Scotty’s Castle renovations make headway

Scotty’s Castle renovations make headwayDEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK — It has been five years since a flash flood devastated historic structures and utilities at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park. The National Park Service has completed several projects, but reopening is still about two years away.

Scotty’s Castle and the adjacent road are closed to the public until repairs are complete, likely December 2022. Death Valley Natural History Association will offer a limited number of tours this winter to see Scotty’s Castle, learn about the flood and the recovery effort. Once the schedule is finalized, information will be posted at dvnha.org.

A massive flash flood on Oct. 19, 2015, tore through Death Valley Scotty Historic District, damaging historic structures, ripping out 8 miles of road, and destroying essential utilities.

270 NPS employees from across the country assisted Death Valley’s staff in the first year. They focused on digging out flood debris, emergency short-term stabilization, and moving the museum collection to temporary storage off-site.

Projects status:

• Scotty’s Castle Road – completed Jan. 2020. The road is remaining closed until other projects are completed for visitor safety and protection of historic district.

• Water – The water main replaced in 2019/2020. Distribution lines to be replaced in 2021.

• Wastewater – Sewage treatment was replaced in 2019/2020. Collection lines will be replaced in 2021.

• Electrical – Southern California Edison installed the powerline in 2016. Electrical distribution in the campus was repaired in 2019/2020. Further work is planned for 2021.

• Visitor center – The historic Garage is now used as the visitor center. It was the most heavily damaged building, with extensive structural damage. The construction contract will begin next month and should be completed by November 2021. The adjoining historic Long Shed, which is used for back-of-the house support for the visitor center, is just entering design phase, with construction likely in 2022.

• Hacienda – The historic building is used for staff housing and offices.  This building had interior damage from mud and water. Construction will start next month and be completed by November 2021.

Flood control structures – This project will build a 600-foot-long gabion-lined berm and four smaller flood walls and ditches. Design has been completed recently and consultation with the California State Historic Preservation Office will start soon. Construction is tentatively planned for July 2021-July 2022.

• Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) – This will construct a climate control plant with a boiler, chiller, and cooling tower. The design was completed recently and consultation with the California State Historic Preservation Office will start soon. Construction is tentatively planned for September 2021-September 2022.

• Historic furnishings – The furniture, dishes, carpets, and clothing that belonged to Scotty and the Johnsons were moved off-site for protection. The Death Valley Natural History Association funded about $100,000 in conservation work on the pipe organ, curtains, and silver. The museum collection will be returned to the Castle for the public to enjoy after all the other projects are complete.

Scotty’s Castle was constructed in the 1920s as a vacation home for Albert and Bessie Johnson, millionaires from Chicago. The (untrue) claim that it was built on top of Walter “Scotty” Scott’s gold mine fueled public interest at the time, and still does.

Pictured: The towers of Scotty’s Castle, Death Valley. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2020-10-23