The Volcano House is a flying-saucer-shaped house that sits atop a 150-foot tall cinder cone of an extinct volcano in the western Mojave Desert of Southern California, the United States, in a place called Newberry Springs. The house was originally commissioned in 1968 by aircraft-mechanics genius Vard Wallace as a retreat for himself and his wife, and designed by the prolific and versatile Southern California architect Harold Bissner, Jr.
Vard Wallace was an engineer who made a fortune selling drafting machines and airplane parts to the likes of Lockheed & Co. during World War II. He was also an inventor who patented the first “skateboard”. Wallace hired Harold Bissner Jr. to design a home resembling the dome-shaped information center built in 1965 at the construction site of the nuclear generating plant at San Onofre. Wallace reportedly picked the remote location as a tribute to his passions for trout fishing and astronomical pursuits.
Huell Howser pointing to Volcano House. Photo credit
The house measures 2,500 square foot with two bedrooms and two bathrooms plus a 750-square-foot caretaker's house, where Vard Wallace had a workshop for designing drafting machinery, helicopter parts and other equipment for manufacture at his Vard Newport Inc. plant. The dome is surrounded by a moat, 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep. At the apex of the dome is an observation deck that provides 360-degree views of the mountains and the desert, and his 60-acre property.
Wallace retained Volcano House for years before it was sold to British developer Richard Baily in 2000. Baily, however, found that he did not have the time to spend there and put the house on the market in 2003 with an asking price of $795,000. It was bought by the American television personality, Huell Howser, best known for the TV serial 'California's Gold'. In 2010, Howser put this unusual house for sale on the market for $750,000, but then later donated it Chapman University, who currently owns the property.
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