The ‘Poor Man’s Hearst Castle’: Nitt Witt Ridge is California’s most eccentric landmark
A state historic monument in Cambria is for sale, according to a recent posting on the real estate listing website Zillow.
Nitt Witt Ridge at 881 Hillcrest Drive was listed for sale by owner in mid-October for $425,000. The ramshackle landmark — a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,200-square-foot structure — is best known as the creation and home of Art Beal, aka Capt. Nitwit (or Nitt Witt), Der Tinkerpaw and other monikers. He was an artist/craftsman/eccentric garbageman and collector of bizarre, eclectic cast-offs.
It is a historic-house display unlike any other. And yes, there are two spellings for Nitt Witt.
The Cambrian’s repeated attempts to reach the property’s owner, plumber Michael O’Malley, have been unsuccessful. He and wife Stacey bought the ridge in 1999. It had been listed for $42,000.
However, a quirky, in-character voicemail message is heard now by calling 805-927-2690, the phone number that prospective visitors can call for details of the walkabouts that O’Malley family members lead periodically.
In part, the message welcomes callers to “world famous Nitt Witt Ridge, California State Landmark 939, one of the most trashiest places on earth. I’m up there getting trashed daily.” He (presumably O’Malley) continues, saying that “once an hour, a piece of white trash will come down and give you some trash talk… And remember my friends, stay dirty.”
The Zillow listing simply describes the residence that clings to the side of the hill as being one of “the most renowned Folk Art Environments in the world. An iconic RoadSide (sic) attraction representing the counterculture of Hwy. 1 in the 1960s. The Anti Hearst Castle.”
However, the state’s Office of Historic Preservation describes the oddscape as being “one of California’s remarkable Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments, is the creation of Arthur Harold Beal (der Tinkerpaw or Capt. Nitt Witt), a Cambria Pines pioneer, who sculpted the land using hand tools and indigenous materials, remarkable inventiveness, and self-taught skills. A blend of native materials and contemporary elements, impressive in its sheer mass and meticulous placement, it is a revealing memorial to Art’s unique cosmic humor and zest for life.”
Among those “contemporary elements” are toilet seats, bathtubs, abalone shells, tire rims and lots of beer cans, with the latter being most often large cans of Busch beer that Beal, of course, had consumed first.
Beal was 96 when he died in 1992.