A few months ago I did a post on the historic Apple Valley Inn and was delighted with the response it generated from both those who knew and loved the Inn in its heyday and those who had never heard of it until now. I even heard from the granddaughter of “Mr. Apple Valley” himself, Newton T. “Newt” Bass, which was, of course, a real treat and a great honor as well.
Newt Bass and his partner Bud Westlund were the founding fathers of Apple Valley, having purchased 6,300 acres of high desert land during the early 1940’s with the original intention of developing a cattle ranch. Instead they turned it into a real estate development known as Apple Valley Ranchos, a huge success that made both Newt and Bud millions. Unlike some developers who take the money and run, however, Newt and Bud remained committed to Apple Valley from its inception into full maturity like proud parents doting over a favorite child.
Newt Bass was a fascinating man. A self-made millionaire who had been raised on an Indian reservation in South Dakota, Newt moved to California at the age of 18 and became a roustabout in the burgeoning oil fields of Long Beach’s famous Signal Hill and down at Santa Fe Springs. By 31, the enterprising Newt had begun drilling his own wells and by the time he was 40 he’d amassed such a fortune he was able to retire. It was his search for a perfect place to have a cattle ranch that led him to Apple Valley.
Newt was able to watch over Apple Valley’s phenomenal growth both literally and figuratively from a spectacular modernistic house he built on a 20 acre hilltop site just above the Apple Valley Inn. Appropriately named “Hilltop House,” Newt’s home offered panoramic vistas in virtually every direction with views stretching into hundreds of miles taking in not only Apple Valley itself but the Mojave Desert, Antelope Valley and the San Bernardino Mountains beyond. “A view so vast,” wrote Pictorial California in 1960, “that outer-space high is the feeling when standing within.”
In choosing an architect for Hilltop House, Newt made a very exciting and “out of the box” decision by engaging an architect not from Southern California, but from down in Mexico. Although relatively unknown in the United States, Francisco Artigas was a very prominent figure in Mexican architecture with many notable designs throughout his country including his work in Mexico City’s upscale neighborhood of Jardines de Pedregal de San Angel. The young Artigas designed a sleek and stunning hilltop house that not only fit into its rugged setting it actually incorporated parts of it into the house itself with a boulder outcropping a prominent feature in the home’s combination living/dining room.
Another spectacular feature was the indoor-outdoor swimming pool Artigas incorporated into the design. “To coax indoors the sunshine by day and the stars by night,” wrote Pictorial California, ” electric push buttons open sliding panels above the pool to become three skylights. At night what a sight it must be – for Apple Valley and the Mojave have the most brilliant of stars.”
Hilltop House was definitely intended as a retreat for Newt himself. There was not a feminine element to be found in either the architecture or the interior design, which was done in combination with Artigas himself, who designed all of the furniture, along with local interior designers Jim Richardson, Fred Miller and Joel Harper of Albert Parvin. Artigas had even lived in Apple Valley for a while in order to get a proper feeling of the area before taking on the design of Hilltop House.
Artigas took as much advantage as possible of native materials using stones found right on the hillside to create a dramatic fireplace wall. The lounge chairs and ottomans are upholstered in a terra-cotta fabric set off by silver legs.
The combination living/dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides. The ceiling is mahogany. Carpet is caramel-colored wool.
Well, you can’t get much more masculine than a wall of guns within arm’s-length of the bed. Newt’s enormous Walnut with Ebony inlay Victorian bed was supposedly a prop from Gone With the Wind.
Another view of the master bedroom showing built-in television circa 1957 in the native stone fireplace wall. Pool is just a few steps away.
Bath time was sexy time at Hilltop House with its unique double shower lined with Florient Rose Italian Marble in shades of tan and peach to apricot tones. One end of the bathroom was mirrored from floor-to-ceiling allowing a full view of the valley beyond from within the showers.
Newt Bass’s spectacular Hilltop House was Apple Valley’s most prominent landmark until a fire nearly destroyed it in 1967. It was restored and rebuilt, but from then on it was used largely for office rather than residential space. Over the years, Hilltop House has fallen into disrepair and disuse until it has become a gutted derelict, a skeleton of its former self. This is a real tragedy. As prominent Apple Valley realtor Craig Skibiski has noted “Depending on who you ask today, the Hilltop House is either up for auction, haunted, being remodeled by the Town of Apple Valley, or being bulldozed soon.” Let us hope this famous home, like the old Inn 300-feet below it, will be restored and again take its place as Apple Valley’s premier residence. This is a modernistic masterpiece steeped in High Desert history that Apple Valley cannot afford to lose.
Photographer NikZane has taken some stunningly beautiful shots of the forlorned but still spectacular Hilltop House ruins that can be found on his Flickr page here.
What an ignoble end to a glorious house. Great post, Steve!
I was raised in Victorville, and stayed at Eric Bass’s home on many occasions I remember it well. I’m speaking of the rambling home they lived in prior to the hilltop home. I remember the Gone with the wind bed Newt had even then, and always firearms and ammo around the bedroom. Eric and I had many good times with all the perks that came along with a father like Newt. The day came when I had to beat his ass which ended our friendship. One day while cruising with Kenny Hazelwood I saw him hitchhiking out of town we had had some words so we went back to beat his ass again, but by time I got there he had been picked up next I heard of him he and the two dudes that picked him up had tried to rob the Hind’s Bakery home and shot and killed their son. It was the same gun he pulled on me but it had miss fired when he tried to shoot me, Bill Baum came to my rescue and I lived to write this.
