hearing tales of the Death Valley gold mine. Johnson visited Scotty for nearly a month in 1909. Though he saw no gold, he enjoyed the desert climate and its effects on his failing health. In 1912 Scotty’s scam would be exposed to Johnson and the public in front of a grand jury. After being discredited; Scotty disappeared from the spotlight in a small cabin at lower Grapevine Canyon. Despite his untruthfulness, his friendship with Johnson grew and he often traveled west to visit Scotty for months at a time.
Eventually, Johnson decided to build a ranch in Death Valley and began construction in 1927.
After The stock market crash in 1929 Johnson's ability to complete the ranch was limited, and he was forced to liquidate his business.
Then in 1947, with his health failing, Johnson attempted to sell the Ranch to the federal government. His efforts failed, and in 1948 he donated the ranch to the Gospel Foundation of California. Albert Johnson died leaving the ranch forever unfinished.
In 1951, Scotty returned to live in the Castle and entertain paying guests with his exploits. He reached the height of his fame and became a tourist attraction in his own right. In 1954, Walter Scott died at the age of 82 and was buried on the rocky hill northwest of the guesthouse next to his dog. In 1970 the National Park Service purchased Scotty's Castle for $850,000.
Today guided tours of Scotty's Castle today. Park rangers dress in 1930s style clothes to help take the visitor back in time. During the tour, guests are treated to the sounds of a 1,121 pipe Welte theater organ. An underground mystery tour is also available for those wishing to see the inner-workings of the building.