Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: Death Valley's Scotty's Castle: The Story Behind the Scenery

This book is written by Stanley Paher.  It gives the historical story of Scotty's Castle, and pictures of the current decor, which is the same as it has been for many years. 
The castle is named for Walter E. Scott.  It was always rumored he had a rich gold mine, and paid for the castle with proceeds from the mine.  However the most startling thing about this book is that Scotty was a benefactor rather than financier of the castle.  The castle was actually owned and built by his friend, Albert Johnson.  Albert Johnson received a large inheritance from his father.  He also ran an insurance company.  He paid Scotty an allowance, and also visited the area frequently before the castle was built.  Death Valley proved good for his health. 
Construction began in 1927.  About 90 local Shoshone worked on the construction, and were the bulk of the crew.  They were paid $2.50 a day.  Skilled labor, usually white was paid $5 a day.  Skilled craftsmen were paid $11 a day.  Segregation was enforced after hours, with most of the crew living in tents. 
Another obstacle was getting materials to the site.  The train originally came close, but closed down during the project creating more difficulty. 
The project was never finished.  Depression era change in finances was the major reason.  The pool was never completed.  The chime tower was completed, but the chimes never installed.  The elaborate Welte-Mignon theater organ was completed at a cost of $50,000 for shipping and installation.  The 118 pipes are installed behind a wall. 
The properties were purchased by the National Park Service in 1970 for $850,000.

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