Scotty's Castle is a two-story Spanish Villa located in northern Death Valley National Park, California, USA. It is also known as Death Valley Ranch. Scotty's Castle is not a real castle, and it did not belong to the "Scotty" from whom it got its name.
After Johnson and his wife, Bessie Johnson, made several trips to the region and his health improved, construction began. It was Bessie's idea to build something comfortable for their vacations in the area, and the villa eventually became a winter home.
The stock market crash of 1929, dealt a blow to Johnson's source of capital, but did not immediately affect his sizable personal fortune. Another event in 1930, however, did make it difficult for Johnson to finish construction: President Herbert Hoover ordered the withdrawal of 2 million acres (8,000 km²) of land in the Death Valley area from public domain pending the creation of Death Valley National Monument. The surveyors sent to map out the boundaries of the new National Monument discovered that the surveys done of the region in the late 1800s in service to the original homesteader residents had been completed incorrectly. As a result, it was found that Johnson had not actually acquired title to the land where the "castle" had been begun, but instead a plot of land approximately one mile north and one mile (1.6 km) west of the castle property. Following this discovery, Johnson was unable to continue construction. He locked up the grounds and returned to Chicago. Johnson's property fiasco was rectified in 1935 after five years of court battles, but Johnson's main business interest, the National Life Insurance Company, had gone into receivership in 1933. This, in combination with the hefty court fees and the price of re-purchasing his 1,500 acres in Death Valley, left Johnson with little capital with which to continue.
Albert Johnson ceased vacationing at the castle in 1943 following the death of his wife, Bessie, in an automobile accident at Townes Pass in Death Valley. Initially, Johnson attempted to sell the castle to the Federal Government, as the terms of the contract granted him when he legitimately purchased the grounds the castle sat on in 1935 stated his obligation to offer the Federal Government the right of first refusal should he choose to sell it. Due to the involvement of the United States in World War II, however, the federal government did not have sufficient funds on hand to purchase it. In 1946, upon realization of his own imminent death and in acknowledgment of his lack of heirs, Albert Johnson created the Gospel Foundation, a charitable organization given the specific task of caring for the property. Johnson named family friend Mary Liddecoat president of the foundation in part because her gratitude for Bessie's assistance in caring for her dying father years before compelled her to carry out Johnson's wishes exactly. Albert Johnson died in 1948 of cancer. In 1970, the National Park Service purchased the villa for $850,000 from the foundation. Walter Scott died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty's Castle.
The Park Service gives guided tours of Scotty's Castle today. 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 theater organ. An underground mystery tour is also available for those wishing to see the inner workings of the building. One-quarter of a mile of tunnels run under the building, where visitors can visit the powerhouse and see thousands of tiles that were to be used for the never-finished swimming pool. The underground tour is not ADA accessible. The main house tour was formerly ADA accessible, but due to administrative complications is not accessible for the foreseeable future. The Park Service does, however, offer visitors free participation in the ground floor portion of the house tour and a booklet in the visitor center containing highlights of the upstairs portion.
The springs provided enough water to meet all the needs of the ranch, with enough left over for other uses. A water fountain was constructed in the Great Hall, where water dripped down a rock face into a catch basin for recirculation.
During the summer, the Park Service offers tours of the house approximately hourly between 9:30 AM and 4:00 PM, and when staffing permits, four underground tours as well, scattered throughout the day.
During the rest of the year, the Park Service offers house tours more frequently, usually every 10-30 minutes throughout the day between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM, and also offers 5-10 underground tours from 9:15 to 3:45.