The sprawling compound known as the Hard Luck Mine Castle may be comfortable, but it is not for the faint of heart. But if you’re flush with cash and itching to ditch the noise, building restrictions, and nosy neighbors of civilization, maybe you’d like to be its next owner.
Deep in the Nevada desert, in the unincorporated community of Goldfield, Esmeralda County, the 22-room home looks like a citadel of concrete, glass, and steel. It sits on 40 acres of private land, and the beige, rocky views seem to stretch on forever, occasionally punctuated by a shaggy Joshua Tree or ambling coyote.
That rugged remoteness appealed to the current owner, Randy Johnston, who built the place from the ground up between 2000 and 2012. When he arrived from Lake Tahoe nearly 20 years ago, “There was nothing there,” he says. “It was just an old miner’s cabin.”
The area is full of them, because Goldfield was once a place of promise and long-odds hope. In 1908, the Reno Gazette-Journal had a whole section devoted to mining conditions, and reported “big dividends” from the area. “Everyone in the East is talking about Nevada,” one muckety-muck brokerage expert told the paper the prior year. “Capitalists and investors” on the other side of the nation were squinting into the distance, the paper reported, because mines had captured their attention and put dollar signs in their eyes. By 1912, Edward Ryan, Nevada’s State Inspector of Mines, recorded more than 20 operations with postal addresses in Goldfield. But, as one might expect, many of these outfits went bust, and by the time Johnston first passed through in the late 1980s, on a trip to Death Valley, he found an empty cabin just sitting there. Entranced, he stopped by again and again, he says, fixing it up a little bit at a time.
The cabin itself is still there and—once Johnston graded some roads—then came the castle. Inside the 16-inch-thick walls, he installed two kitchens, three bathrooms, a woodshop, a theater, a large fountain, and two pipe organs. A solarium and patio offer sweeping views of the scrubby landscape. The whole thing runs on solar arrays and wind power, plus diesel and propane generators. A smattering of other structures surround the castle, too, including a guest trailer, workshop, and shower house with modern plumbing. There’s also a rain catchment system and enough space to stockpile 4,000 gallons of water.
The castle’s interior looks cushy, but any future steward of the off-grid compound must be plucky and sure-footed. “You have to keep the solar running if something goes wrong, get the fuel for the generators for the backup,” Johnston says. “It’s like being on a farm—there are chores you have to do to keep the place running.” You also have to take care to not tumble down the mine shaft that sits about 100 feet from the house. It’s been abandoned for decades, but the titular Hard Luck Mine still drops some 160 feet down.
The home’s next custodian should also probably be comfortable with solitude and long car rides. “It’s 50 miles to the nearest town, nearest anything,” Johnston says. There are no gas stations, no grocery stores, and no medical offices. The other day, Johnston drove 125 miles to visit a dentist. His weekly bingo game at a seniors’ center eats up several hours, too.
Hassles aside, Johnston thinks the place might have some appeal as a bed and breakfast—or for an owner who likes room to roam. “There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miles of dirt roads to go run around on,” he says. “You can go out and do whatever you want.”
Once he offloads the house—$850,000 is the asking price—Johnston is hitting the road. He plans to drive a trailer across the country, breezing through the Dakotas and visiting friends in Oklahoma. “I’m 73, and I’m ready for another adventure,” he says. Whoever buys the castle is in for one, too.