Walter Scott also known as Scotty began living in the castle after Albert Johnson past away. Scotty died in 1954. He had become a bit of a tourist attraction himself and frequently allowed people to pay and stay at the castle. At the top of a hill overlooking the castle is a large cross and grave marker with a bronze profile of Scotty and what is claimed to be 4 things he lived by. It reads, "Never say nothing that will hurt anybody, Don't give advice nobody will take anyway, Don't complain and Don't Explain."
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.
The photo shows the dining room inside the castle. I took a close look at the plates on the table and they all had "J & S" printed on them. J is for Albert Johnson, and S for Walter Scott.
A millionaire from Chicago, Albert Johnson was the guy who spent the money building the castle. He believed in Scott's gold mine story and made investment with Scott. He never struck gold as Scott promised. But he became attracted to the desert himself so he built the castle to stay here comfortably. When Scott and Johnson were both alive, the castle was occupied by Scott, and Johnson (and his wife Bessie) only stayed here during vacation.
Inside Scottys Castle we saw Bessie Johnson's bedroom. Bessie was the wife of Albert Johnson, the guy who really built the castle (not Walter Scott). Bessie liked to study in bed, so she designed a folding table as seen in photo. When she's done reading and writing, she can just fold the table up and turn to sleep. Pretty smart design.
Without air condition, how did Scott and Johnson survive the hot desert? Well, inside Scottys Castle we saw this indoor waterfall where cool water was brought in and circulated. This solved both the dryness and the heat problem in the summer. Pretty smart design.
In fact, if you don't feel you've been conned enough by the $8 guided tour, there's another "technology tour" you can join to see all the innovative designs of the castle.
On the second floor of Scottys Castle you'll find the Upper Music Room. It's the entertainment center of the whole castle. As shown in photo, the Music Room features a rare theater organ, with more than 1000 pipes concealed behind the screen.
When Walter Scott ran this place in the early 20th Century, it was called Death Valley Ranch. And he used to give castle tours to the visitors for $1.1 each. If he's alive today, he must be happy to know the castle is now named after him, and even happier to know the castle continues to con tourist money as in his time.
The photo shows the main living room viewed from the second floor. Everything was original: the sofa, the fireplace, the carpet, and the chandelier. As we were finishing up our tour, the next group already started.
Walked around the grounds of Scottys Castle and I saw landslide over the years push to the edge of the structure. Although the Park Service built resistance walls, one would wonder how long the castle can survive the power of nature.
When I visited in Nov, 2003, Scottys Castle was going through major construction. New towers were being raised. It was a project Scotty never finished. And now the Park Service is following through. I hope the Park Service spends the money on maintaining and paving the dirt road around the park to make it more user-friendly, instead of building something with no historic significance.
Walter Scott is buried at the top of a small hill behind Scottys Castle called Windy Point. Walk up the hill to his grave, and get a great bird's-eye view towards the castle. Enlarge the photo to see Scotty's bronze tombstone. Notice he still got a brown nose even after his death?
There is a neat looking tour with bells and chimes inside just on the other side of the powerhouse. I do not think this building is open to the public.
Here are two photos of the kitchen. Photo 1 shows the early refrigerator and photo 2 shows part of the Johnson’s extensive collection of Native American Baskets.