¨Gerald Freeman was prospecting for gold in the Mojave Desert when he stumbled on Nipton.
In 1984, it had become a virtual ghost town. Its sole resident lived in the trading post selling sodas to the occasional wayward traveler who might briefly stop to watch freight trains rumble past on the nearby Union Pacific railroad.
But where most saw desolation, Freeman saw "a little place to make a home" and maybe some money too. The Caltech-trained geologist shelled out $200,000 to buy the tiny, tattered outpost.
For a quarter-century, Freeman struggled to make much of the place, spending roughly $1 million on restoration costs. About 20 people eventually moved into town, most living in recreational vehicles and trailers.
But now Freeman thinks he's finally figured out a way to turn Nipton into a boomtown.
He put up rows of gleaming solar panels, and recently began selling hats emblazoned with the hamlet's new motto: "Nipton, powered by the sun."
It's part of a major push to make Nipton a sustainable wonderland, a green hospitality center for nature lovers headed into the neighboring Mojave National Preserve.
Nipton held an opening ceremony for its new solar generating plant.
Hermitage House. Artists´residence
The 80-kilowatt solar installation — enough to power most of the town — is 10 miles from Interstate 15 and two miles from the Nevada border. Freeman has also erected five "eco-cabins" based on designs by Frank Lloyd Wright.
In the next decade, Freeman envisions energy-efficient buildings, an organic farm, electric vehicle charging stations and even more solar installations. If the local winds weren't so weak, he'd erect wind turbines too.
Nipton isn't the only U.S. town hopping on the environmental bandwagon. Turbines are going up in Greensburg, Kan., where a tornado tore through in 2007. Soldiers Grove, Wis., moved its downtown out of a flood-prone area and equipped the new buildings with solar energy.
But Nipton has one advantage: Freeman owns the town and can do whatever he wants with it.¨
KEEP ON reading:
More pictures and history at: