A California ghost town sells for $22.6 million to mysterious company

A woman at right walks past a row of boarded-up single-story homes. A mountain range is on the horizon.

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One of California’s biggest ghost towns has been sold to a mysterious buyer whose plans are unclear.

Eagle Mountain , located in Riverside County near the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, was once a bustling iron mine. The 10,000-acre site has sold for nearly $22.6 million, according to Securities and Exchange Commission records.

For decades, the mine and company town around it have been abandoned, occasionally used in films like Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”

After a visit in 2017, Bettina Boxall of The Times described the landscape:

Just beyond the southeast corner of Joshua Tree National Park, rows of boarded-up houses, gouged mountainsides and concrete ruins are an ugly reminder of the never-ending battle over the West’s public lands.

— Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times

After World War II, Kaiser Steel began mining operations in Eagle Mountain and created a company town whose population reached the thousands. Over three decades, the company blasted millions of tons of iron ore from the mountainsides, shipping it by rail to its steel plant in Fontana.

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With the decline of steel manufacturing, the mine and town shut down in 1983. A private company tried and failed to convert it to the Eagle Mountain Landfill and Recycling Center.

In 2000, Los Angeles County went into escrow to buy the land for $41 million for use as what would have been the country’s largest landfill. But the plan was caught in a decades-long legal battle and never came to fruition.

“It’s been a sordid history,” Mark Butler, a former Joshua Tree superintendent, told The Times in 2017.

In 2015, Eagle Crest Energy Co. bought the land and attained a license to build a $2.5-billion hydro power plant in the former mine. The plan faced pushback from conservation groups over the possible depletion of groundwater.

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Aug. 7, 2017

On Oct. 12, 2022, Eagle Crest Energy Co. submitted an amended hydroelectric application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, seeking to change the project’s boundary.

A representative for Eagle Crest Energy Co. did not immediately respond to request for comment. The project’s website remains active.

Iron structures led to a a rusted metal building with arid, rocky mountain above it.

An SEC filing describes the next development in the property’s saga as taking place April 17, when Eagle Mountain Acquisitions sold what it called Kaiser Eagle Mountain to Ecology Mountain Holdings. The price: $22,580,000.

The sale of the land was first reported by SF Gate .

For now, the buyer’s motive remains a mystery. The listed agent for Ecology Mountain Holdings, a Cerritos-based limited liability company that incorporated in March, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levi Vincent, president of the Greater Palm Springs Film Office , which coordinates movie and television shoots at the mine, said he has been in contact with the new buyer.

“We’re going to continue to operate as normal,” he said, offering no more information about the transaction.

The land, once part of Joshua Tree National Monument, is almost surrounded by the national park. Conservationists have long argued that the land should have been returned to the park after mining stopped in 1983.

Times staff writers Bettina Boxall and Sammy Roth contributed to this report.

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bought a ghost town in california

Terry Castleman is a data reporter on the Fast Break Desk covering breaking news. In 2020, he was named alongside his colleagues as a Pulitzer Prize finalist in explanatory reporting . Previously, he worked at the New York Times and volunteered as a first responder for refugees arriving on the shores of Lesvos.

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Mystery buyer purchases California ghost town for $22.5 million

bought a ghost town in california

Eagle Mountain, Calif., sits nestled just outside the Joshua Tree National Park, about three hours east of Los Angeles. No one has lived there for roughly 40 years, but a mysterious buyer just paid $22.58 million for the ghost town .

The 10,000-acre site has been a go-to location for filmmakers, with key scenes in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me having been shot there. Late last month, though, a company called Ecology Mountain Holdings bought the property. Its plans for the area remain unclear.

Eagle Mountain was, at one time, a company town for Kaiser Steel’s mining operations. Thousands of workers used to call it home, after a day of excavating ire ore from nearby mountainsides. By 1983, though, the mine had shut down—and the town with it, leaving the remains of hundreds of stucco and plaster homes and a 350-seat recreation hall to the ravages of time.

Beyond its onscreen appearances, the land has been targeted for many projects, none of which has ever really come to long-term fruition. In 2000, Los Angeles County bought the land for $41 million , with designs of using it as a landfill, but that failed after a long legal battle.

