Three Creative Houses Crafted from Found Objects
It’s often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and that saying certainly rings true for three gentlemen who created their domiciles from what many folks consider trash. And in this day and age of “reduce, reuse and recycle”, these hand-crafted homes offer inspiration to others who seek to repurpose items and reduce waste in our landfills. Although none of these structures are wheelchair-accessible, they collectively offer visitors a brief glimpse at what can happen when one’s imagination — and junk collection — remains unchecked.
Nitt Witt Ridge
Located along the Central California coast, this Cambria landmark is the creation of Art Beal — also known as Captain Nitt Witt. Beal began construction on Nitt Witt Ridge at 881 Hillcrest Drive in 1928, and since he was the local trash hauler he had an endless supply of raw materials at his fingertips. And although he used junk as he medium, he also looked at functionality. For example a collection of beer cans ensconced in concrete serves to repel pests, as the wind whistles through the openings and creates a sound that’s unappealing to them. In any case, Nitt Wit Ridge is a site to behold, and construction materials include everything from sea shells and discarded metal and lumber, to the occasional toilet seat or two. Sadly Beal passed away in 1996 at the age of 96, and the house was subsequently purchased by Michael O’Malley. Today it sits behind a locked chain link fence, but you can still get a good look at it from the small level dirt area across the street.
Located in St. Antonito, Colorado, Cano’s Castle is constructed almost entirely of beer cans. Owner Donald “Cano” Espinoza actually claims that God constructed this masterpiece, which includes a four-story house (the king) covered in beer cans, hubcaps and scrap metal. The main structure is flanked by two lesser buildings — the queen and the rook — and the whole property is surrounded by a structure called the crown. And of course everything is covered in shiny — sometimes blinding — scrap metal. According to Espinoza this monument serves as a thank-you to the powers-that-be for sparing his life during the Vietnam War. He also notes that he received his inspiration for the structures from Vitamin Mary Jane and Jesus. Cano’s Castle is located on State Street, between 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue, about three blocks east of Highway 285. Like Nitt Witt Ridge, this creation is not accessible, however there’s a level spot to pull in across the street and admire the creator’s handiwork.
Tom Kelly’s Bottle House
Last but not least, be sure and make the short detour to Tom Kelly’s Bottle House on your next trip to Death Valley. It’s located off Highway 374 just west of Beatty in the ghost town of Rhyolite. Constructed in 1906 during the gold rush, Kelly built his masterpiece from 51,000 beer bottles, adobe and mud. And since there were some 50 bars in town, there was never a shortage of building materials. As for Kelly’s motivation and reasoning for his chosen medium — he was often known to say that it was easier to build a home from beer bottles than it was to mill lumber from the native Joshua trees. Kelly’s creation is easy to find too — just follow the signs to it from Rhyolite Road. And the good news is, a nice accessible parking pad and a level sidewalk over to the house were recently added. Like the other two homes, the bottle house sits behind a fence but it’s sometimes opened for private tours. Still you can get an excellent gander at the house from the sidewalk near the entrance.