Saturday, January 8, 2011

Desert Tower

Crossing Imperial County – Stop #2

This is the poster child for authentic roadside attractions.
From the album booklet:
Sometime between 1910 -1920 Bert Vaughn moved to and became the owner of the town of Jacumba, and built a small train depot there in 1919. With financial ties to San Diego and El Centro he knew the possibilities of improved transportation between the two locations. Most accounts say it took Bert Vaughn seven years to actually complete Desert Tower. Not long after it appears he moved to San Diego and according to genealogical records lived to the ripe old age of ninety-seven.

The Mountain Springs and Desert Tower landmark plaques are in the same spot and two for one is a good way to start. A tour of the tower is three dollars and outside kids love to play on the rock sculptures. Desert Tower can be easily seen before the turn off if going west.
Plaque Inscription: State Historical Landmark No. 939 Desert Tower
Bert Vaughn of Jacumba built the stone tower in 1922-23 to commemorate the pioneers and road and railroad builders who opened the area. In the 1930s W.T. Ratcliffe carved the stone animal figures which lurk in the rocks surrounding the tower, creating a fantasy world of surprise and strange beauty. This remarkable sculptural assemblage is one of California's exceptional folk art environments.

Location: On Old Hwy 80, 1 mile North of I-8 and
In-Ko-Pah Park Road
interchange, 7.0 miles NE of Jacumba
Google Maps: 32.659103,-116.10034

After a long gaze out from the tower past the Davies Valley to the Yuha Buttes and the next stop, the gravel crunches as the Cadillac slowly pulls out of the parking lot and doubles back on the access road to the I-8 and on to the Yuha Well.

Here’s a link to a video sample of the song:


He's gonna build a tower, he's gonna make it out of stone
4 stories tall, for the rest of us all,
Let the legend and the story be known

High in the Jacumba mountains, where time doesn't know the hour
Bert Vaughn had a vision, said, "It's my decision"
To build a gigantic tower

It's gonna take devotion, it's gonna take seven years
Cement rock and stone, he'll go it alone
With nothing but the wind in his ears

For the men that built the roadway, for the men of the railroad too
For progress and change, through this rugged mountain range
Here's my tower, my tribute to you

Burt Vaughn came out from West Virginia, born back in '79
Began the tower anew in 1922
Finished in '28 on time

As the story goes he was a loner, moved to San Diego when through
Blood sweat and tears, he lived 97 years
Livin' the way he wanted to

Over 70 feet it rises, to reach in the mountain sky blue
It's 57 steps to the hurricane deck
With Mexico and the desert in view

When the sun sets beyond the ridgeline,
 think of the days past and gone
The tower lights from afar look like a rising star
And say 'Thanks' to Herbert L. Vaughn

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