Fifteen years later, there was talk of building a hydropower plant in the area, but conservation groups scuttled those plans. And for a short time, it housed a correctional facility, but that closed in 2003 after a riot.

Ecology Mountain Holdings doesn’t have a notable presence in California, beyond a business address in Cerritos. SFGate reports that it’s best known for its trucking fleet, which utilizes large red rigs.

A website for Ecology Transportation Services, which shares the Cerritos address, says the trucks are used “for bulk waste, recyclables, heavy haul/oversize loads, and containers to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.”

One possible hint about Ecology’s plans could lie in nearby Desert Center (about a half-hour south of the ghost town). In 2021, trucking giant Balwinder S. Wraich purchased more than 1,000 acres there , with plans to build a truck stop, gas station, hotel and fast food restaurants.

“My goal is to get something big in the next two years,” he told SFGate . “It’s going to help the community.”

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Mystery buyer purchases California ghost town for $22.5 million

By Elizabeth Napolitano

May 22, 2023 / 12:10 PM / MoneyWatch

What's the going price for a town full of crumbling buildings and tumbleweeds nestled in the heart of the California desert? Big bucks, it turns out.

A mystery buyer on April 17 paid roughly $22.5 million for the property and mining claims of Eagle Mountain, a former iron-mining town, according to a recent regulatory  filing .

Little is known about the ghost town's buyer, Ecology Mountain Holdings. The California-based company snapped up the decaying desert town from Eagle Mountain Acquisition, the last of several mining company subsidiaries that owned the land, SFGate reported . Its plans for the vast property remain unclear. 

Ecology Mountain Holdings did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment. 

Eagle Mountain, founded in 1948, served as a bustling company town for Kaiser Steel Mine until its closure in the 1980s. The mining company extracted iron ore from the nearby hills, which was converted into steel. At its peak, the town had more than 4,000 residents, boasting a shopping center, several churches, three schools and more than a dozen businesses, the town's website shows.  

In 1981, Kaiser announced it would wind down and eventually cease all activities at its Eagle Mountain site, forcing community members to move. The mine had wracked up consecutive years of steel operations losses, the New York Times reported at the time. 

That wasn't the end of Eagle Mountain, however. The town's cafe, bowling alley and other buildings would later be integrated into Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, a low-security prison that opened in 1988. The facility served more that 400 inmates, but closed after a deadly prison riot in 2003 over a viewing of that year's World Series. 


Since the prison closed down, Eagle Mountain has remained uninhabited but not necessarily abandoned. The site is popular with urban explorers, Youtube videos show. It has also served as a backdrop for Hollywood movies and music videos. Fourteen movies, including Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" and Michael Bay's "The Island" have been filmed at the site, according to IMBD . Carole King also shot the music video for her 1993 song "Lay Down My Life" in the town's cafe. 

Eagle Mountain isn't the only deserted community that has attracted interest in the real estate market. In 2021, trucking businessman Balwinder S. Wraich snapped up more than 1,000 acres of Desert Center, a neighboring town that shares a road with Eagle Mountain. The mogul plans to build a truck stop, gas station and hotel on the deserted swath of land, SFGate reported. 

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Who bought this california ghost town — and why.

A ghost town near Joshua Tree in Riverside County just sold to a mystery buyer for $22.6 million, unleashing a flurry of speculation. SEC filings show the 10,000-acre site known as Eagle Mountain was bought by Ecology Mountain Holdings, LLC on April 17.

We don’t know who owns Ecology Mountain Holdings, but we know the company is based out of Cerritos, California. Cerritos is also home to a big rig company called Ecology Transportation Services, but it’s not clear if they’re one and the same. 

Eagle Mountain became an iron mining town when Kaiser Steel started operations there after World War II. The mine shut down in 1983 — just another victim of the U.S. steel industry’s decline. Plans for the site came and went, but the proposals (landfill, recycling center etc.) never came to fruition. 

The last known proposal was a $2.5-billion hydropower facility to be built by Eagle Crest Energy Co. Conservation groups immediately raised objections, citing groundwater depletion. Eagle Crest finally unloaded the property plus its mining claims to the mystery buyer, even though its website remains active.  

