Category Archives: Buildings and Architecture

Modern Cliff Dwellers

by Glenn Adams

A rental sign  could honestly read, “Doublin Gulch, modern cliff  dwellings for men only.”  But these living quarters, carved out of the earth, are never rented.

They belong to the occupants while they live there,  and the first man to move-in is the next owner. It is not a written law, but is a habit and custom of the country and is respected by rich and poor alike.

It started with Dobe Charley  when he needed a home. A tent was too hot in summer and too cold in winter. he pondered the problem through one  cold  windy winter and one hot desert summer.

When “camping out”  became too unbearable he took refuge in an old deserted mine tunnel a few miles from Shoshone, and was comfortable. He was protected from all weather hazards, but it was too isolated to suit his tastes.

Shoshone, Ca.

Shoshone, Ca.

” Why not make  a tunnel in a hill  closer to town?”  the idea grew, and he looked all over the hills close around. Finally he picked out what he considered an ideal place.

It was a cliff of hard adobe  mud, within easy walking distance of the general store and post office. Not that he intended to walk, that is, that while his motorcycle would run.

He dug out a whole as big as a medium sized room and put a door on it. When it was finished to his satisfaction, he moved in and became the envy of all the loafers in the little desert oasis on the fringe of Death Valley.

Joe Volmer,  a retiring, middle-aged man, got himself a dwelling nearby. His consisted of several rooms connected by tunnels. To enter one of the rooms one must pull aside a cupboard and go a short distance down a ladder through a narrow passageway.

Ashford Brothers, Shshone, Ca

Ashford Brothers

The Ashford brothers, Harold and Rudy, decided to follow suit. They were dapper little fellows, very English and very neat and clean. Their cliff dwelling reflected them, neat and across the gulch from the others. like its occupants, it stood a little apart from its companions.

Bill, big and lazy, liked Doublin Gulch, but hadn’t  the ambition to dig a dwelling. He built his one-room shack on a level place against the cliff.

Crowly,  aggressive and authoritative, look it over and chose the point of the hill,  a position dominating all the other cliff houses. An imposing location, but like its builder, it was untidy.

Crowly  appointed himself a sort of Mayor of Doublin Gulch. If the others resented it  they gave no indications. Mostly they did not mind as long as no one interfered with their way of life.

Cool in the summer–and a great view!

Other men settled along the cliff. Thrown together by circumstances, these men were a variable lot. For the most part their past was a closed book. Some, no doubt, came to escape this or that, but on the whole they lived as they pleased, working at the nearby mines until they had saved a stake, returning to their cliff dwelling to live the leisurely until it was gone.

When one has finished with this life and needs his home no longer, another  drifter,  perhaps fleeing from his past or maybe just tired of the sorrows and troubles of the outside world and finding solace in the desert, moves in.

Thus these cliff dwellings of Doublin Gulch have passed from one occupant to another.

Who can tell what secrets they have hidden or what sorrows have been  soothed  by the quiet and solitude of these rugged refuges thrusting their doors from the face of the cliff like turtle’s heads  from under their shells.

Ghost Town News
Knott’s Berry Place
Buena Park, Calif.
December 1944

Dublin Gulch Photos

Warm in the winter, cool in the summer, the caves carved into the soft material of the banks of this wash were home, at one time or another, to people …

Dublin Gulch

Dublin Gulch

Scenes in America Deserta

by Peter Reyner Banhamorld:

Las Vegas, Nv.

Las Vegas, Nv.

“Las Vegas is a symbol, above all else, of the impermanence of man in the desert, and not least because one is never not aware of the desert’s all pervading presence; wherever man has not built nor paved over, the desert grimly endures – even on some of the pedestrian islands down the center of the Strip! The presence of such an enclave of graceless pleasures in such an environment is so improbable that only science fiction can manage it; the place is like the compound of an alien race, or a human base camp on a hostile planet. To catch this image you need to see Las Vegas from the air by night, or better still, late in the afternoon, as I first saw it, when there is just purple sunset light enough in the bottom of the basin to pick out the crests of the surrounding mountains, but dark enough for every little lamp to register. Then – and only then – the vision is not tawdry, but is of a magic garden of blossoming lights, welling up at its center into fantastic fountains of everchanging color. And you turned to the captain of your spaceship and said, ‘Look Sir, there must be intelligent life down there,’ because it was marvelous beyond words. And doomed – it is already beginning to fade, as energy becomes more expensive and the architecture less inventive. It won’t blow away in the night, but you begin to wish it might, because it will never make noble ruins . . . .”

