Calico Ghost Town in Calico, CA does not quite live up to its name. Yes, it is in Calico, CA, but it most definitely isn’t a Ghost Town by my standards. Not after we had driven through so many actual ghost towns. Instead, the “Ghost Town” is more of an old-time amusement park. The town was named for the variety of colors in the mountain range that was deemed “as purdy as a gal’s calico skirt.” During the 1880’s and 1890’s, the town boomed during the silver rush. When the silver rush ended, the town faded away for years with only 1 surviving resident still living in town. That resident’s house now holds a museum of photos and mining artifacts. At that point, Calico was a true ghost town… that is, until Walter Knott of Knotts Berry Farm bought the town. While he bought the town in order to fix it up and donate it to the CA State Parks Foundation, Knotts gave the town his own unique flair for the dramatic. He created a beautiful and entertaining park… if not a historically accurate one. You can take a ride on the tiny tour train with the conductor yapping in your ear, watch a show at the Livery Stable Arena, or visit a replica schoolhouse. My all-time favorite Knotts creation at Calico was the bottle house.
The bottle house was created by Knotts’ workers. Knotts declared that there was no historical account of a house made out of bottles, but there was no historical account stating that NO houses were made out of bottles. Knotts was quite a character. He further stated that buildings were made out of materials at hand… and the miners did a lot of drinking!
The building had this amazing star pattern on one side. One of the bottles on the opposite side was broken. You’d look through the bottle and the entirety of the star was visible, nicely framed by the glass.
What an interesting town Calico is. After Texola, Glenrio, and the other real ghost towns we had driven through, the treatment of this “ghost town” was definitely a surprise. Only in California do we turn a ghost town into an amusement park! Or, is that catering to a stereotype?