"Scotty's Castle" is a most anomalous attraction in Death Valley, the stretch of California desert that is best known for its blistering mudflats, arid dunes and mountainsides, and barren, below-sea-level desert depressions. Removed from most of the park in its far-northern reaches near the Nevada border, Death Valley Ranch, as this elegant home is properly known, is a window into the life and times of the Roaring 1920s and Depression '30s. It was and is an engineer's dream home, a wealthy matron's vacation home and a man-of-mystery's hideout and getaway. Walter Scott, who became known as "Death Valley Scotty," convinced everyone that he had built the castle with money from his rich secret mines in the area. Scotty was a cowboy, an entertainer, and a friend of a sickly Chicago millionaire named Albert Mussey Johnson. The two-story, Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival-style villa in the Grapevine Mountains was constructed in the early 1920s after Scott convinced Johnson to invest in his gold mine in the Death Valley area. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

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