What’s the end game here? Lithium mining? Casino? A new season of Schitt’s Creek?

Ecology Mountain Holdings hasn’t responded to media requests so, for now, we’re kept in suspense.

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I Bought a Ghost Town

This abandoned California mining village once had 400 buildings. Now I'm restoring the 20 that remain.

In 2018, Brent Underwood submitted a winning, $1.4 million bid on a network of dried-up silver mines in Southern California. The property includes 336 acres of high-desert terrain and the remains of a mining boomtown called Cerro Gordo, or “Fat Hill.”

After Covid-19 hit, Underwood moved from his home in Austin, TX, to live at Cerro Gordo full-time. Now he’s the sole inhabitant of a genuine Wild West artifact.

The plan back then was basically the same as it is now: We want to turn the old mining town into an off-beat hospitality destination and artist retreat. Things just haven’t run as smoothly as we’d hoped.

Originally we talked about soft-launching a few cabins on AirBnB by Halloween 2019, but logistical challenges, a catastrophic fire , and a national pandemic have continued to push that date back. Now here we are a year later, still not open to guests, and for the past six months, I’ve lived at Cerro Gordo alone.

This isn’t how I imagined my life, but I’m not complaining. Despite the challenges, I’ve never been happier. I feel a real connection to the town’s Wild West history: Miners started settling Cerro Gordo in the 1800s, and Butch Cassidy is said to have spent time here hiding out from the law. I have a view of Mt. Whitney on one side and Death Valley on the other, and every day I explore abandoned mines and hunt for artifacts left behind by the men who worked here.

The more time I spend at Cerro Gordo, the more I fall in love, and now when I leave to stock up on groceries or gather supplies, I immediately want to come back. But it’s hard work bringing a ghost town back to life. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

abandoned mining town

Life without water is low-key torture.

Cerro Gordo dried up years ago when Los Angeles redirected its water supply and drained Owens Lake, which used to sit just below the town. The initiative was part of the aqueduct program that inspired the movie Chinatown , and now I have to truck water up the gravel road in limited supplies.

You can imagine life without running faucets, but living it everyday is another story. With no plumbing, I use an outhouse and wash my hands in a bowl. To shower, I warm a rubber bag of water in the sun and then let it dribble down on me from above. I long for a sink, a washing machine, and a garden hose.

.css-gc4gkk{font-family:Placard,Placard-robotoFallback,Placard-localFallback,Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif;font-size:1.625rem;line-height:1.2;margin:0rem;padding:0.9rem 1rem 1rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-gc4gkk{font-size:1.9375rem;line-height:1;}}@media(min-width: 48rem){.css-gc4gkk{font-size:2.1875rem;line-height:1;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-gc4gkk{font-size:2.1875rem;line-height:1;}}.css-gc4gkk b,.css-gc4gkk strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-gc4gkk em,.css-gc4gkk i{font-family:inherit;font-style:italic;} The lift cable could break. The walls could cave in around us. I was terrified.

I’d heard stories about water leaking into one of the mines. Legend had it there was a sump 700 feet underground, with an old pump that stopped working. The problem was, the lift to go down and inspect the situation is 150 years old, and almost everybody I spoke to told me it was too dangerous to use. Especially since there was no guarantee that water was still there.

But time wore me down, and I had to find out. So I put together a team with an electrician, a lift operator, and a Cerro Gordo old-timer who’d been down the shaft years ago. As the hoist started dropping us, the guy looked at me and said, “Brent, you got to figure that every time you go down is your last.” The lift cable could break. The walls could cave in around us. I was terrified. It took nearly an hour for the rickety old lift to drop us 700 feet.

But when we arrived, we found it. The water was there. We swapped out the old chemical pump for a new one, and I now have running water into my personal cabin.

Of course, I’ll still have to truck water in for guests. The flowrate on the new pump is pretty slow, given that it’s pushing water hundreds of feet vertically. And it’s still 700 feet underground, so if it malfunctions, I can’t exactly pop down and fix it.

Still, finding that water was probably the most exciting day I've had here in two years.

Fire is a constant threat.