Peter Reyner Banham. 1982. Scenes in America Deserta. Salt Lake City: Gibbs M. Smith. Pages 42-43.

Old Mormon Fort: Las Vegas, Nevada

During the Spanish Colonial Period (1542-1821) in the American Southwest, the Spanish empire was competing for control over resources with the British, French, and Russian monarchies. They attempted to link colonies in the Spanish territories, later known as the New Mexico and California, by establishing trade routes to form a passageway across the entire Southwest desert region. The Old Spanish Trail was used commercially to link the towns that would later become Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1829 until 1848. The abundant spring water available in the Las Vegas (meaning “the meadows” in Spanish) Valley made it an ideal resting point on the trail.

Old Mormon Fort - Las Vegas, Nevada

Old Mormon Fort – Las Vegas, Nevada

The presence of the valley springs also drew the Southern Paiute Indians, a nomadic people moving frequently during the year, who made the valley their winter homeland. They raised small crops near the springs in the valley, which provided water and food for the Indians inhabiting the area and later for travelers making their way across the desert.

The Las Vegas Valley would become an attractive place for other European-American settlers as well. One group of settlers looking for a new home was the Mormons–also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–a religious sect organized by Joseph Smith in New York in 1830. Based on the Book of Mormon, which Smith said was revealed to him by heavenly messengers, this religious body felt called to restore the authentic church established by Jesus and his Apostles. The history of the Mormons is dramatic–filled with persecution, an exodus from the eastern part of the United States, and ultimately successful establishment of a thriving religious society in a desert. The Mormons formed in upstate New York, an area where the Second Great Awakening was most popular as the United States underwent a widespread flowering of religious sentiment and unprecedented expansion of church membership. The group was forced to move several times because of conflicts with residents in various places where they settled, including Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. They were accused of blasphemy and inciting slave insurrections. After Smith was killed by an angry mob in Illinois in 1844, it became necessary for the Mormons to find a new home once again.

A new leader emerged to guide the Mormons to a new Zion at the Great Salt Lake. Under the direction of Brigham Young, they began an arduous journey West to what would become Utah, where they arrived in July of 1847. In 1848, after the war with Mexico, the United States acquired the majority of what now constitutes the American Southwest. The Mormons petitioned Congress to become the State of Deseret, a word from the Book of Mormon signifying honeybee which was considered an industrious creature, but they were only allowed territorial status. Congress established the Territory of Utah, named for a local Indian tribe, and President Fillmore appointed Brigham Young governor in 1851. Young also became superintendent of Indian affairs. He oversaw the building of Salt Lake City and hundreds of other southwestern communities.

In the middle of the 19th century, the idea of “Manifest Destiny”–a phrase used to explain continental expansion by the U.S.–was embraced by many American people, including the Mormons. They began an industrious campaign to colonize Utah and beyond, establishing hundreds of settlements throughout the West and Southwest. As part of this process, Brigham Young called on volunteers to create a Las Vegas Mission, which would be strategically located alongside the Mormon Road (a portion of the Old Spanish Trail between New Mexico and California), halfway between the Mormon settlements of southern Utah and the San Bernardino Mission in southern California. There were eventually 96 settlements that included Lehi, Provo, Payson, Nephi, Fillmore, Beaver, Parowan and Cedar City. Meanwhile, the discovery of gold in California in 1848 made southern Nevada a corridor for westward emigrants and gold seekers. A gold seeker wrote in his diary on November 21, 1849 about stopping at the Las Vegas creek. Offering the only reliable supply of water for a 55-mile stretch along the Mormon Road, the Las Vegas Valley’s springs were important for watering the mules, horses and oxen of travelers crossing the region’s harsh desert environment. With the opening of the San Bernardino settlement in 1851, there was an additional need for a way station at the Las Vegas springs to provide supplies and rest. The mission the Mormons established as part of the Church’s westward expansion out of Utah became the first non-native settlement in the area, and the Mormons hoped to bring the American Indians into their flock. Although the Mormons occupied the site only from 1855 to 1858, it affected the development of what was to become southern Nevada.

from — The Old Mormon Fort: Birthplace of Las Vegas, Nevada — National Park Service

Victorville “V”

Victorville V

Victorville “V”

Directions

From the parking lot of the Victor Valley Jr. High School Gym you will have an unobstructed view of the Victorville “V”.
 