My grandmother sead he killed a whole family but i cannot find any story about it.
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It has been said that a certain mistress was also enjoying the confines of the Hilltop House in it’s heyday.
OH… Who Who Who….
Linda Tatum, Christine Smith, Judy Tisdale
It could have happened hahahahaha just sayin.
when we first moved to Apple Valley, we were given a touir of the “Hilltop house” by the Apple Valley Ranchos people. It was something else. I will alwas remember it that way.
Lucky you to have seen it then! It must have been incredible. Thanks for sharing the memory!
Do You happen to remember what the Kitchens looked like? i havent found any mention of them anywhere….
Some vintage HH pics are well circulated, but we received an interesting cache from the original architect’s archive in Mexico…including kitchen shots, early renderings and a study model. Enjoy! https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.374848509255667.84602.372525279487990&type=3
I want to cry everytime I see the condition the Hilltop House is in now. I remember the night it caught fire in 1967…we could see the flames from our house across the way….guess the road up had ice on it and the firetrucks had a hard time getting up the hill. But it was restored and to see what vandals have done to it now is just so sad…I hope someone restores it…..Such an icon for Apple Valley, it would be a shame to loose it….
I agree. I am praying someone with vision and money will come in and restore Hilltop House. It’s such a unique treasure and a true Apple Valley landmark.
Great pictures and history! Thank you for sharing. It really was a wonderful landmark, unique to our Valley. I hope it will be restored one day.
I don’t think any posts on my blog have gotten more attention than the ones I posted about Apple Valley. It’s quite clear that so many people love these landmarks and want to see them restored. We’ve got to find some way to spearhead a campaign to see that it happens. They are wonderful pieces of Apple Valley/Southern California that deserve to be brought back and enjoyed by future generations.
Sign me up to help w/ whatever needs to be done to restore the Hilltop House. Hiked up there last week and was appalled at the devastation, graffiti destruction, etc…a real travesty for Apple Valley. We had a squadron party there in the 80’s, when GAFB was still in operation….what a great place! We’d love to buy and restore it, but it would take more $$$’s than what we have. I feel sick every time I look up at that house in passing. What can we do, and where do we start? I’m in!!!!
I’ll tell you, if visitors and commentors on this site are any indication, there is a lot of interest in saving both the Aplle Valley Inn and the Hilltop House around. I’ll bet a well coordinated community effort could do it. Anybody know the mayor?
Problem now is that the Town has sunk all its effort into the country club and the Hilltop and Inn would be competition for that venue so there isn’t any support from town manager or staff.
Thank you for posting this. I’ve lived here in Apple Valley for almost 24 years and I remember how my dad would tell me stories when I was young about the hilltop house and how the company he worked for would rent the place out for company parties. He would tell me how nice it was up there and how you could get a great view of the area up there. It’s sad to see how it looks now, and to hear from other young people that are around my age that they have gone up there and have seen how it looks now. I have even been told that if you are not careful walking around the famous hilltop house that you could fall through the unsafe flooring. If only someone or a group of people would get together to raise the money to save the hilltop house and either make it into a house or a place for special events then it would make a great addition to Apple Valley.
I spent my life until I was 22 there, and have many memories. The Sellman and Dulch families have a history in Victorville and Apple Valley. My sister was married to Bob Dulch and my family had business’s there.
A couple months ago my old high school friend Doug Christian took a trip back to the place and I must say we were were truly disappointed to see the condition Victorville and Apple Valley were in it was hard to believe we still talk about it.
It is our beliefs a couple D9 CATS would do a world of good for both towns.
Great post! I created a couple YouTube videos of what Hilltop House looks like today. It’s sad to see what has happened to what used to be the most exquisite property in Apple Valley.
Thanks so much Dan. I’ll be sure and check those out.
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WHAT A GREAT PLACE AND VIEW
I think that those of us who grew up here need to form a committee to make a proposal to restore our Historical Landmark. Dan Harley, I elect you! I will sit on the committee with you.I am sure Barb Stanton will listen.
We got married up there in 1996. It was a great place for weddings. I tried to get the Town to buy the place as a event center in 1976 ( could have bought the whole Apple Valley Inn and Hilltop house for $1.2 million) but there was no interest in preserving the cultural history of Apple Valley. Could still be done but since the Town has buried us so deep in debt for the crap they built at townhall and the money pit golf course I guess there is nothing let but scraps.
I lived there for many years and it was so sad to see it falling apart. I was so happy when they started repairing the Inn. I use to hang out at Jilly’s just so I could hear all the great stories about it from Cousin Glenn Moore and all the people that hung out there on Friday night when they sang and played it was great hearing all the stories Roy and Dale were there a lot. Sure miss it.
My old school chum Doug Christensen, and I drove over to see my sister Judy Dulch about a year ago to renew old times, and check out the old homestead.
Victorville has fallen into disarray closed, and fenced in buildings hard to look at one was home.
Apple Valley was much the same. Doug and I made the assumption the best that could happen to both Victorville & Apple Valley is to line up 20 D9 Cats starting at Cajon pass and level the place. Then start another Stoddard Jess Turkey Farm on half and grow potatoes on the other half.
