May 2004 Issue Explore Historic California - Magazine for Enthusiasts




UPDATE: State Budget Crisis Threatens Bodie  

by Jill Lachman

Leigh Pringle and Jill Lachman of The Friends of Bodie contacted us to ask for our reader’s help in saving Bodie State Historic Park . Jill fills us in on the current state of affairs with this article. David Tayres  has more information on how you can help and where you can send money to help stabilize some of the more deteriorating buildings on his website  We will post updates on how things are going and what more you can do, as we receive them.    

           Since the passage of the California Desert Protection Act (1984) an effort was made to create a coalition of agencies that would pool their financial resources with the intent to purchase the property which Galactic Resources, Ltd. had claim to (Bodie Bluff and surrounding areas).

          In the meantime, the California Department of Parks and Recreation began an extensive, ongoing stabilization project in Bodie. Prior to the start of each season the state architect, district departmental supervisors and Bodie personnel (rangers and maintenance) made an inspection of the structures in Bodie prioritizing the stabilization effort according to the severity of the structures integrity.

          The goal was to bring the buildings in Bodie back to their appearance at the time of the original purchase of the townsite. Guided by photographs of the town made in the early 1960’s, each season from May to September workers came to Bodie to begin and hopefully complete several “restorations”.

          Many buildings in Bodie were erected in a fashion known as “board and batten” whereby the structure was constructed on the ground it stood on without the benefit of a solid foundation.  This caused the structures to be subject to the natural movement of the earth beneath them and be in danger of imminent collapse. 

          During foundation construction workers retrieved intact bottles, children’s toys, newspapers from the 1880’s, and Union banners plus numerous small items.  Beneath the Standard Mill, workers found what appeared to be silt and dirt, with glittering flakes of gold still present.

          Finally by 1997 a coalition of agencies managed to pool funding to proceed with the purchase of a swath of property atop Standard Hill and along the ridgeline to be annexed to Bodie State Historic Park thus effectively doubling the size of the Park’s area and forever eliminating the possibility of resumption of mining on Bodie Bluff.

          Park officials, agency representatives, Bodie personnel, local and regional government delegates, Bodie seasonal staff, former Bodie residents and their families attended the rededication celebration in September, 1997. The ceremony and following celebration took place on the hilltop where trains once delivered wood from Mono Mills to feed the boilers of Bodies steam powered machinery.

          Stabilization projects continue and many of Bodie’s buildings have undergone work, inside where it is invisible to general public eyes. These projects include such things as creating a foundation, shoring up walls with timber, re-pointing of brick mortar, and roof replacements.

          In recent years other factors have arisen to endanger the area’s ecological balance.  In the surrounding hills, not more than ten plus miles from Bodie, lies the Paramount and DelOro properties where companies are micro mining for gold. This process involves the removal of tons of earth for extraction of the gold and the creation of immense strip mines. The areas are ecologically sensitive and contain migration pathways, sage grouse licks and a riparian corridor.

          Another project of concern is along State Highway 270 where private resources are trying to establish a complex of an RV park, campground, store and employee residences. Property is in the course of being purchased fore this activity. This, too, is a sensitive area where numerous species migrate or traverse. Of greatest consequence would be the influx of humans bringing with them all the traffic and trash of our species.

          Today Bodie faces another hurdle in the form of severely decreased funding due to California ’s budgetary crisis. Much of the stabilization efforts have been curbed if not halted. Unfortunately, several buildings are still in critical condition and may possibly collapse in the near future.  

          One such structure is the Wheaton-Hollis Hotel on the corner of Main and Green Streets. It contains numerous historic objects such as the billiard table that sits in plain view through the large glass doors at the front of the building. Other things include the hotel furniture, a large kitchen filled with implements, the assayer’s office complete with kiln, bottles and scales, a safe and telephone switchboard which are also prominently visible. Attached to the hotel is the brick power plant holding the huge Roseklip Mine generators and transformers. The collapse of this place would mean the ruin of one of Bodie’s most recognizable edifices.

          Efforts are underway to raise funding for work to avert this disaster. At present the outcome is yet to be determined.                      

Jill Lachman has written more about Bodie State Historic Park in the winter 1994/1995 edition of  the Magazine of the California Historical Society: California History.  Her article and photography is titled Golden Promises, Abandoned Dreams: A Brief History and Portfolio of Photographs of Bodie, California .   


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