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William F. Peck, Peck’s Bottle House

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About the Artist/Site

Tonopah is a small mountain town located in the Tonopah Basin that came into its own around 1900, when a major silver strike was discovered. The population immediately increased exponentially, but as construction materials were in short supply in this treeless basin, alternative materials were utilized to build homes and businesses. Because saloons were among the first commercial enterprises of these boomtowns, liquor bottles were typically plentiful.   

William F. Peck was a miner who moved with his wife and two children to Tonopah from Prescott, Arizona during the summer of 1902, and took a job working for the Tonopah Mining Company. The home he built is believed to be the earliest documented example of the Bottle House genre of vernacular architecture. A square one-story dwelling of 16 x 20 feet, it had eight-foot ceilings and five rooms, and was reported to have been built in October, 1902. He built it on his own during his free time, using an estimated that it was 10,000 bottles recuperated from local saloons and drinking establishments. As water was then selling for $1.50/barrel, Peck’s major expense was the mortar used to set the bottles.

Peck constructed thoughtfully and with attention to environmental factors: the northern and western exposures contain light green bottles while those on the south and east are almost black. The square-shaped bottles around the front door are reported to have been from J. Hostetters’ Stomach Bitters, comprised of various herbs, alcohol, and 10% opium. The interior walls were plastered with lime, thick enough to cover the protruding bottle necks, so that the surface was smooth. The bottles, waterproof while holding both air and light, serve as an efficient insulator, and Peck apparently reported that even during the first difficult winter, his home remained warm and comfortable. A 1903 newspaper article reported that he intended to expand his house with more rooms at his leisure, as he continued to collect bottles.

Peck’s Bottle House was demolished in the early 1980s and is no longer extant.

~Jo Farb Hernández

 

Primary source: “He Lives in a Glass House,” The Pittsburgh Press, May 31, 1903: 26.



Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Tonopah, Nevada, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 38.069211 / -117.230586

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