Ellis Island, New York.

I have wanted to visit Ellis Island since learning about immigration during my undergraduate degree. I finally got there in 2019, and I certainly was not disappointed. 

Ellis Island first opened it’s doors in 1892, and closed in 1954. At it’s peak, approximately 5,000-10,000 immigrants passed through Ellis Island every day. It is estimated that about 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island during the time of its operation. 

Several laws and legislation were put in place to restrict immigration starting in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act.  This was followed in 1894, by the Immigration Restriction League and the Dillingham Commission in 1911. In 1917, literacy tests were introduced meaning that immigrants had to pass reading and writing tests in order to be granted entry to the US.  This meant that many poorer immigrants, especially those from eastern Europe, with no education failed the tests and were denied entry. The Immigrant Quota Act of 1921, restricted immigrant numbers to 357,000 per year, and the National Origins Act of 1924, reduced immigration even further to 150,000 per year.  A culmination of these resulted in Ellis Island becoming redundant and finally closing it’s doors in 1954. 

On the 11th of May 1965, Ellis Island became part of the National Park Service and in 1976, Ellis Island opened to the public.  In 1984, it was renovated with $160 million from donations made to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service.  The project was completed in 1990, and Ellis Island reopened to the public. 

Below are a few pictures that I took whilst visiting Ellis Island along with a video for a more in-depth look inside the buildings.  I tried to include as much of the museum as I could on the video for those people who can not get there in person. 

The Great Hall.

Located on the 1st Floor is the Baggage Room, Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890, Journeys: New Eras of Immigration 1945- Present, and the American Family Immigration History Center. On the 2nd Floor there is the Registry Room (Great Hall), the Hearing Room, Theater 2, and two exhibit galleries: Through America’s Gate and Peak Immigration Years: 1880-1924. Finally, located on the 3rd floor there is the Bob Hope Memorial Library, Dormitory Room, and the exhibits: Ellis Island Chronicles, Treasures From Home, Silent Voices, and Restoring a Landmark.

The museum has a lot to look around and take in so leave yourself plenty of time. Definitely buy tickets in advance.  Tickets start at $18.50 and also include Liberty Island https://www.statuecruises.com/statue-liberty-and-ellis-island-tickets/  

I would definitely advise you to book an early security check (the ticket time is your security check time, not your ferry time). I arrived at 8.30 am (my ticket time was 9 am) and there was no line so I got straight through. By the time I returned from the island, just after lunch time the queue was huge.

There is a free audio guide also included in your ticket price.  On both Liberty Island and Ellis Island there are cafe’s, but the food could definitely be improved, they only seemed to serve fast food. I was there in the morning and there were no breakfast options.  

Ellis Island is open every day except the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving) and December 25.

More information on the history of Ellis Island can be found here and here.

Thanks for reading. 

http://www.shutterstock.com/g/Elizabethmaher?rid=2892667

Quick Stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The main reason that I visited the MET whist I was in New York was to look for a staircase that was once located inside Scarsdale Hall in Derbyshire.  I think I covered just about all of the museum but unfortunately, I could not seem to find the staircase anywhere. 

The MET is gigantic and you need at least a day to look around the museum and if you want to read everything, probably a week.  The museum is so big they have the whole facade of a building located in the American Wing, in the The Charles Engelhard Court (picture below). 

I only took photographs on my phone so the quality is not great. There is also a short video at the end of the open storage, which I thought was a great idea as most museums do not let the public access their storage. 

The MET first opened on February 20, 1872, at 681 Fifth Avenue.  In 1871, the museum was granted land between the East Park Drive, Fifth Avenue, and the 79th and 85th Street in Central Park, which is where it resides today. The building has over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space and is 20 times the size of the original building.

Just a few things to note before you go. I got there at about 9.50 am, the museum opens at 10 am and there was a queue of people already waiting for the museum to open. Once the doors open, the queues went down pretty quickly. There are machines inside the main entrance where you can buy tickets, or you can buy them in advance online.  

A visitor admiring the facade of the Branch Bank of the United States (details below).
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Jackson Pollock (American, Cody, Wyoming 1912–1956 East Hampton, New York).
From Williamsburg Bridge , Edward Hopper (American, Nyack, New York 1882–1967 New York).
Merced River, Yosemite Valley, 1866, Albert Bierstadt (American, Solingen 1830–1902 New York).

I was especially interested in the whole rooms that the MET had on display. Unfortunately, only one of the pictures came out on my phone.

