Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some history

I was surprised to find out that Death Valley was not made a national park until 1994. Before that it was a national monument, which didn’t give it the same level of protection.  Mining had been going on in DV since the early 1800’s and there are thousands of mine shafts in the park.  Modern intensive mining was starting to take a toll on DV until it was better regulated and now it is essentially stopped.  We visited four remnants of the mining period: Rhyolite, Leadsfield, Harmony Borax works and the Eureka gold mine.

Rhyolite was founded in 1904 and became a boomtown with thousands of residents and two banks. This is one of the bank buildings.
Rhyolite general store

Mill for processing gold ore at the Eureka mine.  This mine operated until 1945 and produced an estimated $175,000 worth of gold (at $20 per oz. at the time) for the man who owned it. Ironically he lived his whole life in a place where there was nowhere to spend his wealth!
Eureka mine entrance

In the 1920’s, some of the mining companies were visionary enough to realize that tourism would become the true gold of Death Valley.  Two competing lodges were opened, Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch.  They are still the main places to stay in the park either under a roof or in a tent.  We camped at both.
We stayed at the settlement you see in the middle of this picture--Stovepipe Wells, founded in 1926. The owner built his own toll road into the valley for tourists.
Also in the 1920’s a unique chapter of Death Valley resulted in the estate now called Scotty’s Castle.  This huge Spanish-style “vacation home” was built by a Chicago millionaire and his wife, but the star of the show was really Death Valley Scotty, who claimed to have built the mansion with riches he got from his gold mine.  People used to pay to stay at Scotty’s Castle and be entertained by Scotty’s tales of Death Valley, while the real owners of the home stayed in their own part of the house! The complex is an engineering wonder and a pioneering “green” home!
Scotty's castle was built at the site of a 250 gallons/minute spring that provided water and electric power for the house.  When the railroad closed in 1934, the owner bought 200,000 railroad ties to use for firewood.
Rangers in 30's period costumes give tours of the site

This is the power house which was built 1n 1929 to house diesel generators to supplement the hydro power provided by the spring.  The additional generators were needed to power the 1014-pipe organ brought in to provide music.

The interior was decorated in Spanish style with no real concern for cost.  Before the Depression, the owners' income was over $1 million per year.

No comments:

Post a Comment