Bottle House - Rhyolite, Nevada
Rhyolite was founded as a mining town high in the barren desert mountains near Death Valley. Since there was no lumber in the area, saloon owner Tom Kelly built his house from readily available beer bottles instead. It took 5 months and 30,000 bottles to finish the house in 1905. After 1908 the mining and population of Rhyolite began to decline. By 1916 the mines had shut down and most of town had been abandoned.
In the 1920s, auto tourists discovered the picturesque ghost town and the unusual bottle house became a quirky landmark for explorers to seek out. In 1925 it was partly restored by Paramount Pictures for a western film. In the 1950s it became the model for the well-known bottle house at Knotts Berry Farm. Earthquakes and the desert sun have done much damage to the bottles, but it was repaired again and given a new roof for its centenary in 2005.
Several caretakers have lived in the house over the years. Tommy Thompson, who was caretaker from 1954 to 1969, added a little rock garden of toy houses decorated with concrete embedded with toys, costume jewelry and other little trinkets.
Back to other Art Environments