Boiserie from the Hôtel de Cabris, Grasse.

Thanks for reading.

Around Sheffield

I had planned on visiting Brodsworth Hall this weekend, but with the recent floods and some roads still being closed off, I decided to leave that trip for another time. It was a beautiful November morning and I didn’t feel like driving anywhere, so I picked up my camera and had a walk around Sheffield. This is something I have been meaning to do for a while but I have never got around to doing it. I suppose you take things from granted when they are on your doorstep and as I was walking around, I definitely felt a sense of regret that I had not done this years ago as there are many places that are long gone. I think I will do some more posts on Sheffield at a later date as there are many other places that I want to photograph. But for now, below are a few pictures that I took on Sunday, along with a bit of history about the content of the pictures. I welcome people to correct any errors I may have made, or add any information they may wish in the comments.

Bishops’ House, Meersbrook Park.

Bishops’ House is a Grade II Listed farmhouse located in Meersbrook Park. It is open to the public on weekends only from 10am until 4pm. The house was built in around 1500 and was the home of the Blyth family until 1753.

Meerssbrook Hall

There isn’t a great deal of information on the internet about Meersbrook Hall and unfortunately I don’t have the time to do more detailed research as my Masters dissertation is looming. The Friends of Meersbrook Hall have a great website though, with lots of information and history about the hall. The date of construction seems to be unknown but the website states that, “the earliest documentary evidence of a building at Meersbrook Hall are the notes of William Fairbank, of alterations he made to an existing building in 1759″. A plan of the estate in 1770 shows a single building on the site and in 1819, an extension was added. Meersbrook Hall housed the Ruskin Collection from 1890 to 1953.

A view of the city from Meersbrook Park.
Pinder Bros Ltd, Sheaf Plate Works, Arundel St.

Pinder Brothers have been in operation since 1877, and the company has been run by seven successive generations of the Pinder family for over 140 years. They moved to the above location at Sheaf Plate Works on the corner of Arundel Street and Matilda Street in 1939. There is a more detailed history on their website. I think it’s wonderful that they are still a thriving business and I love that the building probably looks much the same as it did in 1939. The building is also home to other craftsmen and women, who rent out spaces for their trades. There is an article that the Star newspaper did back in 2017, which you can read by clicking here.

Biggins Bros Ltd, building location is on the corner of Arundel Street and Newton Lane.

Sadly, this building looks like it’s derelict. I can’t find a lot of information on Biggins Bros. but the sign on the building states they were established in 1856 and were Electro Platers. From what I can gather, they went out of business in the year 2000.

The Rutland Arms, 86 Brown St, was built in 1936.
Butcher Works, Arundel Street.

Butcher Works is a former cutlery works located on Arundel Street. The works were originally founded by William and Samuel Butcher, who began manufacturing steel in 1819. Today, the buildings are Grade II listed for their architectural and historical significance within the city of Sheffield. The buildings were refurbished as flats and workshops partly due to a £1.2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. There is a nice cafe located in the works called Fusion Organic Cafe.

More information can be found here https://www.wessexarch.co.uk/our-work/butcher-wheel-sheffield
The old Heeley Railway Station, Chesterfield Road.

I wish Heeley still had a station as it’s just down the road from my house, I believe that this building is now a scrap yard. The station originally opened in 1870, serving the Midland Railway’s line between Chesterfield and Sheffield. It closed on the 10th of June in 1968.

The main entrance to Sheffield Town Hall. The building opened in 1897.
Green Police Box, Surrey St.

This Grade II Listed Police Box is located outside the Town Hall and was installed in 1928, as part of 120 police boxes in Sheffield. It is the only one that remains in Sheffield. More information can be found by clicking here.

The O2 Academy, Arundel Gate, formerly the Roxy. I always wondered what became of the Roxy Disco sign that used to be on the side of the building.

I think this is one of those buildings, like Park Hill Flats that you either love or hate. This may not be the most attractive of buildings, but personally i’m glad it’s still here as much of the old Sheffield is disappearing. In the 1980s and 90s, the Roxy was the biggest club in Sheffield. I remember as a kid seeing the glowing red sign on the side of the building. I’ve not been able to find a lot of history on the building itself, but at one time it was owned by a guy called Barry Noble, who advertised the club with the catchphrase “is that alright fyuzs”. Noble owned other amusement arcades and nightclubs, including the Astoria in Nottingham. He allegedly died in 1985, but there seems to be some ambiguity surrounding his death. The Roxy attracted performers such as Kyle Minogue, Jason Donovan and New Order, who played there in 1987. It was also the location of the TV show, Hitman and Her from 1988 until 1992. The Roxy remained a club until 1998-1999 (I can’t find the exact date). Later in it’s life, the building was home to St. Thomas’ Anglican Church before it became the Carling Academy in 2008, and then the O2 Academy when Telefónica Europe became the new sponsor of all Academy venues.

