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Nit Wit Ridge, Outsider Art At Its Finest

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
This ramshackle home on the outskirts of Cambria, CA took over 50 years and millions of bits of recycled trash to create. You really have to see it to appreciate it.

A ramshackle home on the outskirts of Cambria, California, this historic landmark took over 50 years and millions of bits and pieces of recycled trash to create. You really have to see it to appreciate it.

Nit Wit Ridge is just a pile of junk -- or so it was thought when it was created over 90 years ago.

Today, it’s considered a fine example of folk art and is a California State Historic Landmark, right along side Hearst Castle, which sits just a few miles up the road from Nit Wit Ridge.

It was built over a lifetime by Arthur Harold Beal -- a.k.a. Captain Nit Wit or Der Tinkerpaw -- a local trash hauler with a love of all things rubbish and an inability to throw anything away.

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Beal began working on his creation in 1928.

Using a pickax, a shovel, and a strong back, he hollowed out a 2.5-acre hillside in Cambria and filled it with collected trash. Then he used even more discards to create the intricate network of terraced gardens, buildings, ornamental stone arches, fountains and walkways, which make up Nit Wit Ridge.

It’s a three-story monument to recycling, with its own unique quirks and turns.

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Beal used rocks, abalone shells, wood, beer cans, tile, car parts and other found objects to create his masterpiece. And even though it has the appearance of a post-earthquake death trap from afar, up close it is an imaginatively assembled sculpture, a testament to the notion that nothing is ever really trash.

Although Beal died in 1992 after a long illness, you can still marvel at the ingenuity of this amateur architect. His keen eye for detail and his wicked sense of humor still come through, even to the casual observer.

Nit Wit Ridge is currently owned by Michael and Stacey O'Malley, who conduct thoughtful, in-depth tours of the house and gardens by appointment.

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