Damn shame what has happened to both towns.
If anyone is interested I would be honored to provide pro bono architectural and engineering services to help resurrect the Hill Top House. If there is ample support to make it happen, buy that I mean a town staff and council willing to work with the people, of that I’m skeptical.
When my brother-in-law Bob Dulch was mayor it would have been possible NOT now. Apple Valley rolled over when Roy & Dale died and Dusty their son closed the museum.
Hilltop House was also used as the Board of Director’s Room for the Reserve Oil and Gas Co. after the house was rebuilt. Newt invested in this far flung oil and natural gas exploration enterprise which at one time owned all the Mohawk gas stations across Ca. and Arz. Newt became Chairman of the Board and later Chairman Emeritus up to his death. His office was in Apple Valley (Ranchos offices) as well as the treasurer. The President , I believe, was in Los Angeles. This was a major oil/gas company and I don’t know the status of it now. They had explorations all over the world.
I was his banker in his last years (Security Pacific National Bank formerly The Bank of Apple Valley which he founded). Then I was CEO of St. Mary Desert Valley Hospital , founded by Newt. He donated the land to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart.
I was one of the ones who prospered as the result of this dynamic man’s efforts.
I am Brother Ignatius, one of the Brothers of St. John of God. I was reassigned to A.V. Community four years ago. I am on the board of SMMC. If you get this message, and would like to talk about old times, let me know.
805 798 2154
Great to read your post Tim. It was good to know you are doing well. I have often wondered where you relocated to. I’m retired now, loved those days at Security Pacific, we were a great team. Take Care, Carol Wells (entire family still living in the high desert) Spring Valley Lake.
5/23/2020 If you were wondering about Reserve Oil and Gas and you never found out, it was purchased by Getty Oil Company which was taken over by Texaco after Pennzoil lost the bid. All of this occurred in 1986 to 1987 and everything was closed down in 1988…I was the 3rd last employee to leave the Apple Valley Ranchos office having worked there since 1972. AVR Water Company still exists but with a slight change in name…I haven’t been back for years, so have no idea what it’s like in 2020.
Like SHIT Donna
Since my comment on 5/23/2020 was replied to and I’m assuming it was an insult, same to you, George!
Thank You Steve for the Awesome pictures and the Awesome comments . I have lived in the desert since 1969 and seen many changes . I would Love to see the restoration of the hilltop house . I have been in Construction since 1978 . I’m a General Contractor here in Victorville and would Love to help with any restoration plans for this Wonderful piece of history . Ted Smith
I was Born and raised in Apple Valley and no doubt about it – that house was an ever present icon and landmark. I had no idea that it had been allowed to fall apart. What a terrible waste!
I believe that the Hilltop House and surrounding 26 acres were purchased for $6,000,000 by a man living in Palm Springs.
I understand the property is being surveyed at this time. I’m not sure of the purpose but it seems interesting based on Bob’s post. Was Tinsely Realty and agent in the sale?
My research indicates 20 acre property went to County in 1993-94 via tax default and was subsequently sold by County at auction for $190,000. I believe property has been under same ownership since than. Nice investment I’d say. http://www.facebook.com/AvHilltopHouseForum
I have never known the entire story behind the Hilltop house, beyond the basics of it being Newton T Bass’ home, etc. What a beautiful story to a beautiful home. I live in direct view of the Hilltop house and its a meditation focal point for me, its so zen looking from this view. VERY sad to see its in terrible condition due to vandals and tagging. I don’t know if I will be able to get the shocking condition of the pool out of my mind next time I try to ‘zone’ in to it. I am very much in favor of it being restored and being placed on a national registry. Its got great ‘bones’ still and is truly an iconic fixture of Apple Valley, just as Roy and Dale are.
I am visiting from North Carolina , originally from Barstow. I can see the house from a family members house and plan to make the hike before I go home. I researched it and now I would like to see it. It is such a shame that something can’t be done to save these places. Best of luck to the community.
My Grandmother was fortunate enough to get to go to a party at this wonderful house. She said it was amazing. I was born and raised in Victorville. I love the history behind this house. I wish someone would take on the project. It could even be an awesome restaurant and bar! Anything would be better than what it is now. Thanks for sharing this. Loved it!
May I ask how you are related to the Gossard’s? I knew Gordon he drove for SW Portland Cement, as a kid, I admired Gordons life stile.
Gordon and my family were close they spent a lot of time together I’m referring to the Palmer family later Gordon and my uncle Jack Sellman built a couple bus coaches and traveled in them.
Was your grandmother and grandfather Lila and Gordon Gossard? My parents Ward and Jean Palmer were very good friends of them as was I. I remember some great stories of them.
Ward was my stepfather Jean was my birth mother I have no idea who U are Terrie. My name nickname is Butch/George Sellman was my real father.
My husband was active duty at GAFB and a mobile DJ on the side. We did the lights and sound for a wedding there in the 1990’s (not sure of the year, but we left Victorville in 1995). I was told Dan Blocker (Hoss of Bonanza) owned it at one time…just urban legend?
Would Love to see it Restored myself. I have seen cars up there at the house this past week . Maybe we will see some movement up there.