In its heyday, Cerro Gordo had 400 wooden buildings. Today it has just 20, and most of that loss is likely due to fire from lightning strikes or shoddy electricity.

Earlier this year, as we were close to opening a couple of the cabins for guests, I woke up to find The American Hotel, the crown jewel of Cerro Gordo, engulfed in flames. It was the result of too many amateur electricians tinkering with wiring over the years. Something sparked, and the old wood caught like kindling.

We were lucky it happened while nobody was sleeping in it, but we were devastated at the loss of our most prized building. We had to delay opening further to clean the mess and implement fire safety in the existing buildings.

A couple hundred years from now, I hope people think about the fire of 2020 as just another chapter in Cerro Gordo history. With our new plan, we’ll rebuild The American Hotel as authentically as possible. We’ll replicate the interior and use 100-year-old period wood on the facade. But this time, we’ll have a sprinkler system. Everything will be up to modern code. There will be six rooms, and we hope to have them open by next summer.

abandoned mining town

Even ghost towns have WiFi.

One of the nearby mountains has a cell tower, so I’m able to pick up spotty internet service using an AT&T hotspot. It’s not enough to stream anything, but I can work my day job remotely—I’m a partner at a creative marketing firm. And I’m able to share Cerro Gordo with the world.

Seven months ago, after a friend kept asking how it was to live here, I posted a few YouTube videos. My first one now has more than four million views, and it caught the attention of some other big creators.

That’s allowed me to help build some attention around the mining town, which will help when I eventually have the hotel open. FaZe Clan, which are like the Yankees of Esports, came out and shot some video. And Sam and Colby, these paranormal guys, came out looking for treasure. One of them recommended that I start posting my daily mine adventures on TikTok. I followed the advice, and within a month, I had a million followers.

Local pride is a vital resource.

Lone Pine is about 25 miles away from Cerro Gordo, and further on up Highway 395, you come across Independence and Bishop. Some of the locals in those towns really want to see Cerro Gordo succeed. They grew up hiking the property and visiting the old buildings, so they understand the potential.

After the fire, some of those locals saw me struggling out here alone, and they just started showing up. Some volunteered time, and others offered equipment. The guy who owns the local tow shop lent me his Bobcat, and we have an architect doing building plans for free. It’s incredibly inspiring, and we’re making a tremendous amount of progress. The new hotel, along with a new office, is already under construction. And it’s all because of the goodwill from the local community. They’ve rallied behind Cerro Gordo.

abandoned mining town

There’s always more to discover.

There was a time when I thought I’d been to every mine on the property, but then my friend—the same old-timer who helped me fix the water pump—asked, “You ever been to San Lucas?”

I hadn’t, and for good reason. Years ago, it turns out, he purposely hid the trail that leads the way. After showing me his first secret mine, he showed me five or six others that I never would have found on my own. That rejuvenated my hunt, and now I dedicate a fair amount of time to finding hidden mines.

I start by scanning mountainsides from across the valley. I look for tailing piles, which are the mounds of rock deposited outside the portal, or entrance. When I find a pile, I pinpoint a nearby landmark that looks like a good spot to start my hike in, and then I head for that spot.

Often I arrive to find that the portal’s collapsed. It’s frustrating when you walk an hour to a mine only to learn you can’t enter. But as I’ve grown more comfortable with mine exploration, I’ve started to occasionally dig out the entrances. There are some mines where you can march right in, and others where you dig a hole and then squeeze yourself through.

There’s one mine right now that I’ve been digging at for two weeks with a loader. I’m determined to get in, and I’m slowly getting close to where the entrance should be. If need be, the former caretaker has a dynamite license. I’ll call him out to blast the rest of the way in.


Looking for your own Cerro Gordo? Start here.

1. Let People Know You’re Looking

A report from the analytics company GeoTab counts more than 3,800 ghost towns still standing in America. But they don’t usually receive much attention when they hit the market, says Underwood. Weird property news generally travels fastest by word of mouth.

Before he discovered Cerro Gordo, for instance, Underwood told people he was looking for a challenging hospitality project. One day, out of the blue, a friend texted him the listing along with a note: “lol, this might be up your alley.” The friend was correct.

