SCOTTY’S CASTLE

scotty-s-castle-behind-the-scenes-death-valley-national-park-

Walter perry scott was born in 1872, at would go along to handle the horses. This then beCynthiana, Kentucky. His father was a breeder of came the prelude to Scotty’s career as a showman racehorses and a distiller in the vicinity of Lexing- with the Buffalo Bill show.

His knowledge of horses ton. During his early childhood, Scotty’s mother and his riding skill soon became apparent to Buffalo died, and he never received a formal education. Be- BiU> who made him a feature rider along with the fore he was in his teens, he borrowed money from star of the show, Annie Oakley, his brother and journeyed by train to Nevada. In He stayed with the show for eleven years during Humboldt Wells, he obtained a thirty-dollar-a-month which time leaders of society and men of wealth job as a horse wrangler in the employ of John sought his acquaintance. By now Scotty was a grown Sparks, who was later to become governor of Ne- man, strong, and with the intelligence to meet and vada. converse with these people.

Though he was an enterWhen Scotty was about twelve years old, he was taining talker, he never took advantage of this so- hired on one of Death Valley’s twenty-mule-team ciety, since such influence and wealth meant nothing outfits hauling borax to Mohave from the Old Har- to him then. He wanted to save his money and re- mony Works. He later took a job as water boy for turn to Death Valley to find the gold mine he often a survey party that was doing survey work in the thought of. When the show was in winter quarters, valley. Among the personnel of this party he met Scotty wandered throughout the West and was one some of the old-time prospectors, who gave him the of the first on the ground when Goldfield was dis- “gold fever” that was to stay with him the rest of covered, but he never staked a claim, his life. Scotty drifted back to Humboldt Wells after In New York, just before the turn of the century, the survey party broke up, taking a job as a horse Walter Scott met Josephine Millius on a blind date, wrangler again. During this time the sheep war be- Some time later, in 1900, they were married. After came very bitter, and so he moved on to Idaho. He he left the show, Scotty decided to give his full time had by this time become an expert rider and bronco to prospecting. While in New York, he went to see buster. Some scouts from the Buffalo Bill Wild West Mr. Julian Gerard, then vice-president of the KnickShow came to purchase wild horses that Scotty and erbocker Trust Company, whom he had met while a friend had been wrangling.

