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Death Valley Junction

Amargosa
Old buildings in the Historic District
Old buildings in the Historic District
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Coordinates: 36°18′08″N 116°24′49″W / 36.30222°N 116.41361°W / 36.30222; -116.41361Coordinates: 36°18′08″N 116°24′49″W / 36.30222°N 116.41361°W / 36.30222; -116.41361
Country United States
State California
County Inyo County
Elevation
2,041 ft (622 m)
FIPS code 06-18212
GNIS feature ID 1656477
Death Valley Junction Historic District
Amargosa Opera House.jpg
Location CA 127 and CA 190, Death Valley Junction, California
Built 1923
Architect Alexander H. McCulloch
Architectural style Mission/Spanish Revival
NRHP reference No. 80000802
Added to NRHP December 10, 1980

Death Valley Junction, more commonly known as Amargosa (Spanish for "Bitter"), is a tiny Mojave Desert unincorporated community in Inyo County, California, at the intersection of SR 190 and SR 127, in the Amargosa Valley and just east of Death Valley National Park. The zip code is 92328, the elevation is 2,041 ft (622 m), and the population is fewer than 4.

Death Valley Junction is home to the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, where resident Marta Becket staged dance and mime shows from the late 1960s until her last show in February 2012. Becket died in 2017. The hotel is still operating next to the opera house, but beyond these maintained areas, the town is in a state of disrepair. There is no gas station, and only one restaurant, the Amargosa Cafe. The town is owned by the non-profit Amargosa Opera House Inc. which runs the Opera House, Hotel, and cafe

The community's location, 27 miles (43 km) east-southeast of Furnace Creek, on the east side of Death Valley is south of Nevada's Amargosa Valley and near Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. East/South East, 27 miles, is Pahrump, Nevada. South on SR127 is the town of Shoshone, California. The closest straight-line distance to the Nevada state line is roughly five miles northeast.

Government documents show an effort by the Timbisha Shoshone tribal government to acquire about 7,200 acres (29 km2) in the area during 1999 to 2000. This includes areas for residences and the official federal sanction to use some government lands for traditional ceremonies.

History

In 1914, the Death Valley Railroad started operating between Ryan, California and Death Valley Junction. It carried borax until 1928, when operations ceased. The name of the town was changed to Death Valley Junction from Amargosa (bitter in Spanish, most likely meaning "bitter water", as the Spanish words agua and amargosa are feminine). From 1923 to 1925 the Pacific Coast Borax Company constructed buildings in the town, hiring architect Alexander Hamilton McCulloch to design a Spanish Colonial Revival whistle stop centered at the hotel, theater and office complex building, now known as the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel.

The town began to decline in the mid-20th century. However, in 1967 dancer and actress Marta Becket happened to visit due to an automobile repair. She became enamored with the theater, and with help from benefactors, she leased, then purchased, the hotel and theater complex. The Amargosa is now owned by a non-profit organization.

The Death Valley post office opened in 1908 and transferred to Furnace Creek Ranch in 1961. The Amargosa post office opened in 1962, changed its name to Death Valley Junction in 1968.

In 1980 the town was included in the National Register of Historic Places as the "Death Valley Junction Historic District."

When the Death Valley Railroad was established in 1914, it used 3.19 miles (5.13 km) of tracks belonging to the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad east-southeast of Death Valley Junction to Horton.

Telephone history

Death valley junct coin
The bottom instruction card of Death Valley Junction #2, a non-dial Western Electric 1A1 coin collector located at the Amagosa Opera House. Number detail on instruction card says, "619+Death Valley Junction #2." (Photo was taken in the late 1970s.)

Local wired telephones were manual telephone service until the 1980s. To reach a phone in Death Valley Junction when the area was under manual service required dialing the operator and asking for "Death Valley Junction, California, Toll Station" (and the one-digit number). Placing an outbound call required lifting the receiver and waiting for an operator. The operator who answered was in Los Angeles (over 150 miles away). Death Valley Junction is now in area codes 442 and 760.

Notable people

  • "Shotgun" Kitty Tubb - wife of the original owner of the town, Robert Tubb
  • Marta Becket - retired actress, dancer, choreographer and painter
  • Harry Rosenberg - engineer who was instrumental in creating useful alloys of titanium
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