Stovepipe Wells bottle dugout (Death Valley National Park) Photo circa 1940.

Ruins of a bottle house at Old Stovepipe Wells in 1940.

The 1920’s, some hardy businessman or inventive prospector dug himself a cellar space out of the shifting sands, measuring about eighteen by twelve feet, which he then surrounded on three sides with four- to five-foot-high walls fashioned from beer bottles stuck together with mud. Several inches of earth over tarp-covered timbers insulated the roof. from the burning desert sun. Initially concerned only with dispensing a limited assortment of foodstuffs along with a liberal amount of beer from the Tonopah brewery (kept reasonably cool in a tub covered with soaked sacks or tarps), the proprietor soon acquiesced to repeated demands for cool lodging facilities and installed two beds in his cellar for use by overnight visitors.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.