TOM KELLY'S BOTTLE HOUSE

The largest of three built in Rhyolite

Bottle House 2005

The Bottle House was rehabilitated in 2005. The foundation was stabilized, bottles replaced, the board covering the attic section of the Bottle House was removed and new bottles placed where they belonged. The South Wall was stabilized so that it was no longer necessary to have a brace holding it up. I think it may last for another 100 years now. Thank you to Central Nevada Museum and Beatty Museum (released Friends of Rhyolite's Bottles with their permission) for the period bottles that repaired the house.


Now this place has a lot of history behind it! It was one of three bottle houses to be built in Rhyolite. But you have to say that Mr. Kelly had the largest! Most of the bottles used were Adulphous Busch, (You know, it's known as Budweiser today!) anyway, there are a few patent medicine bottles that were used also. Did you know that they used opium in patent medicines in the early 1900's? (It really did make you feel better, but I am not sure that it cured anything!) Unfortunately, a lot of people who used the medicines became addicted to them. That was a big problem in some of these mining towns. (Some of the stories I could tell you about the people around here! But that's for another time.)

Everyone laughed and had a grand time as they brought their old bottles here for Mr. Kelly to build with, and of course, he retrieved most of them from the saloons in town. There were over 53 saloons here so bottles were easy to come by. I guess it was a good thing though, you see, this was not the only house built of bottles in Rhyolite. Just about 100 yards behind this one was Mr. and Mrs. Wylies home. It was only one room but it was quite a nice little place made of beer bottles. There was also one up there by the school. That one was a little different because most of the house was underground. It was called a 'Cousin Jack' home, but the surface material other than the roof was made of bottles also.

Back to Mr. Kelly and this house. He started it in September of 1905 and had it finished just 5 1/2 months later in February of 1906. And he was 76 years old when he built it! Oh my goodness, I almost forgot to tell you that Mr. Kelly used almost 30,000 bottles before he completed his house. He did not even wash the bottles before he used them. But I guess that was because the water lines had not been laid yet. We had to buy water in those days for up to $5.00 a barrel. That was pretty expensive, so you couldn't waste it on washing bottles for building materials. I believe one of the bottles in the north wall, if you look real close, will have some crickets still left in there.

Mr. Kelly never did live in the house. He raffled it off and everyone was buying tickets. They only cost $5.00 and you might just get a nice three room house to live in. He plastered the interior of the home, so you could wallpaper or paint. You wouldn't even know that you lived in a bottle house when you were inside. The Bennet family won the drawing and lived in the Bottle House until 1914.

In 1925 Paramount Studios made a movie in Rhyolite, using the Bottle House. The town was pretty well deserted by then and a few repairs needed on the old house. The Movie was called The Airmail starring Billy Dove and Douglas Fairbanks. It is believed that they are the ones responsible for the patchwork of bottles in the back of the house. There was some confusion at the first movie, at one time it was believed to be "Wanderers of the Wasteland". Although there was a movie by this name made in Rhyolite in 1924, this was not when Paramount repaired the house. We have been fortunate to speak to the descendants of the Bennet family and Mrs. Bennet still living in the area took photographs of the picture crew working on the house during "The Airmail".

THUMB NAILS OF THE BOTTLE HOUSE
(If you don't want to look at all the photos, just scroll to the bottom of the page.)
Click on the thumbnail and it will open in a new window
1905
Bottle House 1905 Link to Larger Picture
1906
Bottle House 1906 Link to Larger Picture
1906
Bottle House 1906 Link to Larger Picture
1906
Bottle House 1906 Link to Larger Picture
1907
Bottle House 1907 Link to Larger Picture
1909
Bottle House 1909 Link to Larger Picture
1925
Bottle House 1924 Link to Larger Picture
1925
Bottle House 1924 Link to Larger Picture
1925
Bottle House 1929 Link to Larger Picture
1925
Bottle House 1924 Link to Larger Picture
1929
Bottle House 1929 Link to Larger Picture
1932
Bottle House 1932 Link to Larger Picture
The Murphy Era at the Bottle House spanned from 1936 until 1954
Now here things start to get a little murky. In Betsy' Ritters book "Life in a Ghost Town" she has a photograph and mentions a Mr. Johnson who owned the bottle house in 1939. Others state that Mr. Murphy was the first person asked by the Beatty Improvement Association to take care of the Bottle House. So for now we will assume that several unnamed people cared for the Bottle House between 1932 and 1940 and will start off again with the Murphy era. If new information comes along, I will be sure to post it. With the help of Bessie Moffat, Lewis Murphy took care of the Bottle House and invited tourists to view the townsite. This was the beginning of Rhyolite becoming a popular ghost town, and the start of the long tradition of being greeted at the Bottle House. The Thumbnails below are from the Murphy Era.
1940
Bottle House 1940 Link to Larger Picture
1940
Bottle House 1940 Link to Larger Picture
1945
Bottle House 1945 Link to Larger Picture
1945
Bottle House 1945 Link to Larger Picture
1946
Bottle House 1943 Link to Larger Picture
1948
Bottle House 1948 Link to Larger Picture
1950
Bottle House 1950 Link to Larger Picture
1951
Bottle House 1951 Link to Larger Picture
1951
Bottle House 1951 Link to Larger Picture
1952
Bottle House 1952 Link to Larger Picture
1953
Bottle House 1953 Link to Larger Picture
From 1954 until 1989 was probably the most famous part of the Bottle House history. Tommy and Mary Thompson with their grandson Evan III had charge of the Bottle House. Tommy and Mary came to Beatty in 1953 and lived in the original Beatty Ranch House. They were vaudeville performers and decided it was time to settle down. They came to the Bottle House after Mr. Murphy passed away and added their talents to the evergrowing tourist population. After Evan grew up he took care of the place until 1989. See if you remember these.
1959
Bottle House 1959 Link to Larger Picture
1961
Bottle House 1961 Link to Larger Picture
1962
Tommy at the back door of the Bottle House 1960's Link to Larger Picture
1962
Mary Thompson at the Bottle House 1960's Link to Larger Picture
1970
Bottle House 1970 Link to Larger Picture
1972
Tommy Thompson on the Bottle House Porch
1979
Tommy in the Center of Tiny Town
1980
Bottle House 1980 Link to Larger Picture
1980
Bottle House 1980 Link to Larger Picture
1986
Bottle House 1986 Link to Larger Picture
1986
Bottle House 1986 Link to Larger Picture
1986
Bottle House 1986 Link to Larger Picture
From 1990 to present, the townsite has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Clint and Ellen Boehringer started volunteering in the winter months at that time. You could find them there from November 1 until April every year. In 1996 Riley and I started volunteering in the Summer Months from April until November. We lived full time at Rhyolite and started staying over with the Boehringers to help manage the Bottle House and research this wonderful town. Clint and Ellen left in April of 2006, Riley and I left in July 2006. There have been several caretakers since that time but there are no longer full time caretakers in Rhyolite. Here are some photographs of what has been happening since 1990.
Boehringers
Clint Boehringer and Ellen Boehringer Link to Larger Picture
1990
Bottle House 1990 Link to Larger Picture
1994
Clint Boehringer in front of the Bottle House Link to Larger Picture
Mccoys
Riley and Suzy McCoy Link to Larger Picture
1998
Bottle House 1998 Link to Larger Picture
1998
Bottle House 1998 Link to Larger Picture
1999
Bottle House in 1999 Link to Larger Picture
1999
Inside the Bottle House 1999 Link to Larger Picture
2001
Bottle House Late 2001 Link to Larger Picture
2002
Bottle House 2002 Link to Larger Picture
2002
Bottle House 1986 Link to Larger Picture
2002
Bottle House 1986 Link to Larger Picture
2002
Bottle House 2002 Link to Larger Picture
2003
Bottle House 2003 Link to Larger Picture
2003
Bottle House 2003 Link to Larger Picture
2003
Bottle Neck Fence in 2003
2004
Bottle House 2004 Link to Larger Picture
2004
Bottle House 2004 Link to Larger Picture
2005
Bottle House 2005 Link to Larger Picture
2005
Bottle House 2005 Link to Larger Picture
2005
Bottle House 2005 Link to Larger Picture
2005
crew who restored bottle house 2005 Link to Larger Picture
2007
Bottle House 2007 Link to Larger Picture
2008
Bottle House 2008 Link to Larger Picture

Go Here to see the restoration of the Bottle House. - This will open in a new link, so just close it when you are through.

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This page updated August 2010