The Cambrian

You can now buy Nitt Witt Ridge — the ‘anti-Hearst Castle’ — at a drastically reduced price

The ‘Poor Man’s Hearst Castle’: Nitt Witt Ridge is California’s most eccentric landmark

Cambria, California, home Nitt Witt Ridge is known as a poor man's Hearst Castle. Art Beal constructed the San Luis Obispo County historical landmark, a folk art environment, with building materials such as beer cans and abalone shells.
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Cambria, California, home Nitt Witt Ridge is known as a poor man's Hearst Castle. Art Beal constructed the San Luis Obispo County historical landmark, a folk art environment, with building materials such as beer cans and abalone shells.

There’s still a chance to own a piece of California history located in Cambria — at a drastically reduced price.

Nitt Witt Ridge, an iconic folk-art inspired house billed as the “anti Hearst Castle,” is now for sale at a new price of $284,300, about $140,700 less than Zillow’s original $425,000 listing price in mid-November.

Zillow describes the state historic monument structure as “the most renowned Folk Art Environment(s) in the world. An iconic RoadSide (sic) attraction representing the counterculture of Hwy. 1 in the 1960s. The Anti Hearst Castle.”

The deliberately ramshackle structure and its surroundings are a “classic piece of California history,” according to the listing.

More than a half century ago, Arthur Harold Beal, also known as Capt. Nitwit (or Nitt Witt) and Der Tinkerpaw, built what’s now California State Landmark 939. The eccentric garbageman/artist/craftsman and collector of bizarre, eclectic cast-offs built his home and reputation out of a mind-blowing array of unusual elements.

Details? The 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath hillside structure has been a popular tourist destination for decades. The large lot is bounded by two streets (Hillcrest Drive and Suffolk Street), and, according to Zillow, the site “may lend itself to building an adjunctive dwelling” after the buyer buys a water meter.

With any sort of development, county and services district regulations would apply, and there would be permit and other costs.

Plumber Michael O’Malley and wife Stacey bought the ridge in 1999. It had been listed for $42,000. The Cambrian’s repeated attempts to talk to the O’Malley family have been unsuccessful.

The state’s Office of Historic Preservation website describes the oddscape as being “one of California’s remarkable Twentieth Century Folk Art Environments” the creation of “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.

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