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. Our original intent was to drive to the winery’s in Pahrump, Nevada and then drive up the visit the town site and mines of Johnnie, Nevada. The best laid plans were for not, when 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. Sadly, again we were turned away due to a Government Shutdown which prompted the Federal Government to once again, close outside. <sigh>
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 is found as the town of Amargosa in the intersection of SR 190 and SR 127 just East of Death Valley National Park. 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 when it was designed by Alexander Hamillton McColloch and built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. The Spanish Colonial Revival style building is part of a much larger U shaped complex which also 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. The valley train tracks were removed during WWII and moved to Egypt as part of the war effort. Amargosa began its’ decline in the mid 20th century and slowly edge towards oblivion when 1967, a flat tire and a performer Marta Beckett forever altered the sleepy little town.
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, until her last show, February 12, 2012.
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 here and 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.