Dan: It is ashame what has happen to the hilltop house. We have memories also, and have seen this desert community grow. I have confronted town counsel members that government does not have the right to spend the tax payers money as they wish. Purchase of the Golf course and there motive behind their reason to purchase was wrong. As a business owner in Apple Valley as yourself, business should be for the private sector to run, not government. Our government officials should read and understand the Constitution and the purpose of it.
been to many a Wedding and Halloween party up at the hilltop house, my Father-in law was a realtor with the Rancho’s back in the 60’s and I have heard many a story, would love to see it restored.
Newt Bass was an incredible individual. His energy and foresight literally raised a community from the raw, arid climes of the Mojave desert. Mr. Bass hired me to manage Apple Valley’s radio station, KAVR, in 1962. It was an unforgettable experience. I interviewed the Reverend Billy Graham at Hilltop House. Mr. Bass and Bud Westlund were responsible for so much. They developed the Apple Valley Inn and Hilltop House which were the centerpieces of the Valley. They brought western movie greats Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to Apple Valley, along with champion golfers Lloyd Mangrum and Billy Casper and world reknowned opera singer John Charles Thomas. The original A. V. Airport, the bank, the water company, the radio station, St. Mary Desert Hospital were just a few of their accomplishments. Exceptional men with great vision.
Dear Alan Skuba; I read your comments on the hilltop house, and Newt Bass. They brought back a lot of memories! I am Wayne Dillard, and I worked for you as an announcer and assistant engineer to Dean Kiner, at KAVR! When he left, they hired me as Chief engineer, following Fred Seeley. Chuck Parnell and I left the station In 1975. I Later worked for KCIN in Victorville, as chief engineer. I would like to get your e-mail address, so that we could communicate. Sincerely, Wayne
Lordy do I ever miss the OLD Apple Valley. I got there in 1971 and left for my Homeland (MONTANA) in 1991. Still have a bumper sticker on a cupboard. . . “I Read the Apple Valley News”!!
My son, Matt, and I photographed Billie Jo’s wedding at Hilltop. Had to fight to be able to drive my truck up the side road.
After our visit in 2009, I’m not sure I would want to return.
The article never once mentions the contractors who built this fabulous masterpiece, Bennington & Smith General Contractors. Hal Smith and Jack Bennington began building homes in Apple Valley in 1947 for Newt Bass. They were premier builders of hundreds of Apple Valley residences and commercial buildings.
You are right and they deserve mention. Thanks for pointing them out as they were major contributors to the development of Apple Valley, literally. Thanks Jolene!
My father, Bud Seagondollar Architect, worked with Jack Bennington and Smith back in the fifties, sixties and seventies before Jack retired to Hawaii.
Thanks Jolene, for remember two great men, our Dad’s!
OMG….Jolene AND Jan?!?!? Shades of days gone by! How ARE you guys?!?!? Read this story a LONG time ago, gets all his PARADISE LOST stories and updates on other lost/gone/soon-to-be-gone places, and was sad to see Newt’s house as it is now…..but reconnected with this page somehow on a story about Oro Grande! And saw your recent posts…did not know B&S built it! Built most of AV, but didn’t know about Hilltop House!
Hi Jan!! We went to VVHS back in the Day!! Margaret Wilson Class of 1964. I toured this beautiful place back in the sixties
We believe we live in a house in Apple Valley built by your dad, Jack Bennigton, we saw our address listed on his original Corporation papers. Did he live on Erie Road?
The urban legend I heard was that Adam West once owned the house. While the real story behind the house is wonderful, I am saddened to find out that *my* story is incorrect 😦
Have you noticed that what’s left of the hilltop home was recently painted in 2 or 3 shades of gray? Must be the Palm Springs gentleman that bought the property 4 or 5 years ago wants to peotect his property from the natural elements.
Our home was the fifth house built, on then, Rosebud Rd after Newts birth place. My father John Barry owned the Victor Press..We moved to Apple Valley in 1948 and watched the growth, abd dreams of Bud and Newt. My sister and I babysat both families children. Would love to see the Hilltop home in use again. A restraunt would be perfect.
My mother worked for the Apple Valley Development Co. in the early fifties. I was in
the second or third grade. I rode with Newton Bass and his son in a large black Cadillac
at very high speeds while he smoked a cigar. I think there were square dances at
a barn near the stables and a hidden gambling room in the Inn. My mother
was on the cover of the Apple Valley Ranchos magazine. I still have them.
I worked at the Victor Press working setting type from the old linotype machine when I was a kid I will cherish those days forever.
I worked for your father on the Linotype setting and proofing don’t remember the old timer that ran the lino but he was famous.
I moved to AV in 73. I’ve been to a couple weddings there. The place was a master piece of design and engineering. I hike up there now and its tuff to see whats been don to it over the years. The problem with developing it to be a bar/resturant is the accsess route far exceeds the maximum slope for emergency vehicals. There is another route thats been on the board but to my knowledge hasn’t been recorded. It would take a cignificant of work to construct such a road also. Like anything else all it takes is money!
rumor has it that its for sale and several folks are serious. our hiking may come to a bitter end 😦
Thank you Steve for this Article. I am the daughter of Francisco Artigas, the Architect. I want to cry to see the condition the Hilltop House is in now. I remember my father told me about the house was burn in 1967. Such an icon for Apple Valley, it would be a shame to loose it…. Would Love to see it Restored. Any help I can share about my father, let me know I’m in San Diego.
