Death Valley National Park - Scotty's Castle
Scotty's Castle - Death Valley - Jan 1959
Scotty's Castle - Death Valley - Jan 1959

Clock Tower Scotty's Castle - Death Valley - Jan 1959
Clock Tower Scotty's Castle - Death Valley - Jan 1959

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. "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.

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 in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located.

After Johnson and his wife 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.

The Johnsons hired Martin de Dubovay as the architect, Mat Roy Thompson as the engineer and head of construction, and Charles Alexander MacNeilledge as the designer.

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 letting rooms out, upon the suggestion of Scott.

The Johnsons died without heirs and had hoped that the National Park Service would purchase the property, and in 1970, the National Park Service purchased the villa for $850,000 from the Gospel Foundation (the socially-oriented charity Johnson founded in 1946), to which the Johnsons had left the property. Walter Scott, who was taken care of by the Gospel Foundation after Johnson's passing, died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty's Castle next to a beloved dog.

Walter Scott, Death Valley Scotty, convinced everyone that he had built the castle with money from his rich secret mines in the area. Scotty was the mystery, the cowboy, and the entertainer, but he was also a friend. Albert was the brains and the money. Two men as different as night and day, from different worlds and with different visions - who shared a dream.

The U.S. National Park Service gives guided tours of Scotty's Castle for a nominal fee. Park rangers dress in 1930s style clothes to help take the visitor back in time. During the tour, guests are treated to the sounds of a 1,121 pipe Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ.

A massive rain storm in October 2015 washed out the road to Scotty's Castle and did extensive damage to the grounds and out buildings. Fortunately the main building was not seriously damaged. Renovations including long overdue maintenance and repairs started in 2018 and are expected to be completed in the fall of 2021 to allow re-opening Scotty's Castle to visitors. There is a series of videos here about what is going on.

Interior pictures were purchased or downloaded as taking pictures inside was not allowed in 1959.

Scotty's Castle from Clock Tower - Death Valley - Jan 1959
Scotty's Castle from Clock Tower - Death Valley - Jan 1959

Great Hall, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Great Hall, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Death Valley Scotty with his dog 'Windy' and cat - Death Valley
Death Valley Scotty with his dog 'Windy' and cat - Death Valley

Great Hall Chandelier, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Great Hall Chandelier, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Scotty's bedroom with painting of Buffalo Bill, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Scotty's bedroom with painting of Buffalo Bill, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

Scotty's Castle downstairs Great Hall Fountain (center) - Death Valley
Scotty's Castle downstairs Great Hall Fountain (center) - Death Valley
Scotty's bedroom and dog 'Windy', Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Scotty's bedroom and dog 'Windy', Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

Downstairs music room, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Downstairs music room, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Kitchen, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Kitchen, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

Upstairs music room, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Upstairs music room, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Death Valley Scotty's grave, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Death Valley Scotty's grave, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

Welte-Mignon Theatre Pipe Organ gallery, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Welte-Mignon Theatre Pipe Organ gallery, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

One of the crowning jewels in Scotty's Castle is the upstairs music room. Here guests were surrounded by luxurious d├ęcor and enwrapped in the opulent splendor of the music automatically.

Hand carved redwood ceilings, the stained glass window perched high above a hand-painted copy of Raphael's Madonna della Sedia, gold-plated screens depicting the 12 disciples, and a gold-threaded table runner on the grand piano, provided a magnificent backdrop for the majestic music of the Welte-Mignon Theatre Pipe Organ.

With over 1,100 pipes and a number of other instruments including a calliope, drums, glockenspiel, castanets, and chirping birds, the Johnsons could use any of over 400 rolls to fill Scotty's Castle with music. The vaulted ceiling provided excellent acoustics. The room is lit with wrought-iron chandeliers, and decorated with coats-of-arms and crests.

The organ is receiving a major overhaul as part of the restoration work from the 2015 flood.


Welte-Mignon organ at Scotty's Castle, here playing from the computer
rather than by roll. Note the light display in the Latice
The lady in 1930s dress is the tour guide

Welte-Mignon Organ Console - Death Valley
Welte-Mignon Organ Console - Death Valley
Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ Roll Player, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley
Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ Roll Player, Scotty's Castle - Death Valley

Play these songs on the Welte-Mignon Theatre Organ:


Scotty's Castle Layout from Grounds Tour page

Scotty's Castle Picture Gallery

In these links, click on pictures for full size views and detailed captions. Click on room/place labels on floor plans and grounds map for related pictures.