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Editor’s Note: In our My Nevada 5 series, UNLV faculty, students, and alumni share with you the bits of state history and culture that intrigue them. This piece comes from Julian Kilker, a professor in the Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies. Kilker’s research focuses on society and information technologies, specifically as they relate to media innovation.
I was privileged to document Walking Box Ranch in the Mojave Desert. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, Walking Box Ranch is most famous as the home of the silent film actress and “It Girl” Clara Bow and her husband, Rex Bell. The couple lived on the ranch in the 1930s. Rex, also an actor, served as Nevada’s lieutenant governor from 1954-62.
But, as a 2013 UNLV Public Lands Institute booklet about the ranch notes, the site also offers “outstanding ecological, cultural, historic, and educational resources.” The institute notes that the ranch is at “intersection of the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran deserts, between Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Mojave National Preserve, within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, and nearly adjacent to the Wee Thump Wilderness.”
The PLI has helped preserve and protect this historic landmark since 2002 in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management.
I shot these photographs as part of a larger collection during both the daytime and nighttime to highlight the ranch for its future visitors’ center, when Walking Box Ranch becomes officially open to the public.
The two-story main ranch building is nestled among Joshua Trees, a few miles west of Searchlight, Nev. (Julian Kilker/UNLV-PLI)
Carefully positioned portraits of Clara Bow and husband Rex Bell in their bedroom await a BBC film crew preparing a documentary about Clara’s life. (Julian Kilker/UNLV-PLI)
The ranch house’s most distinctive feature is its stone chimney, topped with jagged pieces mimicking flames. (Julian Kilker/UNLV-PLI)
This 16mm Keystone projector was likely used to entertain guests at the house with Hollywood films. (Julian Kilker/UNLV-PLI)
Two wings of the house embrace a large Joshua Tree and small desert garden. From this shaded veranda, miles of open desert are visible—and, at night, the distant lights of Searchlight. (Julian Kilker/UNLV-PLI)