As I traveled out through the Mojave Desert, on what probably will be my last desert excursion of the season (well except for Milky Way shooting), I went through Twentynine Palms on my way to Route 66 and Amboy California. Just outside Twentynine Palms I noticed a ton of small desert shacks, all mostly abandoned, in an area called Wonder Valley. It made me “wonder”, “Why were they there?”
Looking into it, I found that Wonder Valley was, in the 1950’s, an area of land the federal government thought useless and then well, why not basically give it away. So through the Bureau of Land Management’s Small Tract Act. They sold 5 acre plots of desert land for $10 – $20 an acre. The only condition was that landowners needed to improve the land which meant adding a house. So a small ahem “Cottage” industry grew and people either built their own or there were companies that would build, basically at the time, Pre-fab although maybe that’s not the right word but more just predesigned houses. They became known as Jackrabbit Houses.
So thousands of people applied for “Homesteads” and many were approved. The house, really just weekend getaways for people from Los Angeles, were small. They were able to get electricity to the homes but water had to be brought in, which explained why the few I explored inside did not have running water or well…bathrooms. There’s always the 5 acres for that.:)
But life in the desert is rough even if you do have modern conveniences and soon most of the homesteads were abandoned with a few people toughing it out and even a few new people, mostly artists, taking up residence in Wonder Valley.
So thus exists another bit of Abandoned America, more dreams that don’t turn out that way. Although many people enjoyed their time out there in the 50’s it takes a true hearty soul to endure and thrive in that environ.
All we have left is…Small Houses
Here are just a few…I wish I had shot more but I was in a hurry to get to Amboy thinking that was “The Shoot” turns out… this was
Thanks to Kim Stringfellow who has done extensive research on this area and all things Mojave. Check her out here Kim Stringfellow
What’s interesting about this next home is that I found the original advertisement for it online “The Cactus”
I had to leave this next one in color… just cuz