Statue of Poet, James Montgomery by the Cathedral.

James Montgomery was born in Scotland in 1771, but moved to Sheffield in 1792. He made his name as a poet and achieved some fame with The Wanderer of Switzerland, which he wrote in 1806. He died aged 82 in 1854. I have to admit, I had never heard of him until I took this photograph. If you want more information on James, you can find it by clicking here.

Grade II Listed Buildings at Paradise Square.

I always associate Paradise Square with solicitors offices (most of the buildings are office spaces today), but at one time it a place where people came to hear preachers speak or for public meetings. The Sheffield Society for Constitutional Information formed here in 1791 and it was said to be the only square where all major political meetings of all types were held. More information can be found by clicking here and here.

Physician David Daniel Davis, lived at No. 12, Paradise Square from 1803 to 1812.
West Bar Fire Station.

The West Bar Station was built in 1900, and was home to the police, fire and ambulance services. Today, the building is home to the National Emergency Services Museum. I will do a separate post on this museum sometime in the future.

Woollens for Signs
Woollens for Signs
Woollens for Signs

I’ve seen this building many times as you can’t miss the striking signs located on the side, but I have never looked into what it was. From what I have found, Woollen & Co Ltd was established by sign-writer, James Woollen and lithographic printer, Frederick Ibbotson in 1883. The company moved from this location in 2005, and ceased trading in 2008. I have found a Sheffield company that are trading under the name Woollen Group (website here). Their website states they are formerly Woollen Signs Ltd, but were only established in 2007 so i’m unsure as to if they are the same company. Personally, I think it would be great for this building to be refurbished, keeping the wonderful signage on the front in respect of the past.

The Chimney House, Kelham Island is now an events venue. I can’t seem to find much about this building, If you have any info, let me know in the comments.
Alfred Beckett & Sons Ltd. Brooklyn Works is now residential apartments and offices. The building was declared Grade II Listed in 1985.

Alfred Beckett & Sons Ltd were established in 1839, and were a saw file and tool manufacturers located at Brooklyn Works on Green Lane. In 1967, Alfred Beckett & Sons was purchased by Tempered Spring Company Ltd. Tempered Spring was founded in 1895, as a subsidiary of Laycocks. It seems that they dissolved in 2015.

Alfred Beckett & Sons Ltd. Brooklyn Works is now residential apartments and offices. The building was declared Grade II Listed in 1985.
Alfred Beckett & Sons Ltd. Brooklyn Works is now residential apartments and offices. The building was declared Grade II Listed in 1985.
Wharncliffe Works, Green Lane. Grade II Listed.

Wharncliffe Works was built in c1861 for Steel & Garland, manufacturers of stoves, grates and fenders. If you want to read more, click here.

Sign for Wilson & Murray at Wharncliffe Works.
George Barnsley & Sons Ltd, Cornish Works.
George Barnsley & Sons Ltd, Cornish Works.

George Barnsley & Sons were founded in 1836. They moved to Cornish Works (pictured above) in 1849. Their main focus was the manufacture of files and cutting tools for leather workers and associated industries. Today, they are still in operation, however, they have moved from Cornish Works to Mowbray Street and are a subsidiary of Mowbray Manufacturing Co Ltd. When I walked past Cornish Works it looks like the building is currently being refurbished. I hope they keep the old signage. There are some amazing pictures on the website Behind Closed Doors of the inside the building.

A H Smith & Co. LtdDon Brewery, 4 Penistone Road, Sheffield

All that remains of Don Brewery is this sign. A H Smith & Co. Ltd were founded in 1828. They were acquired by Tennant Brothers Ltd of Exchange Brewery in 1915. A H Smith closed in 1917 and their buildings were sadly demolished in 1994. Tennant Brothers Ltd were Acquired by Whitbread & Co. Ltd in 1961. However, they closed the brewery in 1993. The Exchange Brewery buildings remain, but have been mostly converted to offices.

