This was the home of the superintendent of the Beck Mercury Mine, an obscure outpost in the heart of the Mojave. The picture’s OK, but it seems a little static–not one of my favorites.
I like this one better:
This one has even more issues photographically than Mercury Falling, but I think the way the wire and plaster seem to float in space lend some visual interest to the image. But it’s not the window and plaster that I like best. It’s the vintage beer bottle caps and newspaper that are visible along the edge of the window.
They were incorporated into the original construction of the wall, and serve as clues about its history. We know that the builders were partial to Lucky Lager and Burgie beers. And the newspapers help tell us when our beer-drinking miners were out here.
No dates are visible in the scraps of newsprint, but the illustrations and the prices in the ads for Los Angeles department stores suggest the 1930’s. The snippets of news stories are almost all about the war in Europe—a war that the US is not yet involved in. One story in particular lends even more precision. It tells of the closing of the Franco-Suisse border. A Google search reveals that happened on September 08, 1939. From that, it’s pretty reasonable to guess the house was built in the fall of 1939—after the heat of the Mojave summer, and before winter could bring the freezing winds down off the Sierras.
All of this helps give this otherwise hopelessly anonymous structure a history and a personality. The structure’s not in great shape, but if it can hang on until next fall, it will be 75 years old. If it’s still standing, I will go back and try to do it some photographic justice. In the meantime, and just in case it’s gone by then, raise a cold Lucky and join me in wishing an early “Happy Anniversary!” to the ghosts of the Beck Mercury Mine.