2. Go for Broke

After contacting the broker, Underwood discovered that a hundred or so people had already expressed interest. So he entered a bid he couldn’t afford: $1.4 million, all cash. It was 50% over asking price, and he committed to closing the deal in seven days.

“The problem was I didn’t have even 10% of $1.4 million,” he says. “And no bank is going to lend money on a ghost town with no running water and no foreseeable way to generate revenue.”

abandoned mining town

The seller accepted the offer, and Underwood wired over a non-refundable $50,000 deposit. Then he and his partner, Jon Bier, called everyone in their networks to raise money. They managed to hit the goal only through the help of a short-term hard-money loan that came in after 4 p.m. on their scheduled closing day.

If the property’s that rare, that’s the kind of commitment you’ll probably need.

3. Think Beyond the Wild West

Underwood wasn’t looking specifically for an abandoned mining town. He just wanted something with a rich history, and if you take that approach, you’ll find more inventory. “Somebody just texted me a Craigslist listing for an old library in Vermont that has 50,000 books from the 1700s onward,” says Underwood. “It has nine rooms, and it’s potentially haunted.”

That, he says, is the kind of property with value beyond its rickety structure. “People aren’t interested in Cerro Gordo because of the old buildings,” he says. They’re interested because it was the largest mining town in California, and it’s the source of so much mystery and lore. “If I were looking for another property, I would find one like that.”

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California Ghost Town Purchased for $22.5 Million By Mysterious Buyer

By Charlotte Collins

Boarded up homes in ghost town Eagle Mountain California

Three hours outside of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles is a lot of desert land, largely uninhabited for the past two decades. The ghost town is known as Eagle Mountain, and though it hasn’t been the site of much in the way of quotidian goings-on, a mysterious buyer known as Ecology Mountain Holdings saw fit to scoop up the vacant property for a whopping $22.5 million late last month, according to  SF Gate .

Despite the zip code’s relative lack of action in recent years, it does have some interesting ties to its movie star neighbor to the west: Christopher Nolan filmed scenes from his mind-bending 2020 thriller  Tenet  in the ghost town. SF Gate reports that several foreman still live in the area to keep watch over the dusty lot, in case of any trespassers. Eagle Mountain has attracted a number of bloggers in recent years. Many have posted videos to YouTube recounting their illicit trips into the uninhabited plot for curious viewers, giving an eerie look into the town’s abandoned railroad tracks and empty streets. 

Aerial shot of ghost town Eagle Mountain

The remainder of Eagle Mountain’s dwindling population departed with the closure of a prison in 2003, which had employed most of the now ghost town’s residents at the time.

Though the area itself has proved haunting enough to inspire a bit of intrigue from internet denizens, its new owners have only added to the ghost town ’s spooky lore. The intentions behind Ecology Mountain Holdings’ purchase are shrouded in mystery. Public information about the buyer reveals very little; SF Gate notes a business address in Cerritos, California—a three-hour drive from Eagle Mountain—as one of the few publicly available details about the LLC.

Formerly a mining town, the majority of the area’s 4,000 residents were employed by Kaiser Steel in its heyday. It was founded by industrialist Henry J. Kaiser in 1948 and, over the years that followed, saw three schools, a community swimming pool, several churches, and a baseball diamond set up for the families of those working to extract iron ore from the nearby mountains. 

One person standing among empty singlefloor structures at sunset mountains in backdrop

A 2003 look at the ghost town as its final residents prepared to leave, following the prison’s closure.

The miners broke records for their output throughout the boom of its peak years, but by the 1970s foreign competition and looming environmental concerns led to cutbacks, reduction in population, and its eventual phasing out. Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, established in the 1980s, injected some life back into the town but was shut down by the California Department of Corrections in 2003 following a fatal riot. 

The New York Times reported the stories on the local high school’s final graduating class in 1983. “It’s like a piece of your heart is being ripped out,” one of the seniors, Vicky Yates, told the Times. “But for me, Eagle Mountain is still going to be home.”

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Eagle Mountain, Calif., one of America's best-preserved ghost towns, sold for millions

bought a ghost town in california

Eagle Mountain, a former mining town rife with abandoned structures in the California desert, has been bought for more than $20 million.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents indicate the ghost town was sold in late April for $22.5 million. The buyer is listed as Ecology Mountain Holdings, a little-known LLC with an address in Southern California's Cerritos.