Paul Waplington ‘Steelworker’, 1986.
W.W. Laycock & Sons Limited. Suffolk Road

W.W. Laycock & Sons Ltd. were silversmiths and suppliers to the metal finishing trade. From what I can gather, they are still operational, but I don’t think they are still in Sheffield. The building above on Suffolk Road is now the premises of Student Roost. There are some great images of what the building looked like before it was refurbished here.

Thomas Boulsover Memorial outside of the Library.

Thomas Boulsover (1705 – 1788) was a Sheffield Cutler who famously stumbled upon a process that became known as Old Sheffield Plate in 1743. He served an apprentice as a cutler until 1726, and in around 1740, set up his own workshop on the corner of Tudor Street and Surrey Street. There is another memorial to Thomas at Whiteley Woods on the hillside between Wire Mill Dam.  

Thanks for reading. Please add any more information, or correct any errors that I may have made in the comments :).

Conisbrough Castle,South Yorkshire.

Conisbrough Castle is located just outside Rotherham in South Yorkshire and is managed by English Heritage. The original Castle was built by William De Warenne, the 1st Earl of Surrey who was the son-in-law of William the 1st (William the Conqueror) sometime in the 11th century . The castle passed to Isabel De Warenne in 1147, and the keep was built by her husband, Hamelin Plantagenet in the late 1170s or 1180s. The castle inspired Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, published in 1819.

I did not visit, but the nearby Anglican Church of St Peter has stood in Conisborough since the 8th century, and is the oldest standing building in South Yorkshire.

Personally, I always prefer English Heritage places over National Trust, I think it’s because I find ruins more fascinating. I really enjoyed Conisbrough Castle. However, there are a few things to bear in mind if you plan on visiting. Firstly, the parking. I usually look in advance before I travel on what the situation is with parking, but this time I did not. When I arrived at the castle the signposts send you into a privately run car park. I parked up and got my little pot of car park change from my glove box that I keep for such situations. I went to find the machine, but there was not one in sight. The car park requires you to either download an app, or to call and pay by card. Bear in mind that parking is 50p an hour. I thought this seemed like a lot of faff for 50p. I tried scanning the QR code, like the sign said, but nothing happened, so I drove out of the car park and parked on a nearby street. I don’t usually like parking in residential areas as I’ve had bad experiences with people who don’t like you parking in front of their houses, even though you can park where you like as long as there are no parking restrictions, or you aren’t blocking anyone ones access, etc. But, often people get real funny about parking. Anyway, there is plenty of free on street parking, that isn’t outside anyone’s house, if you don’t mind a short walk to the castle. If the car park was English Heritage, I would have paid the money, but as it was a private company, I did not bother. I think this is a bad call from English Heritage. If people don’t have a mobile with them, I know my parents don’t always take their mobile phone out with them, how are you meant to pay? Or if you don’t take your bank card out with you, you can’t pay as there is no machine.

The other thing to consider at Conisbrough is that there are narrow stone stairs in the castle with no lift. If you are disabled or have push chairs, you might not be able to access the castle, but I would double check with English Heritage before you go.

Some of the winding stairs inside the castle.
The parking situation.

Thanks for reading.

Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire.

Tattershall castle is located in Lincolnshire, close to the beautiful Woodhall Spa.  I always like visiting this area as there is plenty of heritage, especially if you like the history of the RAF. 

The original castle was built by Robert de Tateshale in around 1231. He was granted a licence by King Henry III in order to build a crenelated manor house.  The castle was then passed to Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell sometime in the fifteenth century.  Ralph became Lord Cromwell in 1433, and remodeled the manor into a more lavish home.  It is said that half a million bricks were made at Edlington Moor Brickworks for the castle re-model.

Cromwell died, childless in 1456. I have found two versions of what happened to the castle after his death. One is that it was passed to his niece, Joan Bouchier. When Joan’s husband, Humphrey Bourchier changed sides during the war of the roses from the Yorkists to the Lancastrian cause, Yorkist King, Edward IV seized the castle on Bourchiers death. However, the National Trust website states that on Cromwells death, the castle passed into the Crown’s possession who subsequently granted it to loyal and familial subjects.

In 1573, the castle was purchased by Edward Clinton (Earl of Lincoln) and remained in their possession until 1693. It was then passed to the Fortescue family, who never lived at the castle and so let it decline. At one time, it was also used by farmers as a cattle shed.

