A private tour of Randy Johnston’s remote 4-story, 8,000-square-foot desert castle which has been under construction for the past 16 years.
Last year while on one of my many journeys through Death Valley, I came across this sign while traveling from Scotty’s Castle on my way to Mammoth. I made note of it and added it to the list of places to research for future exploration.
The 9-mile dirt road that leads to Hard Luck is across the highway from the Bonnie Claire ruins and passes by the old Bonnie Claire mill, which is now privately owned and off limits.
Even though the road from the highway to the castle is only 9 miles long, it can actually take up to 40 minutes to get there, depending on the condition of the dirt road and the type of vehicle you have. My 2WD Jeep Cherokee made it fine but you should always call the number (775-772-2413) listed for the castle if you want up date road conditions.
“Cross Your Self And The Saint Will Watch Over You In Your Travels”
“This Trailer Served It’s Master For 45 Years, May It Rest In Peace 1996
To The Dismay Traveler, Look Hard, It Will Tell The Time Of Day”
…and it did!
Entering the city limits of Hard Luck City which is basically the 40 acres of land bought by Randy in 1998 to build his castle on.
Hard Luck Mine Castle signage.
After being greeted by Randy and his two dogs, it was time to begin my private tour.
Entryway patio. A plaque at the end of the table reads: “Dedicated To All The Persons Who Made This Castle Possible”.
Hard Luck signature lighting designed by Randy himself.
Randy started giving tours to help pay for his property taxes which are extremely high in the state of Nevada.
He actually made this rather large groovy art piece. Randy is a California native who moved from Lake Tahoe to the Hard Luck Mine in 1998. Sparsely populated Esmeralda County imposes few limitations on taxpayers’ developments on their own land and was the perfect place to build his dream castle.
Johnston bought 40 acres of land which includes the old mine and an adjacent claim. The Hard Luck Mine operated from 1897 until World War II brought things to a halt. It never reopened after the war, partly because trespassers stole equipment left behind at the time of its closure. The mine is in a canyon at about 6,500 feet elevation in a rugged range dotted with old diggings.
He made this lighting out of two old LA street lamps a friend gave him.
Before hitting the 4th floor we stopped off at the 3rd floor…
…which included the master bath.
The toilet art was amazing.
The observation deck is fully enclosed and often becomes unbearable in the summer heat but the views are pretty amazing.
From a foundation on bedrock, the 50-foot-diameter tower of concrete, stone and metal rises four stories, capped with a plate-glass cupola perfect for enjoying expansive daytime views and glittering night skies.
Originally a plumber, this self-taught jack-of-all-trades does most of the work himself, occasionally helped by visiting volunteers. He lays block, sets stone and tile, fabricates steel and iron, installs plumbing, runs gas and electrical lines, builds furniture, harnesses solar and wind power, plasters, paints, grouts, maintains his own access road and handles whatever else needs doing.
The observation deck provides an incredible view of the Nevada Test and Training Range, which is the largest contiguous air and ground space available for peacetime military operations in the free world. Randy said he’s seen some pretty amazing UFO type activity over the years.
The structure encompasses 8,000 square feet from basement to cupola. Walls are 126 inches thick with arches for solid wood doors with hand-wrought hardware.
This 1929 Wangerin Organ came out of St. Vibiana Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles.
Only five of these were ever made and four of them have been destroyed, so seeing this one was pretty special.
If you’re interested, Randy is ready to sell it.
The property from above.
Randy actually lives in the lower level [1st floor] and usually only visits the other floors when giving tours, playing the organ or entertaining friends. Since there’s no A/C or any fireplaces [no wood around to burn] in the castle it’s easier and cheaper to just keep the first floor comfy.
Randy’s always watching.
Randy’s been trying to sell his Hard Luck Castle for years. His dream is to to buy a boat and cruise around Mexico and the Caribbean. He actually just got an offer from a lady from Colorado who wants to turn it into a place were troubled youth can come and learn to play music.
If she ends up buying it she would like to keep Randy around so he can help build the campus and teach the students music. He told me he’d be interested but only for half of the year, the other half is reserved for his boat.
After my tour, I headed over to a nearby mining camp. The area that would become Gold Point was first settled by ranchers and a few miners during the 1880s. The small camp of Lime Point was formed a few hundred yards west of the present town, at an outcropping of limestone.
In 1902 silver was discovered in the area, and the old camp was revived and renamed Hornsilver (an informal name for the silver mineral chlorargyrite). Scarcity of water in the area required that the ore be shipped to nearby Lida for milling. The nearest major supply town was about 250 miles north at Unionville, a mining town northeast of present-day Lovelock. The miners did not find silver in abundance, the costs of shipping the ore to Lida became too high, and, within a year, the settlement was abandoned.
In 1927, a miner by the name of J.W. Dunfee went down the mine and made an even better discovery – gold. Within a few years, more gold than silver was being mined and the town’s name was changed to Gold Point. It was after this discovery that Gold Point enjoyed its longest period of success, at a time that the rest of America was suffering from the depression. However, when World War II began, the government ordered all gold mines to shut down as nonessential to the war effort. Mining at Gold Point stopped, and once again most of its residents drifted away or went off to war.
Gold Point is 10 miles from Hard Luck Mine, so plan on taking 45-60 minutes to get there.