I was delighted to discover the Bottle House in the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada last week. Built during the gold rush boom, it is 104 years old this year.
Tom Kelly built his L-shaped, gingerbread trimmed house from adobe and 5,100 bottles, most of them Busch beer bottle empties from the 5o saloons in town at the time. All the exterior walls are made of bottles. It would be fantastic if you could see light through the bottles when inside the house but I was told that the inside walls are covered with plaster and lathe. It took Kelly a year and a half to build the three room house.
The house was inhabited until 1969 by Tommy Thompson who raised eight children there and built an incredible village of miniature buildings for them to play with, studded with broken glass and china, and bottle caps in the back yard. The little houses are decaying badly and the “lawn” is littered with glass shards.
The Bottle House was recently restored in 2005 and is one of the very few houses that are still standing intact in Rhyolite today.
I was fascinated by the colors of the bottles, juxtaposed against the adobe, the curved roofline and decorative turned posts. But I’m not sure I’d want to live there in the dead of summer!