Does your fathers archive, include construction plans from the original home ?
I am reading about Newt Bass Hilltop House. Do you know the year was built? I’m a volunteer for the new Apple Valley Legacy Museum. We are trying to discover the year it was built. Thanks for your help. You can contact me at twinks email@example.com
Its fascinating to see the deep interest in saving such an important landmark. If it is to be, I think the community will need to get behind and start the necessary momentum. The Town is committed in other areas, but if enough of the community came together with a plan and unity of purpose, The Town would have to listen and, at least, support in spirit.
We are advancing the conversation and looking for community support and ideas. Thanks! https://www.facebook.com/AvHilltopHouseForum?ref=hl
i would love to see it rebuilt we used to hike up there every week :)i would help
HI Steve and all concerned citizens,
My name is Jennifer Oeschger and I am a graduate student in Historic Preservation through an online program offered by the Savannah College of Art and Design. I currently live at Ft Irwin, (the National Training Center) with my military family. As a class project I would like to nominate the Hilltop House for the National Historic Register. The National Register assists in preserving historic properties in several ways:
1) Recognition and appreciation for historic properties
2) Consideration in planning Federal and Federally assisted projects
3) Making property owners eligible for Federal tax benefits
4) Qualifying preservation projects for Federal grant assistance
With the outpouring of community support evidenced above, I think this project would be a great focus for the community. I have a lot of research to do, and I am also awaiting approval from my professor. I’ll be in touch!
Sounds like a GREAT idea. There is really an outpouring of support for these treasured local structures. A National Register designation is well deserved. Whatever I can do to help!
well the city now says no way will they let anyone do anything there [ just about right ] and the fire marshall says it must be torn down as nothing is up to code and cannot be unless it was started over , it sold a few years ago for taxes and I was the the contending bidder , but was afraid of fighting city hall to give much !! MIKE
Some more pics of its Glory days.
Newton T. Bass is in our family tree. If our facts are correct, this family has a long American history – back to Jamestown. And possibly Indian blood.
Sometimes families want to preserve buildings their families built.
Although I am interested in buildings myself, I do not have the extra funds. Does anyone know who owns it now?
I lived with my family in AV in the forty’s and loved it. I knew Angel Bass from school and visited their home often. Where is the existing family now.? My brother moved back there in the 90’s but never researched it for me. He is now deceased.
Thanks so much.
They are all dead R.I.P.
I want to thank you for posting so many pictures of “Hilltop House” the way it was. I am only 24 years old so unfortunately never got the opportunity to see its beauty. I have been amazed by this house ever since I can remember (lifetime desert resident). I am absolutely fascinated and as someone else mentioned in a comment, as far as helping goes, SIGN ME UP! I can’t remember if it was Huell Howser or something on plain ole youtube, but I saw videos of this amazing architectural beauty and have dreamed of owning it ever since! Too bad money doesn’t grow on trees or this house would have been saved a long time ago!
My name is Justin Brauch, I’m Newton Bass’ great grandson and am very interested in the restoration of Hilltop House. I’d love to talk with you. I’m not sure the family has any idea the state of the house, but I’d love to help out any way I can.
Great to hear from you. Sorry, but I’ve been swamped on a book project, but it seems there needs to be a coordinated effort to explore saving Hilltop House. So many people are interested including the architect’s family. It and the AV Inn are real AV treasures and need to be saved. Maybe we could start a “Save the Apple Valley Inn/Hilltop House” program? I’d love to talk with you. E-mail me if you have a moment @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
I went up there yesterday and I didn’t know the history but I went on this website,read and saw the old pictures of what it used to look like. I wanted cry. I had tears in my eyes.With all the graffiti in there. It was very sad
Thank you for putting up the website
FYI The historic Newt Bass ‘Hilltop House’ in Apple Valley is on the market right now for an asking price of $750k. It is listed here for your viewing pleasure….http://www.vvmls.com/homes-for-sale/CA/Apple-Valley/92307/Hwy18-Hilltop-House-85235296/popup
If anyone is interested in making an offer on the Hilltop House property, please call Apple Valley real estate broker Hold Realty at 760-475-0084 to discuss further, or visit our site at http://www.HoldRealty.com
Thanks SO much for the tip! So many people are going to love that this place is up for sale as there is new hope it will be saved. Best of luck for a quick sale!
In case you didn’t see, I did a whole post on the sale thanks to you!
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this poor icon is falling in disrepair daily. I hike up and around it several times a week. the graffiti is horrid, and now people are stealing the iron stair rails too. then a fire was set a while back. but even with it horribly distraught…its beautiful. the views are amazing. im glad I went on here and saw the “hey day” pics..oh my goodness….just stunning. im in to help in any way I can. I would LOVE the city to own it and the surrounding area and make it a walking trail, horse trail and a fantastic restraint at the house….dreams dreams…
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I feel the need and the urge to take my funds and make this my home, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to find a home of this caliber and style. I think this is my West Hope, this is my Falling Water, this is the Last Jewel of our breathtaking Desert Home, I’m going to make it mine. To see it shining gloriously like a beautiful Diamond in the heart of the desert, this is my dream..
I hike up to the Hilltop house twice a week and have fallen in love with it as well as the history. I also signed the petition about a month ago at Cadillac Ranch to save and restore it. I hope AVLT can proceed with the plans of restoration!