But the scouts were riding with the show. When their meeting was unable to handle the wild broncs and the purchase ended, Scotty had signed a fifty-fifty grubstake conof the animals was about to fall through. An ar- tract without bothering to read the fine print. After rangement was made so that Scotty and his friend prospecting in Death Valley for three years, Scotty returned to New York to report to Gerard that he had failed after spending some eight thousand dollars of Gerard’s money. Later, as time passed, Scotty had the money to repay his debt to Gerard, but the man refused to accept it and instead wanted claim to half of Scotty’s mine when he located one. The troubles between Scotty and Gerard lasted for a long time with Gerard’s agents trailing Scotty for many years after. Scotty roamed all over Death Valley and knew it as well as any old-time prospector. His adventures in the West are well known, as is the fantastic legend of a mine that saw him rise from a stake puncher to the wild, money spender on sprees in Los Angeles, and other places where he was to become known as Death Valley Scotty. It later became generally known that Scotty’s as- sociation with Albert Johnson, a Chicago millionaire, may have had some connection with Scotty’s “mine.” Scotty had urged Johnson to join him in Death Valley, where Johnson’s poor health could benefit from the climate of pure air and sunshine. Johnson attributed his regained health to Scotty, and they formed a partnership that was to last for the remainder of their lifetime. It was in 1925 that rumors started coming from Death Valley that Scotty was constructing a castle near the upper end of the valley at Grapevine Canyon, some three thousand feet above sea level. Actually, construction on the castle started in 1924 alongside the shack where Johnson had regained his health. The idea for the castle developed one day when Scotty and Johnson were at Scotty’s desert camp. Resting in the desert heat, Scotty was daydreaming with wishful thinking for a castle like those he had seen along the Rhine while visiting Europe during his days with the Buffalo Bill show. Johnson instantly approved of the idea and thus the castle had its beginnings. The style of the castle is perhaps best described as a combination of Moorish, Spanish, and Italian architecture. Plans called for twelve bathrooms, kitchens, living room, dining room, and music room, in addition to several other rooms and tunnels under the castle that extended from the powerhouse to the guest house, carrying power lines as well as water and sewage lines. A high watchtower was also to be built, with twenty-five large chimes that could be heard for miles around. Large clocks are located on all four sides of the tower, with each clock face several feet in diameter. Hundreds of workmen were on the job laying the huge foundations and high walls. Water from the Grapevine Spring would provide for six hundred gallons per minute, sufficient to run the generators and fill the planned 1 85-foot-long swimming pool. Materials were trucked over the then primitive roads, since the nearest railroad was many miles away. Austrian and Spanish wood-carvers were recruited to create the massive, hand-carved beams and handwrought metal. In spite of the problems of transportation and labor, several work crews kept on the job, and the two-storied structure soon began to take its shape. The kitchen’s tiles were brought from Spain, and a large walk-in refrigerator was installed that could hold a month’s supply of food. Built of concrete and roofed with red tile, the main building has two units on opposite sides of an oblong patio. Both units have towers, one of which is topped with a wrought-iron weathervane showing Scotty driving burros on the trail. The living room is a vast, two-storied chamber that occupies much of the main building, with a large fireplace at one end and a fountain at the other. From the interior balcony that overhangs this room are guest rooms that are designed and furnished in the grand manner with characteristics similar to prerevolutionary Spain. Irreplaceable rugs were made on the island of Majorca especially for the castle, and tiles for the pool and other areas were imported from the Mediterranean. Many of the furnishings were brought from cathedrals and palaces of Morocco and Spain. Draperies made for the castle were hand-tooled in selected sheepskin leather. Sixty hand-carved panels, each of different design, were installed in the musicroom ceiling. A Welte Mignon organ reported to have cost 160,000 dollars, and the finest instrument of its kind in the West, was located in this music room. Though Scotty could not play this instrument, world-famous musicians who stayed at the castle years later gave private concerts for Scotty and his friends. Scotty also purchased fifteen hundred dollars worth of railroad ties of an abandoned run of track, and spent another twenty-five thousand dollars to have the ties gathered and shipped to the castle to be used as firewood. Approximately some two million dollars was spent on the castle, presumably from Scotty’s “gold mine.” At first the placed was called the Johnson and Scott Ranch, with a J-S brand. But with Scotty’s dramatic flare, he called it a castle, and it was soon to become widely known as Scotty’s Castle. Scotty and Johnson both derived immense enjoyment from this desert castle, which was finished long before the death of both men. After Johnson died in 19^8, Scotty spent a great deal of time at the castle spinning yarns for the tourists and posing for pictures. Scotty died in 1954, over eighty years of age. He had become a legend in his own lifetime, though the true story of Death Valley Scotty may never be written, since the fine line between fact and fiction is difficult to draw even for those who were close to him. But in the world’s most unlikely spot, in Death Valley, his monument stands, the desert dwelling of Scotty’s Castle. Death Valley Scotty’s Castle is located in Grapevine Canyon at the north end of Death Valley, California. Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad. Scotty’s Castle is a mixture of Spanish, Italian, and Moorish architecture. The castle offers rooms, good meals, and is filled with art objects and antiques gathered from everywhere. Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad. Scotty’s Castle in Grapevine Canyon. The large swimming pool pictured in the lower center was never completed. Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad. Hourly sight-seeing trips are conducted through Scotty’s Castle, a palatial home occupied once by the colorful Scotty, who once hired a special train to make a record-breaking trip on the Santa Fe from Los Angeles to Chicago. Photo by R. C. Bradley, courtesy Santa Fe Railway. Death Valley Scotty and his wife. Railway. Courtesy Santa Fe Death Valley Scotty told many a tale of his adventurous youth. For 50 years he continued to make the headlines of newspapers across the nation. In 1905 he started scattering gold nuggets and $100 dollar bills from New York to Los Angeles. Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad. Death Valley Scotty with his pets. He remained at the castle during the twilight years of his life. Courtesy Union Pacific Railroad.
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