Way Back When

In a follow up to our blog last week and finding inspiration from age old places, this week it comes from a guesthouse found hidden amongst the Redwood forests in Big Sur which hasn't changed since the 1930's. Take us back!

Introducing Grandpa Deetjen's legacy; Deetjen's Big Sur Inn.

"The Other Hearst Castle"

8 miles south of the well journeyed drive leading up to the 127 acre estate of Hearst Castle lies another state landmark. Less visited, less written about and undoubtedly less applauded, but built with as much love and finesse that two hands alone are capable of.

Arthur (Art) Beal, locally known as Captain Nott Witt or Der Tinkerpaw bought his hillside lot in Cambria in 1928 and, according to O'malley who took the property over after Beal's death in 1992, built a cabin there for him and his wife, Gloria. After she left him for another man, Beal started the painstaking and obsessive work on what was referred to as Nitt Witt Ridge or the "Poor Man's Hearst Castle."

Beal was a garbage collector for the town. Using his neighbors discarded waste along with scavenged driftwood, abalone shells, beer cans, toilet seats, and ornaments from the nearby castle, Beal spend over 50 years creating his three-tiered mansion complete with terraced gardens, ornate pathways, intricate arches, a self cooling pantry, rudimentary plumbing system, workshop, kitchen, living room, outdoor bathroom (with space for two), bedroom, and immaculately kept ladies room with pink walls and a vanity chest. He joked that he only had help from two people; "Mother Earth and Dame Nature."

Untouched since the creator's death, Nitt Witt Ridge is a beautifully preserved time capsule documenting Beal's hoarded artifacts from over several decades and celebrating the sacred art of decay and a solitary man's story of unrequited love, heartbreak, and never-ending hope. 

The plaque on the side of the house reads:

Nitt Witt Ridge, one of California's remarkable twentieth-century folk-art environments, is the creation of Arthur Harold Beal (Der Tinkerpaw, or Capt. Nitt Witt), a Cambria Pines pioneer who sculpted the land using hand tools and indigenous materials, inventiveness, and self-taught skills. A blend of native materials and contemporary elements, impressive in its sheer mass and meticulous placement, it is a revealing memorial to Art's cosmic humor and zest for life. 

In the far back garden, overgrown and eerily dilapidated only the remnants of the original cabin remain. Nitt Witt Ridge stands undeterred and hopeful, gazing out across the fields of the Californian countryside, still waiting for the day that Gloria will return home. 


Our friend, Sonja Rasula, talks her newly opened co-working space and creative community in the Los Angeles Art District with Apartment Therapy. Take a tour of the Cavern clad walls at The Unique Space.

hotos courtesy of Apartment Therapy and The Unique Space.