In 1910, Tattershall and its contents were sold to a buyer in the USA (rumoured to be William Randolph Hearst). The sale included the contents which included the tapestries and fireplaces. However, in 1911, Lord Curzon purchased the castle and saved it from exportation and in August of 1914, the Castle was opened as a visitor attraction.  The castle became the property of the National Trust when Lord Curzon died in 1925. (The Curzon family home of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire is also property of the National Trust).

I visited the castle on Sunday the 27th of October. The castle had been decorated for Halloween as they had an event on for kids, which made it a little busy and noisy for my liking. There isn’t a great deal to see, you can do an audio tour if you want more information whilst you are walking around. If you are not a National Trust member, adult entry is £7.50 without gift aid. There is a small shop (the old gatehouse) selling the usual National Trust merchandise and small selection of cakes, overpriced sandwiches and hot drinks. I had a coffee and it wasn’t very nice if i’m honest.

My pictures did not turn out as good as I would have liked. The light was too bright and shadows too harsh. But I have done my best to edit them.

A view of the Holy Trinity Collegiate Church from one of the upper floors in the castle.
The Guardhouse and Holy Trinity Collegiate Church.
The Guardhouse, now the shop and castle entrance.
One of the huge fireplaces saved by Lord Curzon.
The ruins of the stable block with the castle in the background.
Graffiti inside the castle.
Some of the tapestries saved by Lord Curzon.
The castle roof (photograph taken with iPhone)
Tattershall Castle (photograph taken with iPhone)

Thanks for reading.

Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada, USA.

On the way to Beatty, Nevada sits the once booming town of Rhyolite.  Today, there is nothing much left of Rhyolite apart from a few ruins, the bottle house and the old station.  Nevertheless, it remains one of my favourite ghost towns.  I first visited Rhyolite back in 2016, and then returned in 2017. Unfortunately, in the space of a year, I noticed more graffiti and the old truck near the bottle house had gone. 

In 1904, Frank ‘Shorty’ Harris and Eddie Cross discovered gold in the nearby Bullfrog Hills.  By 1908, it is said that Rhyolite had a population of around eight to twelve thousand people. Although the mine produced more than $1 million in bullion in its first three years, by 1910, it is estimated that the population fell to just under seven hundred people.  The last Rhyolite resident passed away in 1924.  Many of Rhyolite’s buildings were relocated to the nearby town of Beatty.  The Miner’s Union Hall in Rhyolite became the Old Town Hall and many other buildings were used to construct a school. 

Rhyolite gets a mention in Ian Flemming’s 1956 novel, Diamonds Are Forever.  

Spectreville is a fictional place but there is a Specter Range near Amargosa Valley in Nevada.

The Bottle House (known as Tom Kelly’s Bottle House) was restored by Paramount pictures in January of 1925 for the filming of a silent movie, The Air Mail. For some reason, and I have no idea why, I did not take a picture of the house.

The movie, The Island (2005) starring Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor was partially filmed in Rhyolite as was Six-String Samurai in 1998.

Ruins of the School Building
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
H.D. and L.D. Porter Store
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 
The Train Depot (privately owned)
Ruins of the John S. Cook and Company Bank Building 

Useful Information:

Rhyolite is a mixture of private and federal land.

Entry is free and the ghost town is open 24/7

Remember, be respectful and take nothing but pictures.

Happy exploring!

Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, USA.

1705 Mariposa St, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
https://www.anchorbrewing.com/

I have to admit, I’m not a beer or ale fan and going to Anchor was my boyfriend’s choice.  However, I really enjoyed it.  We were in a small group of about 10 people.  You get to walk around the brewery, see the whole brewing process and learn about how Anchor Steam is made, as well as learn about the history of the company.

The Anchor Art Deco Building.

The Anchor Brewing Company dates back to the 1890s and was the creation of German brewer, Gottlieb Brekle.  In 1965, to save it from closure, Frederick Louis Maytag III purchased the company.  In 1979, Anchor moved to its current location on Mariposa Street.  The building was once a coffee roaster and is a wonderful example of Art Deco architecture.  

Our tour guide was super enthusiastic and from seeing the staff in the factory, it looks like a great place to work.  The tour was $25 but I would say you get that in beer if you want it.  As I’m not a huge beer fan, I only had a taste, but you get to sample a lot of their different beers. The tour talks about their past, where they are now and their vision for the future. As well as how they are trying to keep the history and their methods of brewing alive.  Anchor Brewing is community minded and supports local initiatives as well as California State Parks from the sale of their California Lager.

