"Death Valley Scotty" was a raconteur to most, a rapscallion to others, and a legend in the landscape now known as Death Valley National Park. With that background, it's fitting that the last known portrait of Scotty is back in the park.
Walter Scott, of course, might have been the forerunner of today's scam artists, for he convinced more than a few investors that he had found gold in Death Valley. Later, after one of his marks -- Albert Johnson, who made his money selling insurance in Chicago -- found him out and befriended him, Death Valley Scotty spun a new tale, that his gold mines had paid for the elaborate "castle" in Grapevine Valley.
The sprawling estate actually was built with Mr. Johnson's money. And quite an estate it was for its day. Not only is the Spanish-influenced mansion seemingly out of place in the high desert, but it's design seemingly pushed the technological limits of the 1920s. Mr. Johnson saw that there was a solar heating system at work, and he also had a Pelton water wheel turbine installed to generate electricity for the place. Too, an evaporative cooling system employed indoor waterfalls and even wet burlap to keep things inside the castle relatively cool on those 100-degree summer days.
But back to Scotty's portrait. According to the Death Valley Natural History Association, Orpha Klinker (1891-1964) painted this last known portrait of Death Valley Scotty. The portrait was initially sold to the first lifetime member and a longtime director of Death Valley '49ers, Tom Baskin, according to the association.
The association and the Death Valley '49ers recently collaborated to bring Scotty's portrait back to Death Valley. Now association officials are working with park officials "to find a proper place for the piece at the Castle. In the meantime - stop by the DVNHA office to visit Scotty!"