The company is registered to Aaron Siroonian, who the Desert Sun was unable to reach for comment. Siroonian appears to be connected to a number of other businesses under the 'Ecology' name dealing with recycling and auto parts. The documents reveal Ecology Mountain Holdings secured not only the real property but the mining claims to the town with its purchase.

Founded in 1948 by Henry J. Kaiser, a famed industrialist, Eagle Mountain is located east of the Coachella Valley, just off the border of Joshua Tree National Park. The town once had a population of thousands , many of whom worked at the Kaiser-owned iron mine, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, part of the USA TODAY Network. By the 1980s, however, iron had become an environmental concern and the once-booming town began to fold.

When the Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, a low-security private prison was opened in 1988, the town had a brief resurgence. However, a riot at the prison forced it to shutter in 2003, the Desert Sun reports. The arid, abandoned space eventually settled into its status as a ghost town, enjoying the rare glimmer of Hollywood fame when it is used as a backdrop for futuristic or dystopian films.

Ecology Mountain Holdings has not publicly revealed any plans for the town.

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They Bought a Ghost Town for $1.4 Million. Now They Want to Revive It.

The American Hotel, in the ghost town of Cerro Gordo, looking out toward the Sierra Nevada in California in 2006. On Friday, the town was sold for $1.4 million to investors who plan to restore it.

By Melissa Gomez

  • July 18, 2018

In Cerro Gordo, a town nestled in the Inyo Mountains of California, near Death Valley, there’s a single saloon with swinging doors, two out-of-tune pianos and a mysterious bloodstain on the wall beneath three bullet holes.

It’s one of Brent Underwood’s favorite places in the ghost town, and now that he owns it, he plans on sharing it with the world. (He’s still trying to learn the story behind the bloodstain.)

On Friday, Mr. Underwood and his friend Jon Bier became the latest owners of Cerro Gordo, which translates to “fat hill,” after buying it for $1.4 million. They plan to restore the town while preserving its past, Mr. Underwood said, adding that they hope to attract a variety of visitors. He said they expected to spend about $1 million to get things started.

Jake Rasmuson of Bishop Real Estate said that he received hundreds of inquiries after the sale was announced in early June. Twelve of the offers were serious, he said, noting that the original asking price was $925,000.

The previous owners of Cerro Gordo, who prefer to remain anonymous, are brothers who had inherited the town from their family, Mr. Rasmuson said. They felt it was the right time in their lives to sell the town, but they wanted to preserve its long history, he said.

They felt that the offer from Mr. Underwood and Mr. Bier, while not the highest bid, aligned with their hope, Mr. Rasmuson said.

“The sellers really liked their vision,” he said, adding that they closed the sale on Friday the 13th in “true ghost town fashion.”

The town, which is about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, is just over 300 acres. It is known for its part in Wild West history and used to average about a murder a week during the 1870s, the height of the mining era, Mr. Rasmuson said.

The property includes houses, an eight-bed bunkhouse, a church that also serves as a small theater, a general store and a museum. As with any credible ghost town, there have also been reported ghost sightings, he said.

Mr. Underwood, 31, heard about the sale from a friend. As founder of HK Austin, a hostel located in Austin, Tex., he had been looking for other opportunities for a place that could combine his passions of hospitality and history.

He researched the town and read books about its history. About three weeks ago, he flew out to meet with the owners and Mr. Rasmuson. He toured the town and met its current caretaker, Robert Desmarais, who will continue to live there as they restore buildings.

In 1865 a man named Pablo Flores discovered silver at the site , near where Mexicans had been searching for precious metals, and he began mining operations there, according to the town’s website. By 1869, the town became the largest producer of silver and lead in the state, until falling prices and setbacks ended most of the activity.

It was revived once more in the early 1900s, when high-grade zinc was excavated, and Cerro Gordo became the largest producer of zinc carbonates in the United States, according to the site. But by 1920, only about 10 men were employed by a Cerro Gordo mining company.

