Recently, on a whim, my wife and I loaded up the jeep and opt to just explore the desert West of our home town of Las Vegas and ended up at the Amargosa Opera House. Our original idea was to drive to the winery’s in Pahrump, Nevada. After the winery our plan was to drive up to the townsite of Johnnie, Nevada. The best laid plans were for not. We discovered that the mines of Johnnie, Nevada are located on private property.
Honoring the wishes of the Johnnie mine site property owners, we opted to do some exploring. We headed easy through the small town of Crystal, Nevada and drove past the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The AMNWR was closed, as the result of, a Government Shutdown.
As our wandering journey continued, we opted to travel South and soon discovered the small desert haven of Death Valley Junction and the world famous Amargosa Opera House.
Death Valley Junction was founded as the town of Amargosa. The town was founded at the intersection of SR 190 and SR 127 just East of Death Valley. Founded in 1907 when the Tonopay and Tidewater railroads ventured into Amargosa Valley.
The Amargosa Opera House began life as Corkhill Hall in 1923-24. Alexander Hamillton McColloch designed the building, which was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The building is a Spanish Colonial Revival style and organized as part of a much larger U shaped complex. The complex features included company offices, dormitories, dining room, store and a 23 room hotel. Corkhill Hall served the small complex as a location for dances, church services, movies and meetings.
The small town, as with many others boomed and busted with the borax industry. During WW2, the valley train tracks were removed. This was done in support of the war effort. Amargosa began to decline in the mid 20th century and slowly edge towards oblivion. In 1967, a flat tire and a performer Marta Beckett forever altered the sleepy little town.
The Opera House
In 1968, Amargosa changed it’s name to Death Valley Junction and Marta Beckett rented the Corkhill Recreation Hall. She oversaw repairs to the facility and repainted the interior with murals for the next five years. In her newly renovated Opera House, Mrs Beckett performed for the next 40 years. On February 12, 2012 Mrs Beckett performed her last show.
Such is life in the Mojave, filled with interesting characters who cherish and thrive in a harsh environment. Sadly, on our visit to Opera House was not open and I was not able to photograph the interior. However, while visiting a young ballerina was being photographed by under the trees outside of the old opera house. A testimony to Marta Becket which we are sure would make her proud.