During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Dave and Arvilla Mills family began hauling in historic local Kern Valley structures, many of which were slated for destruction, to the present site in Bodfish in California's Kern River Valley.
Represented in this composite town are over twenty historic buildings (most not visible from Lake Isabella Blvd) from the mining camps of Keyesville, Whiskey Flat, old Isabella, Claraville, Hot Springs, Miracle, Southfork and other local frontier settlements. Silver City was closed for over 15 years until it was purchased by the Corlew family in 1990 and re-opened to the public shortly thereafter. Over the years it had fallen in disrepair and had been "modernized". The Corlew's have logged more than 20,000 man hours of loving restoration work on the site. Many people have donated labor and support and materials to the effort.
It is now operated as a museum about Kern Valley's long and colorful history. Like Bodie Ghost Town in Northern California, Silver City has adopted a policy of “arrested decay”. Corlew says, “We want to show how local gold outposts may have looked after the gold ran out and the miners moved on, we are not trying to make it look brand new." Visitors can go inside the original Isabella jail where gunslinger, Newt Walker, was locked up here in 1905.
The Apalatea/Burlando House which is believed to be the oldest standing structure in the Valley houses a saloon and country store. Thousands of artifacts are on display throughout the property. Other buildings are outfitted as period miner’s cabins, post office and general store etc. The church, "as rustic as those in Bodie", is a favorite with many visitors. Helpful posted information will take guests on a self guided tour.
Silver City Ghost Town is listed on dozens of film location scout websites as well as with the California Film Commission, and the Los Angeles and Kern County Film Commissions. It has been the site of numerous film and video shoots since 1990 including use by Warner Chappell Music, A & E, The History Channel's This Week in History and a Nissan commercial. It has also been utilized for dozens of other still photo projects, independent film shoots and student films. Silver City has captured the essence and serenity of the best of the historic mining camps in the Kern Valley in a non-commercial museum like setting.
Owner and local historian J. Paul Corlew, is knowledgeable about other settlement sites nearby and will guide Ghost Town argonauts to these remnants of the "Kern Valley Diggin's" rich history.
Many believe that Silver City is haunted by spirits from that past and the site is listed in the “National Directory of Haunted Places”. Which brings to mind the question: Since most of the buildings were moved to the present site over a quarter of a century ago, did the ghost's move with the buildings or move in because it looked like home? Corlew, once a doubting Thomas, heard many stories over the years of poltergeist activity. But it was only after seven years of working on the site that he had his first conclusive sighting. “When you and two other people (all sober!) see a heavy miners lunch pail fly twelve feet across a room unaided you become a believer real quick”, says Corlew. Others have reported bottles floating in the air and doors and windows opening and closing by themselves.
The infamous violin hanging in front of the general store sometimes seems to move by itself and many have heard the strings pluck as they walk by, according to Corlew. Reporter Kurt Rivera from Bakersfield’s Channel 17 News TV station called Silver City, “The most haunted site in Kern County,” after he and his television crew spent an eerie night in the Apalatea/Burlando house a few years back. You may want to view Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story” video which explores decades of alleged hauntings.
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