The Gospel Foundation

Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum
Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum in Walnut Creek, California

Walnut Creek Historical Society

In 1946 Johnson established a socially oriented charity which he named the Gospel Foundation. In 1947, one year after the foundation had been formed, Johnson made provisions in his will to bequeath several properties to the institution. Besides Death Valley Ranch, it would gain control of the Shadelands Ranch and the Johnson's Hollywood home.

Johnson included one definite provision in the foundation's charter: that all the assets be spent or discharged during the foundation president's lifetime. Johnson hoped that this would prevent the foundation from straying into programs foreign to what he envisioned. Through 1991, the institution still awarded a total of $400,000 a year in grants to needy socially oriented causes.

Death Valley Ranch had already been established as a motel and tourist site and the foundation continued to operate it in this manner.

As early as 1933, Horace Albright realized the potential Scotty's Castle might have as an attraction for Death Valley. Although he mentioned it to Johnson in an offhand and jovial fashion when the two first met, it must have seemed somewhat inevitable when it actually happened many years later.

Despite the apparent success of the tours, the foundation wished to divest itself of ownership of the Castle. In 1970, the foundation found an interested buyer in its neighbor - the National Park Service. That same year the foundation also donated Shadelands to the city of Walnut Creek for use as a historic house museum.

The National Park Service purchased the castle and its lands for $850,000. The funds were made available by the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965. The Act prohibited the use of these monies for purchasing furniture, so the Gospel Foundation donated the furnishings as part of the transaction.

Last updated: October 13, 2021

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328


760 786-3200

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