I noticed that there are current posts on this site that my son sent to me, so I’ll add a little of my own history. My name is Donna Johnson, I worked at Apple Valley Ranchos from 1972 until the sale of the company in the late 1980’s by Tom Hrubik and Texaco. At that time, there were only 4 of us left at the company…Laz de la Garza, Joan Willis, myself and Genny Gobar. Apple Valley Building and Development Company was Mr. Bass’ original company..he and Bud Westlund bought the property..the name was changed to Apple Valley Ranchos and was headquartered in the large building across Highway 18 from the Apple Valley Inn and across the street from the bank and post office. They owned Reserve Oil and Gas based in Los Angeles which was sold to Getty Oil Company and after a lot of legal wrangling, became part of Texaco. That was the beginning of the end. I have some items packed away that I haven’t looked at in years, so this will be a tour back in history.
The reason I mentioned the above names, as well as that of Barbara Davisson, who was Mr. Bass’ secretary for years, is to provide some contacts who may still be in the Victor Valley. My understanding about the Apple Valley Inn, which includes the Hilltop House, was the fact that when the company was sold, it had not quite reached a 50 year span which would have qualified it for a historical mention and provided the context that was important to keep things from disrepair, etc. There were some meetings about that issue, but nothing was done and the Inn became some sort of rehabilitation place. I left soon after that, so it’s interesting and sad to read many of these comments.
Mike “Tex” Meeken was in charge of the sales department at AVR and that was the era when prospective buyers were given a tour of Apple Valley, including a trip up to the Hilltop House. Reserve Oil and Gas held yearly meetings there, but after the sale of the entire company, everything changed. The entire operation should have been part of a historical context of Caifornia and I fervently hope someone with the money and influence can make that happen.
Donna, thank you so much for the great information and memories! I believe that this is the sort of thing that will help save these properties. If only people knew the history. you have helped tremendously and I thank you. We will keep our fingers crossed.
Did you read yesterday’s DAILY PRESS? Some “wingnut” hopes to buy the Hilltop House and turn it into an off-the-wall dump.
I read the article yesterday..”wingnut” is being kind….this dude is seriously in dreamland…
My sister still owns property in Victorville, and now lives in Bremington Washington.
I went to see her there 6-20-20 while she was there, and to tell you the truth Victorville is a toilet that can only be improved by a line of D-nines side by side leveling it starting from Zenda street to the old Narrows Bridge. The love of ownership from those old-timer’s is gone and IMO not recoverable.
Apple Valley is fast approaching the same place as Victorville, and again IMO any wise investor wouldn’t seriously consider wasting a dime to redeem the place.
The old family names I grew up with loved the town and put their life and love into it for their future.
The past was their/our times, and dreams of what once was and is NO MORE!!
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I visited this place in 1964-65 I lived in Apple Valley, and my parent’s close friend, Real Estate Broker, Wendell Peabody, gave us a tour. It was so beautiful. Did you know the bed in the bedroom was from the movie “GONE WITH THE WIND”? True story. What a shame that was destroyed by the fire.
What’s your Hilltop House legacy ? Wanted: Storytellers
The “Gone With the Wind” bed may still be around and not destroyed in the fire. I was at an Auction Estate Sale in San Bernardino several years back, and one of the Auctioneers at the time mentioned his family had that bed and indicated it came from the Apple Valley area.
Let’s hope they find out about this and could possibly make the bed available for the new buyer and restorer. I think that is the bed Scarlett was filmed sleeping in after she and Rhett had made up, and was used as a bed on a Steamboat in the film when Scarlett and Rhett were making a trip to New Orleans, or on their return back to Atlanta. The specific scene is one of the happier times in the tumultuous relationship of Scarlett and Rhett from the film.
If I remember correctly, the specific scene is a morning one with Scarlett waking up and stretching her arms and in a very good mood. Anyway, that bed just may still be around, and still in the area owned by an Auctioneer’s family somewhere in the Inland Empire area.
Never know that was a long time ago. Newt Bass’ bed could have been a replica? Or removed later. I sure hope so!!! Maggie
Specifically regarding the “Gone With the Wind” bed, the Auction house employing the Auctioneer claiming ownership of the possibly specific bed from this film worked at what is known locally in the San Bernardino area as “Esther’s” and is located on the lower end of “E” Street in San Bernardino near the Orange Show Fairgrounds. This man was or is well known to the Patrons of this weekly Auction held on Thursday nights in San Bernardino.
I am sure Esther or another employee (who owns the Auction House) would be able to provide the information as to his whereabouts and this bed. Hopefully, if a new owner is found who is really interested in a full restoration of this house, this man could be located and arrangements made to purchase the bed again for the Hilltop House.
MGM started selling off its massive array of contents early on with several Auctions being held in the1960’s and early 1970’s. Debbie Reynolds bought a great many of the items and hopefully planned a Museum to house her purchases in Hollywood near the new complex built next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater on its’ top floor. Sadly after many plans and years of trying to establish this Museum housing famous Hollywood artifacts used in primarily MGM (and possibly other Film Studios) films failed in coming to fruition in all of her many efforts. Her large collection was eventually sold off (just a few years back), at an Auction in Los Angeles.
If this story is true, there is a very good chance this Auctioneer or a family member having connections with such Auctions purchased the bed prior to the fire and could be contacted and agreements made for the bed’s return, if indeed the house is eventually restored.
