Scotty’s Castle (also known as Death Valley Ranch) is a two-story Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style villa located in the Grapevine Mountains of northern Death Valley in Death Valley National Park, California, US. Scotty’s Castle is named for gold prospector Walter E. Scott, although Scott never owned it, nor is it an actual castle.
The ranch is located about 45 miles north of Stovepipe Wells, California, via California State Route 190 to Scotty’s Castle Road, or about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, Nevada.
The property was severely damaged by flooding in October 2015 and is not currently open to the public.
Construction began on Scotty’s Castle in 1922, and cost between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Prospector, performer, and con man Walter Scott, born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, also known as “Death Valley Scotty,” convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Mussey Johnson to invest in Scott’s gold mine in the Death Valley area. Though initially angered when the mine turned out to be fraudulent, Johnson was fascinated with the colorful Scott and the two men struck up an unlikely friendship. By 1937, Johnson had acquired more than 1,500 acres (610 ha) in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located.
After Johnson and his wife Bessie made several trips to the region, and his health improved, construction began. It was Mrs. Johnson’s idea to build something comfortable for their vacations in the area, and the villa eventually became a winter home.
Unknown to the Johnsons, the initial survey was incorrect, and the land they built Death Valley Ranch on was actually government land; their land was farther up Grapevine Canyon. Construction halted as they resolved this mistake, but before it could resume, the stock market crashed in 1929, making it difficult for Johnson to finish construction. Having lost a considerable amount of money, the Johnsons used the Death Valley Ranch to produce income by renting rooms out, upon the suggestion of Scott.
The Johnsons died without heirs but had created the Gospel Foundation. A socially-oriented charity Johnson founded in 1946. The Johnsons had left the property to the charity with the understanding that Scott would be taken care of by the Gospel Foundation after Johnson’s passing. Scotty died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty’s Castle next to a beloved dog.
The National Park Service purchased the villa for $850,000 from the Gospel Foundation.