A couple of months ago, we visited Bodie, a ghost town in California. The town was named after Waterman Body who first found gold there in 1859. By its peak in the 1880s it was a bustling gold rush town with a population of around 10,000. At one point had an impressive 65 saloons along its Main Street. Far from being a quiet mountain town, Bodie was a lively place with regular brawls, murders and stagecoach holdups.
In the late 1880s, Bodie began to decrease in population as new gold sources were discovered elsewhere and the miners began to move away. The town was devastated by a large fire in 1892 and by 1910, the population had plummeted to 698. The last local newspaper stopped publication shortly after in 1912. The town retained a small population for a few decades more, despite being badly burned by another fire in the 1930s. In the fire, much of the town was destroyed but a few people remained living in the town as caretakers. The town was officially made a state park in the 1960s, preserving the remaining buildings so that future generations could enjoy them.
Below are a selection of photos from our visit to Bodie, along with detailed descriptions where possible. I hope you enjoy them!
Car for sale! One careful previous owner. Needs a bit of TLC and some attention to the body work…
Jokes aside, there were many decaying cars dotted around Bodie. Most of them were just small sections of bodywork but this one seems to be mostly complete. In the background, you can see the blue-grey of the main mine building. Beyond that, the hills and mountains which were mined during the gold rush.
This is an old workshop in Bodie which was inaccessible to the public. I managed to grab a photo by pressing my camera up against a gap in the woodwork. It’s hard to know what the person who worked here did exactly – there are many tools such as shovels on the ground, and plenty of ladders, cans and oil drums. Perhaps they were a handyman, a decorator or a carpenter? Whoever they were, they clearly loved coffee as there’s a big old container of Maxwell House coffee on the left worktop!
This sign points to Maiden Lane and Virgin Alley. This area of the town is where ladies of the night would work in small one room cabins known as cribs. In the background you can see the remains of some of the town’s properties, giving an idea of the places these ladies would have worked in. Behind those buildings lie more of the mountains and hills from which this town mined its gold.
Leaning on a post in order to stay vaguely upright, this outhouse in Bodie looks ready to fall over! Inside are lots of paper posters and notes, all of which were too decayed to read.
The old jail and lock-up in Bodie is in surprisingly good condition. As a Bodie criminal, you stood little chance of escaping this jail (there was only one successful attempt) and would have needed to pay a $5 bail to be released. The door and bars of this cell still look like they would serve well today. I love the different textures of the wood here – they truly were great craftsmen in Bodie!
An abandoned forge in Bodie, California. To the front right you can see the old anvil sitting on a tree trunk. The workbench to the left is covered in old tools such as hammers. The centre of the room has a funnel shaped chimney which would have been used to help direct the heat and smoke out of the building. To the back of the room you can see more workbenches and shelves holding tools.
An abandoned home in the ghost town of Bodie. The majority of buildings here are sealed up to protect the contents from visitors, so this image was taken by peering in through a window. The child’s pram, furniture and tin cans give a glimpse at what life was like in this town during the gold rush.
Bodie’s bank, or at least the vault at its centre, still stands proudly in the town. Despite surviving the 1892 fire, the bank was destroyed in the 1932 one. As well as being burned, the bank also suffered from robberies and was looted by four men in September 1916 who stole $4k of money and jewellery. It’s interesting to note here that the remaining part of the building is made of bricks – a rare sight. Behind the wonderfully ornate wooden door lies the bank’s safe (see next image):
Inside the vault of Bodie’s bank sits this original safe. The ornate safe is in amazing condition still and has the words:
“Manufactured by Hall’s Safe & Lock Co. Cincinnati & San Francisco. Hall’s Patents, July 23rd & Oct 29th 1867.”.
Chalk writing is still visible on the boards in this classroom at the school in Bodie. Chairs and desks face the front, topped with dusty note books. To the far side of the classroom an old map of Europe can be seen, next to a board with some maths calculations. A bonnet hat and quill sit on the teacher’s desk. My favourite part of this room is the chalk cat drawn on the board behind where the teacher would sit. I spent some time researching the reading text on the white board as well as trying to read the text on the two blackboards. Here is what they say:
O Sam, see the pretty dog!
John will not let him run.
The little dog has had a nap.
Rover ran to play with John.
I ran, too, but I had a fall.
Mamma will not let me play.
But I like the little dog.
I like to have him in my lap.
Back Chalkboard writing:
Eighth Grade your projects are due on Friday
on October 1st
and Sunday services
Flag monitor – Johnny
Fire monitor – Bobby
Cloak Room – Victor
Bell – Michael
A cracked and decaying wooden globe sits in the window of the old school classroom. Surrounded by dusty books and an old American flag, the globe has perished too much to be able to see the details.
A fascinating small room in the school in Bodie housing lots of different teaching supplies. An organ/piano stands against the far wall with a bonnet resting on top of it. Chairs are topped with storage boxes and an anatomical drawing of a skeleton leans against the back wall.
A 1927 Dodge Graham located in the centre of Bodie. The truck is parked outside a gas/petrol station sporting a sign for Shell Gasoline. A closer inspection of the Shell sign reveals bullet holes in it.
This building is the Swazey Hotel in the centre of Bodie. The hotel is situated on the corner of Main Street (from where the photo was taken) and Green Street which you can see continuing up the hill. When it wasn’t a hotel, this building also served as a clothes shop and a casino. The small distant properties are mostly houses and garages.