Conservation work continues at Scotty’s Castle

Conservation work continues at Scotty’s CastleThe $45-million effort to restore Scotty’s Castle, the Death Valley landmark that was closed after flood damage in October 2015, continues thanks to funding from park entrance fees, Federal Highway Administration, National Park Service deferred maintenance accounts and donations.

Post flood, Death Valley National Park has requested funding from the Death Valley Natural History Association to assist with funding several curatorial projects at Scotty’s Castle including: treatment of the silver collection, conservation of the Scotty’s Castle Upper Music Room curtains and repairs to the castle’s Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ under way.

DVNHA presented a check this week in the amount of $41,420 to fund the reproduction of eight leather curtains in the Great Hall of Scotty’s Castle.

The original painted and tooled sheepskin curtains are severely deteriorated. After 90 years of use in the desert, they have desiccation, tears, fading, cracking and loss of tassels.

A professional conservation examination in 2012 determined that the curtains are beyond repair.

All curtains at Scotty’s Castle have an important function in protecting sensitive historic furnishings and textiles from further ultraviolet damage and allowing visitors to visualize the space as it was when it was occupied by the Johnsons in the 1930s.

Leather stamps for this complex project were manufactured in 2018 using NPS funding and artisans capable of stamping, cutting, coloring and sewing the reproductions took years to find.

Leather of appropriate weight and color matching is being sourced, and artisans are now ready to begin work.

“This is the perfect time for … work to take place while the collection has been taken out of Scotty’s Castle,“ said David Blacker, DVNHA executive director. “The entire collection normally housed within the castle had been removed for its protection. We have been working as fast as we can to raise money so that necessary repairs to collection items can be made and so that the historic house can be reopened [when it is] as complete as possible. It all takes time and people willing to contribute.”

The Scotty’s Castle Historic District is scheduled to reopen in October 2021. During the closure, there are limited opportunities to visit Scotty’s Castle with a park ranger and see first-hand how the power of water shapes the landscape of Death Valley, listen to the stories of this unique palace in the desert, the people who called it home and the projects under way to reopen this unique historic district.

This season’s tours are offered on Sundays from Dec. 8, 2019, through April 12, 2020. Reservations are required. Tickets sy $25 per person, are available at

Proceeds from the tour will benefit the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund to support projects like that described above. An additional $25,000 is needed for conservation treatment of the Scotty’s Castle Dining Room curtains.

For more information on the Death Valley Natural History Association or to make a donation to the Scotty’s Castle Historic Preservation Fund, see

Pictured: DVNP Superintendent Mike Reynolds (left) accepts a check for $41,420 from David Blacker, executive director of the Death Valley Natural History Association. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2019-11-29