Amargosa Opera House & Hotel

About five miles past the border line, in the middle of nowhere and well underway to the Death Valley, a building complex housing a hotel, a café, an exhibition space and an opera house. Marfa, for all its artistic weirdness, does not even come close – not by a long shot.

Here we are, at the Death Valley Junction, looking in amazement at the Mexican Colonial adobe building, constructed in 1924 to house the Pacific Coast Borax Company’s offices and labourers’ quarters, and a twenty-three-room hotel welcoming the mining town’s many visitors. Next to it, Corkill Hall – an entertainment centre with a built-in stage where the dances, weddings, movies, church services and other community events took place. 

We learn that in 1967, a flat tyre brought Marta Becket – a New York City born artist – and her husband, to this very garage you see in the first picture for repairs. While her husband was taking care of the car, Marta walked around the building, realised it was an abandoned theatre and decided there and then that it was waiting for her to bring it back to life.

Marta wrote in her memoir: “As I peered through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself. The building seemed to be saying, ‘Take me… Do something with me… I offer you life.’” [source: The Mojave Project]

Amargosa Opera House was born and it became Marta’s stage, home and life. She only stopped performing in 2012, at the age of eighty-eight. I was not fortunate enough to catch one of her performances – I hadn’t even heard of Marta Becket or the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, before our trip in 2019!

I didn’t even realise then – not before I started reading more about it, that the hotel would probably be better known to many as the ‘Lost Highway Hotel’ from David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). But at the time, I was too busy peeking through windows, staring at Marta’s costumes and photographs….

April 21st, 2019

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