Notes
In 1930 the Victor Valley High School site was where Victor Valley Jr. High is currently located. The Victorville “V” was placed on the side of the hill as a landmark for the high school. Keith Gunn, then high school football coach and shop teacher, later to become principal, spearheaded the project of the “V”. Southwestern Portland Cement Co. donated the cement and the students of the high school football team were responsible for the actual installation.
William E. Mutschler –

Hi Vista

The tiny community of Hi Vista, located in the Mojave Desert northwest of El Mirage dry lake, is a shred of what it once was and that being a shred of what it could have been, I suppose.

Hi Vista Community Hall

Hi Vista Community Hall in an early phase of life.

kill bill church

Although the little hall was in a quiet and remote location, it was quite plain. A cover over the entry, a faux bell tower and a mission-style decoration were added to make it appear as a Catholic church for the movie, True Confessions (1981), with Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro.

Over twenty years later when the movie Kill Bill (2003) came along, the hall was due for and given another facelift — a wood porch and cover were built on.

kill bill church

The hall in its most pristine condition.

Note the Joshua tree on the right has appeared, at least in part, in each shot.  This is visual proof that Joshua trees grow considerably faster than once thought.

Kill Bill Church is High Vista, CA.

Church interior

 

 

Flying Saucers Reported Over Mojave Desert

The latest flying saucer report comes from Silver Lake airport near Baker. Two aircraft communicators stationed at Silver Lake report they watched a brilliantly-glowing object speed through the desert sky for nearly 10 minutes Saturday night before it disappeared on the western horizon.

Their report was confirmed by crew members and 25 passengers of a United Airlines plane and by aircraft communicators at a station in Las Vegas, Nevada.

UFOs in high desert

“Things got weird, then they got normal, then they got weird again, and then they turned back to normal, and then they got really weird again. When all was said and done, I’m not so sure anything happened at all.” said bystander Walter Feller.

David Stewart of Redondo Beach, first officer of the United plane, said the object was more cigar-shaped than the previously reported pancake-shaped “saucers”.

L. M. Norman and R. E. Connor, the two aircraft communicators at the Silver Lake airport, said the object might have been a meteor.

“We first saw it some 15 degrees above the horizon north of Silver Lake,” Norman said. “It appeared to be a big ball of fire with a large luminous vapor trail.”

“We watched it from 7 to 10 minutes. It looked like it might have been falling, but then it swung off toward the west and disappeared.”

The fiery object was observed not only by the two communicators at Silver Lake, but also by four pilots  who had stopped at the airport for an overnight stay.

While the Silver Lake men watched the object, their station was in contact with the United Airlines plane which also spotted it.
Steward, the United officer, said his crew of five men all saw the object, as did the plane’s passengers.

He said his ship was flying at 14,000 feet and that the object flew a parallel course for 20 miles then faded in the distance. He estimated its speed as faster than his plane’s 290 miles per hour.

from the Barstow Printer-Review, June 29, 1950

Hesperia Lake

This compound is across the dirt road east of the lake. I’ve heard different things about what this complex is, was, was supposed to be and ended up being as well as a couple different things along the way. Mostly, at this point in time, it has been under construction.  It looks cool though and is one of the 7 wonders of Hesperia. I think it probably shrinks anyone who goes inside to about 3/4 scale. I have never seen anyone come out
Round buildings and igloos at Hesperia Lake

Round buildings and igloos at Hesperia Lake

Hesperia Lake:
http://digital-desert.com/a/hesperialake/

Beyond the Black Butte

Ten miles from the base of the mountains, beyond the black butte where the plains roll like swells in the ocean, there is a small, dusty, little shack. Inside this shelter there is a broom,Abandoned cabin in the Mojave Desert a chair and a table with a dog-eared pad of paper and a stubbed pencil lying on it. The air is so clean it is tiring; at least so it seems. Sitting there in the quiet there is no way to gauge the time. There is sunrise, noon, and sunset. There is night too. and unless there is a moon, it is the blackest night with countless upon countless stars. If there is a sound it is only the wind humming through the creosote. This is the place to contemplate infinity, and eternity, and the wind humming through the creosote…