Scotty's Castle is a two-story Spanish Villa located in northern Death Valley National Park, California, USA. It is also known as Death Valley Ranch. Scotty's Castle is not a real castle, and it did not belong to the "Scotty" from whom it got its name.
Walter Scott, also known as “Death Valley Scotty”, convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson to invest in his (fraudulent) gold mine in the Death Valley area. Johnson made many trips to the area, eventually bringing his wife, Bessie Johnson. Over the course of his visits Johnson came to terms with a disability that lingered from an 1894 accident. Bessie apparently became convinced that Death Valley was good for his health. She encouraged the idea of building something more comfortable than the rough shack Johnson had built earlier. Construction began on Scotty's Castle (Death Valley Ranch) in 1922, at a cost of $1.4 million dollars.
Johnson eventually forgave Scott for his fraudulent scheming, and the two became friends. Scott claimed that he had built the castle for himself, and it became known as "Scotty's Castle". Scott put in regular appearances at the castle to entertain Johnson's dinner guests with his stories, spinning unbelievable tales about his life and mine. Johnson did nothing to discourage Scott's tall tales, regarding it as merely amusement.
The stock market crash of 1929 dealt a blow to Johnson's source of capital, but did not immediately affect his sizable personal fortune. Another event in 1930, however, did make it impossible for Johnson to finish construction: President Herbert Hoover ordered the withdrawal of 2 million acres (8,000 km²) of land in the Death Valley area from public domain pending the creation of Death Valley National Monument. The surveyors sent to map out the boundaries of the potential new National Park discovered that the surveys done of the region in the late 1800s in service to the original homesteader residents had been completed incorrectly. As a result, it was found that Johnson had not actually acquired title to the land where the "castle" had been built because the original homesteader in Grapevine Canyon, Jacob Steininger, had not filed on the ground in the canyon, but filed on 120 acres of land near Grapevine Springs, 6 miles from the "castle". Following this discovery, Johnson immediately ceased construction. He locked up the grounds and returned to Chicago. Johnson's property fiasco was rectified in 1935 after five years of negotiations with the government by the passage of a law which allowed Johnson to purchase the property, and by 1937 Johnson had acquired more than 1,500 acres (6 km²) in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located. However, Johnson's main business interest, the National Life Insurance Company, had gone into receivership in 1933. This left Johnson with little capital with which to continue.
Albert Johnson became less interested in visiting the castle in 1943 following the death of his wife, Bessie, in an automobile accident at Townes Pass in Death Valley. Initially, Johnson attempted to sell the castle to the Federal Government. Due to the involvement of the United States in World War II, however, the federal government did not have sufficient funds on hand to purchase it. In 1947, upon realization of his own imminent death and in acknowledgment of his lack of heirs, Albert Johnson created the Gospel Foundation, a charitable organization given the specific task of caring for his properties and funding charitable work. Johnson named family friend Mary Liddecoat president of the foundation in part because her gratitude for Bessie's assistance in caring for her dying father years before compelled her to carry out Johnson's wishes exactly. Albert Johnson died in 1948 of cancer.
In 1970, the National Park Service purchased the estate for $850,000 from the foundation. Walter Scott died in 1954 and was buried on the hill overlooking Scotty's Castle.
The ranch is located about 45 miles (72 km) north of Stovepipe Wells, California, on the Scotty's Castle Road, and is about a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, Nevada via US 95 and SR 263.