Ah, I was 13, in 1965, when we moved here. I remember being shown around the house and I was complete in awe. A bachelor pad they said, oh my! It was truly a one of a kind house and there was careful thought behind every item in the house. The view itself was thrilling. I did not want to move to the desert but it quickly captured my heart as it did my parents. So much history and what a shame to see it go.
Such a rich history in and around Bass Hill (formerly known as Pioneer Mountain) and one which is sadly fading away.
We’ve learned much about the past, studied its multi-faceted present opportunity and laid solid ground work for the future…building trail markers today for a better tomorrow in and around Newt’s Paradise in the Sky. Work remains to be done, but……….
The (3) legged stool of support which requires Community, Town Hall and Hilltop House Ownership is now in place as (2) grant applications will be signed-sealed and delivered in the months ahead. Grant decision makers will find a compelling case for the Trail as they read the professional instruments of application prepared by MVR Consultants. Recent media and our AVLT Trilogy Video series link below.
Steve Vaught : Thanks for your counsel and mentorship many months ago, when – reclaim, repurpose and revitalize was just a sparkle in some of our eyes. Now, some twenty nine months later, a communities eyes are filled with Trail Dust, as -hopefully- the next Legacy chapter of Bass Hill is born.
Early on, we learned “Building and places are some of the most tangible things, one generation can leave to the next”. Today we are convinced more than ever. Thanks.
As I’m sure you are aware, many stories, or allegations, as to the current status of the Hilltop House have appeared over the years, although they seem to have become less frequent of late.
A coupla years ago, one such story was that some man from Palm Springs had bought the propeerty for something like $4 or 6 million. That’s the last I’d heard.
So, what is the current diffinitive status? Who owns the property and what is their intent?
The comment by Steve is well written and sensitive to the home in question and others facing a similar fate. Years back there was a book on the lost buildings of New York City, and the opening Preface read something to the effect, “Future generations will look back not so much on the buildings we built, but rather on the buildings we tore down”.
what a wonderful story you have shared beautiful home thank you so much
Periodically, I always feel it’s necessary to check on Apple Valley and since I’m in the “High Desert” of Oregon (Bend, OR) during the winter months, I really miss the heat. From what I’ve found, there is or would be getting things to code regarding the Hilltop House and I see no reason that many of the codes could be circumvented in some way. The Hilltop House has great historical importance to Apple Valley and sometimes that should precedence upon some of the modern regulations. Just sayin’…..
County building Inspectors are aware (or should be reminded if they are not) that in Sacramento there are TWO sets of Building Code Books. One for new structures and non-historical buildings and houses, and one for buildings and homes that are officially designated Historical or Culturally significant to a specific home or building. This second Code Book allows for exceptions and allowances to be given as it would pertain to building renovation work regarding Historical Structures such as the Hilltop House. One involved in such a restoration has to remind the building inspector that such a second Code Book does indeed exist in Sacramento, as it gives allowances in building and restoration work that would not be the case if a Structure were new or not deemed Historical. Just a reminder for anyone involved in restoration work relating to structures of Historical significance and registered as such in Sacramento, or the local County Seat.
It’s funny that you heard from Newt’s granddaughter. Jim Richardson was my grandfather! I still have his things. Did you know he served as a merchant marine in his youth? Just thought I would leave my two cents for you. What a beautiful house!
Gemma: I knew your grandfather in the 60’s. Not only did he decorate my parents home, he lived right around the corner from us. I babysat his son.
The name Jim Richardson sounds familiar. Also, what was his son’s name. Thanks
Thats crazy, Linda! I went to see him once before he died, I was only 4 or so, he was still living somewhere in the high desert. Dodie, my dad’s name was Van Wyck Richardson. He was named after his biological mother’s last name. she birthed him and gave him away with only her last name, “VanWyck.” He sometimes would go by Van. He and my ma actually separated a long time ago now.
Found this by random this morning: I of course do not know any of you (or to the least remember), I grew up in AV (57 – 73), my Step-Father Robert (Bob) Randall worked at Apple Valley Inn for nearly 14 years as a janitor/dishwasher, as well as at Guys House of Pancakes for 12 or such. Many a time my mom and I would walk from our house to met Bob – down Kiowa Road, stopping briefly at a small park just south of Bear Valley Road. Bob drive an old 1940 Chev. Many a night I would sleep in the breakroom at AV Inn .. or get into trouble playing the the hugh (belt) driven dish machine. Anyway, Thanks for memories.
its called greed with the town of apple valley, wanting the place but since no one can agree to anything the city slaps fines on the place hoping they sell out. its not the needy its the greedy.
I wish I had money right now… enough to purchase the house and the lot and do something with it. I live up behind St. Mary’s and drive past the house just about every day. There has to be something that can be done. I think the first thing that needs to be done is find out exactly what the deal is – is the house for sale? is it up for auction? something else?
Come to Arizona, and see Scottsdale, Sadona, Fountain Hills, Cave Creek, and then go back to Apple Valley maybe it will help you realize what is left of the place you can bring back of the past.
Steve, it was what it was.
I wouldn’t walk the streets of Victorville at night nowadays, and Apple Valley is 18 miles over the hill from Victorville, and let’s not forget Hesperia.
