Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

American Hotel, Crapo House, Ice House Lost to Fire

Cerro Gordo | Inyo County, California

Photos by Olancha Cartago Fire Department, which assisted the Lone Pine Volunteer Fire Department (mutual aid).

Monday, June 15, 2020 — The historic 1871 American Hotel, the Crapo House and the Ice House at Cerro Gordo burn down in an early-morning fire.

According to Sierra Wave Media (TV3 and KSRW 92.5 FM in Bishop), "no injuries were reported, and the rest of the town is intact." Once the blaze started, evidently due to faulty old electrical wiring, the hotel's propane tanks reportedly caught fire and exploded.

"Everyone was asleep in the resident buildings when the fire broke out, and fortunately the wind was in their favor and those buildings along with the museum, the bunkhouse, the chapel, and the Belshaw, the Gordon, Chinaman's and Hunter House are all untouched," the report said.

Read the history of the buildings here.

Update from Bill Walkup of Mojave Desert Explorers, 6-16-2020:

I talked with Robert, the caretaker of Cerro Gordo. First and foremost, he is safe and OK other than some smoke inhalation. The owners who were up there are also OK. At 3 a.m. [Monday, June 15], he heard a loud bang. As he walked to his door, he could see bright glowing through the windows. He opened his door and got a blast of heat. First thing he did was try to call the owners who were up there also. He got through to one of them, and they woke the others. Robert then moved his two vehicles as the plastic on the taillights were melting. The flames at one point were 500 feet in the air. Olancha and Lone Pine Fire Departments responded, including a 3,500-gallon tanker (there is no running water in Cerro Gordo), but it took them an hour and a half to make it to Keeler, then up the treacherous Yellow Grade Road with their equipment. Robert and the owners fought the fire with shovels, trying to contain it from spreading to other buildings. At one point, the fire was very close to the propane tanks next to the Billy Crapo House, and also near the propane tank next to the museum (which is full of propane). Everything that burned is a total loss. The stove and wood stove are badly warped. All of Robert's antiques at the Crapo house are gone. The Ice House was particularly hard to put out, as inside its wall there was sawdust used for insulation that was 2 feet thick. ... The town is closed to all visitors at this time.

Click image to enlarge.

Five thousand feet above Owens Dry Lake is Cerro Gordo. Today it is ghost town, but in the 1870s it was an important silver mining region. Freighters transported the silver through the Santa Clarita Valley, stopping in Soledad Canyon en route to Los Angeles. The imported wealth from Inyo County enriched Los Angeles, enabling it to grow from a sleepy pueblo into a thriving city with its first two-story buildings.

See and read more about Cerro Gordo and the American Hotel.

HB2003: Download original images here.
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