By the 1950s, the town was largely abandoned. In the mid-2000s, the owner at the time tried to restore parts of the town with the help of volunteers. He also catered to large parties in the American Hotel, a two-story building attached to the saloon.

Mr. Desmarais is currently the only resident in town, but Mr. Underwood said his plan is to soon make it comfortable enough for more groups to stay. He said that Mr. Desmarais had recently installed a water pump in the bunkhouse, which will be the first building restored.

Some of the plans include creating a music studio within the bunkhouse for musicians and building an observation deck in the town, Mr. Underwood said. On the night they closed the deal, he said, he saw shooting stars in the clear skies.

Mr. Underwood, who lives in Austin, plans on moving to Cerro Gordo in August, managing his hostel from afar as he and Mr. Bier restore the town. The first year will likely be a labor of love, he said.

“We might get quite a bit more done because there’s not too many distractions when you’re up miles away from anybody else,” he said.

From a balcony in the hotel, Mr. Underwood said, Mount Whitney is visible. On the other side of town, Death Valley National Park is within view.

The saloon, with its wood stove and antique bottles, is an experience unique to the town, Mr. Underwood said. He said he hoped to attract both individual travelers and groups on retreats.

“You very much feel like you’re back in time,” he said.

Follow Melissa Gomez on Twitter: @MelissaGomez004 .

A Historic Ghost Town in California Is Up for Sale

By emily petsko | jun 10, 2018.

Nolan Nitschke

For just shy of $1 million, a ghost town in California’s majestic Inyo Mountains could be yours. Cerro Gordo, a 19th-century mining town that served as the “silver thread” to Los Angeles, is now up for sale via Bishop Real Estate in Bishop, California.

Located in Owens Valley near the town of Lone Pine, the $925,000 property comes with over 300 acres of land, mineral rights, and no shortage of peace and quiet. There are 22 structures on site, including a historic hotel, bunkhouse, saloon, chapel, and museum—plus all of the artifacts that come with it.

“The site has been extremely well protected from diggers, artifact looters, and Mother Nature herself,” reads the listing, posted on a website specially created for the property that's aptly named ghosttownforsale.com . “Restoration has been undertaken on most of the buildings, and the rest are in a state of protected arrested decay.”

The town of Cerro Gordo has been privately owned for decades, but the family who owns it “felt it was the right time to sell it,” real estate agent Jake Rasmuson tells Mental Floss. No conditions are attached to the purchase of the property, but Rasmuson says “one would hope that some of the history would be maintained and that it would still be open to the public.”

Walking tours of the property can be booked via Cerro Gordo’s website , and those will continue to be offered until the property is sold. The listing was just posted online a week ago, but Rasmuson said the property has already received “quite a bit of interest,” mostly from history lovers who have visited the site before.

Cerro Gordo, meaning “Fat Hill,” received its name from Mexican miners who combed through the area in search of silver before it became a commercial mine, according to the town's website. In 1865, a prospector named Pablo Flores started a mining operation at the nearby Buena Vista Peak. It didn’t take long for word to spread, and within two years prospectors were flocking to Cerro Gordo.

A businessman named Mortimer Belshaw is the man who really put the town on the map, though. In 1868, he brought the first batch of silver to Los Angeles and later built a toll road to supply the burgeoning industry. Within a year, the mine was the largest producer of silver and lead in California.

“If you look at the history of Cerro Gordo, it was really instrumental in the expansion of Los Angeles,” Rasmuson says. One of structures on the Cerro Gordo property—the Belshaw bunkhouse—still carries on his legacy.

It wasn’t until the 1880s that the mine was finally abandoned after being hit by a fire and falling silver prices. (However, mining operations were revived in 1905 and continued for a couple of decades.)

The town may be peaceful now, but it wasn’t always so. In the 1860s and ’70s, the town saw a murder per week, according to a Los Angeles Times article from 2006 about the restoration of the property. The property’s late owner, Michael Patterson, told the newspaper that the only sound for miles around “is the whistle of the wind blowing through all the bullet holes in every building up here."

For those who aren't afraid of ghosts, this little slice of Wild West paradise might just be the perfect place to live. Keep scrolling to see more photos and a video of the property.

bought a ghost town in california


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