A ghost town preserved in a state of “arrested decay” just outside of Yosemite National Park – how can you say no? This project offers incredible opportunities for photographers and history buffs alike. Bodie is located on land historical inhabited by peoples of the Monache, Northern Paiute, and Washoe Nations.
From www.parks.ca.gov: “Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town. Visitors can walk down the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. The town is named for Waterman S. Body (William Bodey), who had discovered small amounts of gold in hills north of Mono Lake. In 1875, a mine cave-in revealed that there was much more gold to be had than originally thought. This discovery led to purchase of the mine by the Standard Company in 1877. Within only a couple years, the town swelled to a population of 5,000-7,000, and Bodie boasted approximately 2,000 buildings.
From 1877-1880, Bodie was eating high on the hog and enjoyed the amenities of larger cities, including a Wells Fargo Bank, volunteer fire companies, a brass band, unions, newspapers, and a jail. Along with the resources came vices: the town had at one point 65 saloons and a red light district, which were the scenes of murders, brawls, and holdups.
Starting in late 1880, Bodie’s population began to decline – first slowly, and then plummeting. Advancements in technology and investments in mining infrastructure supported the town’s ore production – valued at $3.1 million in 1881. By 1910, only 698 people remained in Bodie. Severe fires in town destroyed several buildings as well. By 1915, Bodie was described regularly as a “ghost town.”
Only a small part of the town survives, preserved in a state of ‘arrested decay.’ Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. There are more than 100 other historic buildings remaining from Bodie’s tumultuous heyday.
Designated as a National Historic Site and a State Historic Park in 1962, the remains of Bodie are being preserved in a state of ‘arrested decay.’ Today this once thriving mining camp is visited by tourists, howling winds and an occasional ghost.” Bodie has been named by the Californian legislature as the official state gold rush town. You can read a detailed brochure about the town’s (occasionally salacious) history here. You can also find beautiful historic photographs of Bodie, like the one above of the Railroad Office, on the Library of Congress’ website.
This is HistoriCorps’ fourth year working in Bodie State Historic Park, and it’s always a popular volunteer destination!
Bodie Railroad Office
The Bodie & Benton Railway, the office of which we will continue to work on, was a three-foot narrow gauge railroad California, from the Mono Mills to its terminus in Bodie. What makes this railroad unusual is that it was isolated and unconnected to any other railroad system. Its purpose was solely to link gold-mining Bodie to Mono Mills, a sawmill, 32 miles south along the east shore of Mono Lake. It was made operational by 1881. Visitors can still walk (or even mountain bike) the rail line to Mono Lake. The railroad office structure, primarily its chimney, was destabilized by recent earthquakes.
HistoriCorps volunteers have collectively contributed 12+ weeks of work to preserve the Bodie Railroad Office. You might say we’ve adopted the building! We are excited to return for our next phase of work here.