Grist Mill. This was used until Anchor moved their new location in 1979. The date is unknown, but according to the Anchor website, the design dates it to the late 1800s.
2018 Christmas Beer

Useful Information:

  • Guided public tours every day
  • Approx. 1.5 hours long
  • Tours are $25 per person
  • Beer tasting included
  • Booking is advised
  • Don’t forget your ID

Hardwick Old Hall, Derbyshire, England.

The ruin of the old hall

Bess built Hardwick Old Hall in 1587 on the grounds of her father’s medieval manor house.  Bess intended for both the old and new hall to complement each other.  However, after her death in 1608, the Hardwick estate was passed to her son, William Cavendish who partially dismantled the Old Hall in the 1750s.  

In 1789, the lower rooms were still occupied by the house keeper of the New Hall and a family. In the 19th century lead was removed from the roof leading to the hall’s final demise to a ruin.

Visitor Information

The Old Hall is managed by English Heritage. As of 2019, the hall can only be viewed from the outside but there is a small exhibition and shop. Parking is £5 (free for EH and NT members). The EH website states that entry is £6.80, but there was a sign which said the exhibition was free entry when I visited. I assume when the restoration work is complete, there will be a charge again. The EH website also states that the hall is closed Monday and Tuesday, but as only the exterior is currently viewable, I think as long as the park is open (managed by the National Trust), you can have a walk to the old hall ruins.

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, England.

The main entrance to the hall.

Elizabeth (Bess), Countess of Shrewsbury, built Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire as a display of wealth and power.  However, Bess came from modest beginnings.  Her father was not much more than a yeoman, yet Bess was able to climb the social ladder through a string of marriages to wealthy men.

Bess was first married at the age of 14 and widowed at 15.  Her second marriage was to Sir William Cavendish in 1547.  The couple had 8 children together, one of their grandchildren was William Cavendish, who built Bolsover New Castle.  When Cavendish died in 1557, Bess inherited his fortune.  She then married Sir William St Loe in 1559, on his death in 1565, Bess became one of the richest women in England.  In 1568, Bess married George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and the richest man in England. They remained married until his death in 1590.  

In 1590, Bess began the building of Hardwick Hall.  The house was completed in 1597 with Bess living there her death on the 13th February 1608, aged 81.

The kitchen
The hall and garden
The gardens
The front lawn

Useful Information for visitors

The hall managed by The National Trust.  Entry to the house and garden is £15 for an adult and parking is £5, garden only entry is £7.50.  The house is open from 11am to 5pm from Wednesdays to Sundays. The garden is open daily from 09:00 – 18:00 and the park is open from Park Dawn to dusk.  There is also a shop and restaurant.

Hardwick Old Hall is managed by English Heritage but it is currently closed for renovation work.

Zzyzx, San Bernardino County, California, USA.

Formerly Soda Springs

I find myself dawn to old places that have fascinating back stories and Zzyzx is no exception. 

Located off Highway 15 in California, Zzyzx is home to the California State University Desert Studies Centre.  However, this has not always been the case.  It was once home to a health spa called Soda Springs.  The spa owner, Curtis Howe Springer was born in 1896 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He worked as an insurance salesman and then a radio evangelist, calling himself “the last of the old-time medicine men.” However, it seems that Springer had no formal medical training.  After making some money through preaching and selling homemade homeopathic remedies, Springer used the money to file a mining claim in the Mojave Desert, which he called the area, Zzyzx.

Springer built a hotel and health spa on his desert land, heating the water with pumps and claiming that the site offered miracle cures.  Soda Springs ran for almost 30 years with people believing they were receiving natural medical treatments.  In 1969,  several customers made complaints and the American Medical Association subsequently investigated Springer, labelling him the “King of the Quacks.”   He was convicted in 1974 of fraud for which he served prison time.  Springer died in 1985 at the age of 88 in Las Vegas.

Only a few of the old buildings remain today but nevertheless, they are a reminder of the obscure story of Curtis Howe Springer and how one man managed to con people for the majority of his life.

Tips for visiting.

We just stopped by on route to Los Angeles. The place was quiet with maybe one more person having a look around. I assume you can walk around at your leisure as we did, but if you want to make sure before visiting, contact the university. http://nsm.fullerton.edu/dsc/desert-studies-center

Happy exploring.