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Tom Kelly's Bottle House

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Around 1905, during the Gold Rush, Tom Kelly built this famous house in Rhyolite, NV. It was built with 51,000 beer bottles and adobe mud. Bottles were also used in the walkway to the house. Kelly chose bottles because "it's very difficult to build a house with lumber from a Joshua tree." It took him about a year and a half to build the three room, L-shaped building with gingerbread trim. He spent about $2,500 on the building with most the money for wood and fixtures. Some of the bottles were medicine bottles but most were Busch beer bottles donated from the 50 bars in town.

Rhyolite was a the center of Nevada's gold mining district. It went from boomtown to bust in just six years. In 1906, there were 10,000 residents but, by 1920, there were only 14. In 1925, Paramount Pictures discovered the Bottle House and had it restored and re-roofed for a movie. It then operated as a museum for awhile but tourists were scarce.

From 1936-1954, Lewis Murphey took care of the house and invited tourists to visit. This was the beginning of ghost town tourism in Rhyolite. From 1954-1969, Tommy Thompson lived there and raised eight children. Thompson built the miniature buildings shown in the bottom row above. He was the last inhabitant. He tried to repair the house with concrete. However, because the concrete absorbed the desert heat, this caused many of the bottles to crack. The House fell into bad shape from earthquakes and weather. Then in 2005, it was repaired and a new roof was installed. The House is one of the few buildings left standing in the town. For more, see these websites: 1 and 2.

Bottle Houses Main Page Special Places Main Page

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