Ruins of stone house in Pioneertown made into dinner-party magic
We discovered the Ruin about 12 years ago when it was a small, abandoned stone house. We were hiking in Pioneertown’s Pipes Canyon, and there it was, all by itself in a cove-like setting of boulders and desert plants and barely the remains of a road to get to it.
We hiked back about a year after and the roof had been knocked in, or it had caved in after years of weather and neglect. A few months later, on another visit, we saw the western wall where the front door and window once stood were gone. So there it was, the ruin of what used to be someone’s home. We later learned that a gold miner lived in it about a hundred years ago.
In 2004, we purchased the property. Neighbors asked if they could have some of the wood from the fallen roof to make things. We told them to help themselves and just asked them to leave a few boards for us. We soon realized that they were starting the initial clean up!
We always thought the ruin, as it stood, would be an incredible place to have a dinner party. Dinner in the Ruin — that was our goal. We imagined entertaining in front of the majestic stone fireplace as the sun went down and the stars appeared in an evening sky. Among the discovered treasures are the hand and footprints of a small child pressed into the cement floor in front of the fireplace. Magical.
This spring, Tony Angelotti, my partner, designed the courtyard. Our friend and neighbor, Tony Bayevich, who is a boulder and stonemason, broke off all the concrete from fallen rocks and salvaged them. Together they moved boulders from around the property to define the space. They dug and poured footings for what would become stacked stone wall benches. With Tony B.'s skilled craftsmanship, the Ruin came to life.
Olive trees do well in this area of the high desert. In fact, we harvest and cure the olives from trees surrounding our Pipes Canyon home, which is a mile away. In early May we drove to the Central California town of Lindsay where olives are grown and packed. We found an orchard where the olive trees were being replaced, and we bought three 75-year-old trees and had them delivered to Pipes Canyon. Now they grace the courtyard of the Ruin and provide a bit of shade and character to an old western California homestead that once was.
Our original plan for a bottle wall shifted to a patio bar made with empty wine bottles saved from dinner parties. Tony B., my Tony and I built the bar in two days with about 120 bottles stacked with concrete inside recycled window frames from an old gas station.
The final touch: a Middle Eastern-style table that’s more than 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. It sits as the centerpiece of the courtyard.
People travel all over the world and they see ruins of homes and dream of restoring them. But we love our Ruin as a ruin. It’s an enchanting event space for us. When people ask me what we plan to do with it, I tell them: Nothing. It’s done.