I would love to restore this home and I really look forward to living in it in the future
I climbed that hill once with my cousin in 1994. I had no idea what was up there till we got to the top and oh boy I’ll tell you. I never seen such a view before. You can see the whole high desert from that place. We walked up to the house and it was pretty freaky to see how desolate it was . Especially when your only 11 years old. I had to leave quickly because we found a massive bee hive on the house wall. But I’m glad of the Internet to learn what significance that place has. I’ll never forget my experience
Why was it left to ruin?
HI my names brendan richards im currently in high school as a senior. I live 5 mins away from the hilltop house and find myself hiking up there by myself and with friends. Its incredible to see what it used to be! Sadly my whole life ive known it as what it is today. If anyone can answer some questions i have i would really appreciate it.
1. How did the house burn down? ive heard rumors it used to be a club and someone started the fire on purpose but like i said i think its a rumor.
2.What is apple valley going to do with it now that they own it?
If anyone can answer these questions i would really appreciate it!!!
Hi Brendan, If no one has responded to you and you’re interesting in reading a lengthy report on the Hilltop House, I wrote one several years ago for my Masters Degree. It has great pictures, though! Please let me know.
I would love to read that paper.
I keep hoping from all I read that the house will be restored by someone, even the Upper Desert Cities. If the house was located in Palm Springs or that outlying area even the 29 Palms area, the house would perhaps be restored.
At one time Apple Valley had more charm than is the case today and I am afraid that situation with the Upper Desert areas may adversely affect the eventual restoration of this home.
It was once a delightful somewhat isolated location, but today such is not the case that would influence someone to sink the money needed into the restoration needed for this iconic and historic home.
I feel certain the original developer’s never dreamed the area would become what the circumstances are today.
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My Daughter got married there… Such a great place…. Loved living in Apple Valley…..
Apple Valley was once a very delightful place to live. Roy and Dale Rogers, John Charles Thomas and many others lived there before the Urban sprawl from Los Angeles outward eventually reached Apple Valley, Hisperia and the other towns in the area. It all went down hill especially after Route 66 was cut into sections and the Interstate Highway systems took over the Nation.
Sad commentary, but the demise of this home, the Apple Valley Inn and the charm of the area can be paralleled with the advance of housing developments and the Highway changes. The very development that was to improve the area, actually ended up destroying the area.
I lived in Apple Valley for 17 years and walked up the the Hilltop House dozens of times. It has always been in ruins. Would be nice to see it as a museum…
You please send me adress of house so I can just pass by
Let’s start a go fund me page!! If we can get enough money we can restore it ourselves.
I would love to see the hill top resident restored, I think it would make a lovely supper club with jazz music. 25 and older.we would love to have a place to bring back jazz music
Is and how much would the house for sale
On my only trip to Apple Valley before today (ca 1961) when I was about 8, my sister and I met some other kids staying at the Apple Valley Inn and walked up to the house. It appeared no one was home and an older boy dived in the pool and gained access to the house. He opened the sliding glass door and let the rest of us in. We crept through the house very quietly. As we came upon one of the bedroom doors we saw a man sitting at a desk with his back to us. We quickly left undetected. Etched in my memory for over fifty years I’ve tried to find the place unsuccessfully on google maps. Today, driving back from a stay in Yermo to visit Lava Tubes outside of Baker CA, we drove through Apple Valley on our way home. I spotted the house on the hill immediately and the road up to it matched my memories.
Once home I was able to find it on google maps and learn the name and look up tho website. Now for sale? I wonder what the cost? How much to restore?
I bought my lottery ticket!
Thousand Oaks CA
It is a shame how undesirable the Apple Valley area has become especially in knowing how nice the place was just 50 years or so ago. Dheap housing developments and all the rest of urban decay is now part of the landscape of a once beautiful area. It would be best to just be bulldozed over today.
The charm is gone from what the place was once like and not so many years ago. Amazing how places can go so “downhill” and the Apple Valley area is a perfect example.
We must be about the same age this opinion is an echo of mine. Appley Valley is never going to be again what it once was.
I’m a Native Son of California as was my grandfather, and CA is now a disgrace to what it once was.
There is not one mention in this article about the general contractors, Jack Bennington and Hal Smith, who built this extravagant home and hundreds of other homes and commercial buildings in Apple Valley between 1947 and 1965.
Most of us that remain do recall Jack Bennington, and Clyde Tatum, not to forget King-fish Tatum that is all that matters really. As I see the old stomping grounds I’m of the opinion Jack and Clyde as well as Newt would ashamed of what’s become of their sweat and tears.
A good friend of mine said today that its slated for demolition. It’s very sad.
Nothing lasts forever why put good money on restoring the Hill Top when all U see below is TRASH and druggers.
In 2022, the a project found its way out of the Town basement.
Architerra Design Group of Rancho Cucamonga was recently awarded a contract by the Town to design and prepare construction documents for a new heritage trail with new observation pavilion. Town Council also approved demolition of the Ruin, citing its condition has eroded beyond repair and the on going liability and cost to secure and re-secure it from trespassers and vandals had become untenable. As of this writing, wrecking balls and bulldozers are not on the scene. Town has owned the parcel since 2016 following their award of a State Parks grant – spearheaded by community – which funded acquisition – with a stipulation the property be repurposed in favor of a community trail and in perpetuity.
Tore down what a shame should have been restored to it’s former glory