In the 1920s Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson was sold the ultimate snake oil – the idea that there was gold in California’s Death Valley. In the dry, scorching conditions the ailing Johnson found something more precious: improved health. So, he built a castle in the desert valley with the second-highest temperature on record. Today, the Spanish-style ranch about 45 miles from the nearest Death Valley settlements looks like a folly, although it’s rather snug behind its sheepskin curtains and with its 1000- pipe theatre organ.
Guided living-history tours of the main house interior are conducted daily 365 days a year. Tours last approximately 50 minutes and are given at least once every hour from November through mid-April, and less frequently in the summer. Limited to 19 people per tour, the guided tour is the only way to see inside the main house. Ticket prices are $7.50 - $15. Go to www.recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777 for advance ticket purchases. Approximately 100,000 people tour the villa each year.
Scotty's Castle is a two-story Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style villa located in the Grapevine Mountains of northern Death Valley in Death Valley National Park, California, U.S.A. It is also known as Death Valley Ranch. Scotty's Castle is not a real castle, and it did not belong to the "Scotty" from whom it got its name.
Construction began on Scotty's Castle in 1922, and cost between $1.5 and $2.5 million. A man named 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. 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. 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 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.
Scotty’s Castle or Death Valley Ranch
To me, the best part of Death Valley is North of Furnace Creek, and that's exactly where Scotty's Castle is, located in a beautiful desert oasis . We had a wonderful day out there visiting the beautiful house. A real must see!
Scotty, who gave his name to the house, was a born cheat to some but a perfect entertainer for others. He hinted at being the owner of the castle, while the real owner was Albert Mussey Johnson.
Anyway, I won’t bother you with history neither with facts… the tour guide can tell much better stories.
Start this tour early in the morning, cause it gets busier later in the am/pm. The store sells "plastic" sandwiches, junk food and drinks, so if you don’t like that, take your pic nic. There is a pic nic area on the lawn at the parking lot. Very nice.
In the middle of the desert the last thing one would expect is a castle. This well maintained castle is a treat to ones eyes. There are guided tours to the inside of the castle tickets to which cost $11 for adults (Yes, they have increased it by $2).
Other than the castle interior, you should walk upto Scotty's grave. The view from there is good. Also look up the Stable at the castle. The old cars (or whatever is left of them) are a good sight!
If you are planning to go there during peak season you might have to wait for as long as 2 hours before your tour starts. You can be smart and do it this way. Go to the castle get your tickets and then if you realise that you have a long wait, use that time to go to Ubehebe crater which is 8 miles from there. But if you want to spend enough time at Ubehebe then this 2 hours might not be enough.
The so-called Scotty’s Castle was actually the vacation home of a rich Chicago businessman named Albert Johnson and his wife. The large home was built in a Spanish Mission style of architecture and cost over $2 million dollars to complete. Walter “Scotty” Scott was a slick talking conman, and former performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, who scammed Johnson and later became his life-long friend. Scotty convinced Johnson and several other businessmen to invest in a mine that never actually existed. Johnson and his wife invested lots of money in the mine and one day decided to come west and see it. Scotty arranged for some friends to pretend to attack the wagon carrying Johnson. The “bandits” were supposed to fire in the air but one of the bullets struck the driver (Scotty’s brother). Scotty yelled at them to quit firing because they had hit his brother and Johnson knew he had been conned. He promptly got back on the train and left for Chicago. Before he arrived in Chicago, though, he discovered that he had the best time of his life at Death Valley (Johnson always wanted to be a cowboy). Johnson returned and started his vacation home. Scotty spent a lot of time here and became great friends with Johnson. The only way to see Scotty’s Castle is by a guided tour, there are no self-guided tours. The tours take place every hour and last about 45 minutes. Your tour guide will be a ranger dressed in period costume. Reservations are a must, especially during the busy seasons. The tour costs $8 as of June 2010.
Since the furniture and artifacts in the home are authentic, old, and very valuable you cannot touch any of them or sit in the chairs. There are blue chairs like this one in some of the rooms for you to sit in if you get too tired.
The music room with the pipe organ was a later addition to the house. It was designed for perfect acoustics. The decorations, with the coats of arms along the ceiling, the massive carved door, and the stained glass window was very pretty and impressive. The sound of the organ was great too.
This was Mrs. Johnson’s favorite room. She used to sit in this room and read books. One of her favorite books to read was The Bible. If you look closely you will see two photos over the fireplace in Photo 2. This is Mr. Johnson and Scotty.
Scotty said this device was his own invention. When asked what this was he said it was a “shot spreader”. Scotty claimed that when bandits try to break into a room there is always one by the door and one standing guard on the other side. Using this device he could fire his shotgun out the small hole and get both bandits with one shot. What this actually is, is a device that is placed on both walls to force air flow and keep the room cooler.
The next room is Scotty’s bedroom. It is decorated with a number of pictures including a large portrait of Buffalo Bill. There is also a large wardrobe in the room that held some of Scotty’s clothes. Scotty would come into the room after entertaining guests with his stories, change clothes, then sneak out the back door to go sleep at his own ranch. He would return very early, sneak back in, change clothes, then come out to greet the guests again. It is rumored he never actually slept in this room.
When you first enter the home you are in the large Main Hall. It is two stories tall with stairs and walkways all around it. The hall is very impressive with a huge chandelier, lots of leather and wood, nice art and other decorations.
Since the home was built near a spring, it had a hydroelectric generating system, powered by a Pelton waterwheel. Johnson designed the power system himself and improved upon it over the years. The powerhouse is located next to the home and is open for viewing.
When Scotty died in 1954 at the age of 82, he was buried on a hill overlooking the castle that bore his name. The grave can be accessed via a short but steep paved trail. There is a nice view of Scotty’s Castle and the grounds from the hilltop.
There is a visitors center located at Scotty’s Castle. It is a great place to get maps of the park, and brochures to tell you about the park to enhance your enjoyment. Here is also where you buy tickets for the tour of Scotty’s Castle. There are some neat, old, gas pumps out front. There is also a gift shop and a small museum on the grounds.
The Inn is at the north entrance to the park.
Built by Albert Mussey Johnson, a Chicago millionaire businessman, naming it his "Death Valley Ranch" and his cowboy mining partner, Scotty, lived there as a guest. Located in the cool of Grapevine Canyon.
Death Valley National Park
PO Box 569
Death Valley, CA 92328
A Desert Castle
Scotty's Castle was built as a vacation home for wealthy Chicago businessman Albert Johnson and his wife Bessie in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Walter Scott, or Scotty, was a local prospector and former member of a Wild West show who had befriended Johnson. Scotty, a colorful character, remained a long time friend of Johnson, and became the principal occupant of the estate.
The castle, a former oasis, offers a stunning contrast between the desert and early Twentieth Century wealth. The structure itself is a distinctive piece of architecture worth seeing. Tours are offered of the castle. We elected not to go on the tour as we arrived a bit late and still wanted to head off to the nearby Ubehebe Crater.
They have a gift shop. The gas station was closed when we visited. A trip to Scotty's Castle makes a nice pairing to a visit to Ubehebe Crater due to their close proximity.