Bodie suffers moderate damage from quakes |

Bodie suffers moderate damage from quakes

by Steve Ranson
The DeChambeau Hotel on the western edge of Bodie incurred brick damage to at least one wall.


The Bodie Foundation seeks members and volunteers to help restore the old mining town. The Foundation also seeks donations to save the old buildings.

For information, contact the Bodie Foundation, Box 278, Bridgeport, CA 93517.

Call 760- 647-6564 or see more at

While a swarm of earthquakes and aftershocks did little damage to the towns of Hawthorne and Bridgeport, last week, it did damage several historic buildings in the ghost town of Bodie.

During the first 90-minutes of seismic activity on Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported more than 25 earthquakes, including a pair of magnitude 5.7 tremblers and another at 5.5. USGS maps and Nevada Seismological Lab reports placed much of the activity about 14 miles due east of Bodie, Calif., a popular visitors’ attraction that draws thousands to the former mining town.

“We have closed the park to the public,” said Josh Heitzmann, supervising park ranger. “We’re still checking (for damage). Bodie is still standing, but we were so close to the center.”

Weather permitting, engineers were at the park on Monday. Until they give their OK, Bodie State Historic Park remains closed.

Heitzmann said a small crew including a former park supervisor and current president of the Bodie Foundation surveyed the town, which sits on the side of the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range at an elevation of 8,379 feet. The crew trudged through 9 inches of snow while looking for any damage.

“We went through the mill. There were some boards on the ground, but it’s pretty much intact,” he said.

Brad Sturdivant, who spent many years as the park supervisor before retiring, now heads the Bodie Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration of the famous ghost town located 13 miles southeast of Bridgeport.

The series of earthquakes and smaller aftershocks that continued into the day toppled several old brick chimneys and seriously damaged one of the most photographic buildings, the DeChambeau Hotel on the western edge of town. Sturdivant said about half of the false front is gone, and cracks developed in one of the halls. Heitzmann added a hole measuring 2-feet high by 3-feet wide also appeared.

“The wall is a concern for us,” he said of the building’s current stability.

Sturdivant said the California Department of Parks and Recreation had designated about half a million dollars for the hotel’s restoration and planned to begin work this summer. With the latest swarm of earthquakes, though, Sturdivant said he has no idea how much more money will be needed to fix the hotel.

According to Heitzmann, a fence will surround the DeChambeau Hotel until repairs can be made.

Known as one of the most famous ghost towns in the West, Bodie was founded in 1859 after the discovery of gold. Since that time, Bodie survived several fires, one in 1892 that wiped out a sizable portion of the town, and another in 1932 that destroyed hundreds of buildings. Many of the 100 structures including the Standard Mill — the heart of the town — still stand.

When Bodie was a thriving community, the town of 10,000 had houses, several hotels, numerous bars, a school, a mercantile store and banks. Today’s visitors who visit the ghost town can see many buildings and artifacts from its existence.

Both Sturdivant and Heitzmann toured the old mill southwest of the town’s center.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961, Bodie became Bodie State Historic Park one year later. Although the State of California provides minimal funding for the park’s operation, the Bodie Foundation founded in 2008 raises money for preservation, interpretation and stabilization. Foundation members also refer to Bodie as being in a state of “arrested decay.”