Friday, April 24, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0149 - Goldwell Open Air Museum, Nye County, Nevada

When you are out exploring the desert looking for old ghost towns in Nevada, you never know what you will find. Located about five miles east of Death Valley National Park and to the west of the ghost town of Rhyolite is the 7.8-acre Goldwell Open Air Museum.

The nonprofit museum was organized in 2000 after the death of Albert Szukalski, the Belgian artist that moved his studio to this area in 1984. Szukalski first created The Last Supper sculpture, which was patterned after Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper painting. After someone donated a bicycle to Szukalski, he then went on to do Ghost Rider using the same artistic technique. 

The human figure sculptures were created by draping plaster-soaked burlap over live models until the plaster hardened and then the models were removed leaving the ghost-like images. To make the figures impervious to the elements, and to help add strength to the sculptures, Szukalski coated the plaster figures with fiberglass. 

Over the years, other artist have added various works to the museum.

Hugo Heyrman created Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada, which "refers back to the classical Greek sculpture while maintaining a pixilated prescence in the high tech world of the 21st century."

Dre Peeters created Icara, which "represents a female counterpoint to the Greek myth of Icarus, the boy who tried to fly to the sun with wings bound with wax." I don't know if it is true, but someone told me that Kim Kardashian was the model for Icara.

Fred Bervoets crafted Tribute to Shorty Harris, who was a legendary prospector in the area, and "his hopeful companion, a penguin, reflects the optimism of the miners' endeavor."

Sofie Siegmann originally created Sit Here! for the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas, but in 2007 the sculpture became part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum. 

There are various other works of art located on the site, but the other objects lacked any type of descriptive narrative about the artist or his/her work. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0148 - Rhyolite (ghost town), Nye County, Nevada

Rhyolite is the most visited and photographed ghost town in all of Nevada, partially due to its easy access. You can drive right up to the townsite without a four-wheel drive vehicle, which is typically required to find old ghost towns in Nevada.

In 1905 gold was discovered at the northern end of the Amargosa Desert in Nye County, Nevada, and a mining camp sprang up near the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, which at the time was the largest gold producer in the area. As thousands of miners, developers, and merchants poured into the area, the mining camp was named Rhyolite after the igneous rock that is found in the area. 

In 1906 Charles Schwab purchased the Montgomery Shoshone Mine and invested heavily in upgrading Rhyolite with utilities and a railroad. By 1907, Rhyolite had electric lights, running water, telephones, a hospital, school, opera house, and a stock exchange to serve an estimated population of somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 residents. (The number of residents depends on the source of information that you rely on.)

By 1908, the best ore deposits had been depleted and the Mine's stock crashed. The mine continued operating at a loss for a time in hopes of fining another rich ore body, but by 1911 the mine closed and Rhyolite's population dropped to below 1,000 residents. By 1920, Rhyolite was a ghost town. In the years that followed, the site became known as a tourist attraction and a setting for several motion pictures. 

Today, when you enter the Rhyolite townsite the first structure you encounter is the Bottle House, which was built using, as the name implies, glass beer bottles. The building was becoming structurally unstable, so the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently performed some maintenance work on the structure and replaced the roof. There is also an old abandoned truck in front of the Bottle House that photographers like to include in there pictures

Just a short distance east of the Bottle House is the infamous three-story Bank building. This is everyone's favorite building and pictures of the structure are used extensively in Nevada tourist literature. Located between the Bank and the Bottle House are the remains of the two-story school building and other miscellaneous structures.

The Rhyolite Train Depot is located on the eastern edge of the townsite and is reminiscent of the bygone railroad era. About ten years ago BLM stabilized the building and replaced the roof to help preserve the structure.

Located on the south side of town are a number of partial buildings, walls, the jail, and the red-roofed brothel. The old mine shafts are also located in this area.

And finally, located to the northwest are some old shacks of unknown origin.

Friday, April 10, 2015

RonnieAdventure #0147 - Carrara (ghost town), Nye County, Nevada

When you mention Carrara Marble, people typically think of Carrara, Italy. However, unknown to most people, Nevada also has "Carrara Marble."

About 100 miles north of Las Vegas, in 1904 prospectors found deposits of marble that were similar to the marble deposits found near Carrara, Italy. So, in honor of Carrara, Italy, the prospectors founded the American Carrara Marble Company to process and market the marble in the United States. 

Transporting the marble from the quarry to the railroad was a problem because the marble deposits were located in an area of steep topography. Therefore, in 1911 it was decided to build a town (which they named Carrara) and a processing plant about three miles west of the quarry on lands that were fairly level and adjacent to the Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad tracks.

To transport the marble from the quarry to the processing plant, a rail system was built from the quarry to the townsite that was unique for its day because it relied totally upon gravity to move the ore carts. Slabs of marble weighing up to 15 tons were loaded onto the ore carts in the quarry and then gravity moved the loaded carts down to the plant, pulling the empty carts back up to the quarry. 

The town of Carrara grew quickly and by 1915 there were about 40 structures and 150 people living in the area. Many people worked for American Carrara Marble Company, but others were involved with one of the support facilities, which included a post office, hotel, restaurant, school, newspaper, store and other typical businesses. The hotel was a first-class operation with running water, electric lights, and a telephone. Water for the town was piped in from Gold Center, about nine miles away.

Unfortunately, the marble boom was short-lived because it was discovered that the quarried marble contained impurities and was too fractured to be used for construction. Plus, large high-grade deposits of marble that could be mined more profitably were discovered in Vermont. Therefore, all mining activities at the quarry were shutdown in 1917 and most of the population had abandoned Carrara by 1924.

Then, in 1929 the Golden Ace Mining Company started quarrying marble at a nearby location and gave Carrara a rebirth, but the marble from the Golden Ace quarry also contained impurities and was also too fractured to be mined profitably. Therefore, within a short time period, Carrara was totally abandoned and all that remains today at the Carrara townsite are some foundations, walls, and remains of the processing plants. From the townsite, the abandoned quarry can be seen three miles to the east.