Those who will be attracted to the ultimate three dimensional life size folk art creation known as Nit Wit Ridge will be either artists, eccentrics or old junk collectors like my me. The house of the late Arthur Beal, affectionately known as Nit Wit Ridge after his nick name Captain Nit Wit, is the manifestation of an artist’s eye that sees utility in disparate objects. Plus, he had too much time and his hands and from all the beer cans incorporated into the house, he drank a lot.
The ultimate recycler
As I toured his old home kept in a state of arrested decay, I saw that he was obsessed with projects. Whereas many homeowners can’t stop adding to their houses and gardens Arthur’s home supply was not Home Depot but the local land fill. While anyone can build a retaining wall, he would adorn his with old beer cans and abalone shells.
Many different influences
You can see from the pictures that he was willing to add the artistic flourishes of arches and scalloped eaves that many of us are not adventurous enough to undertake. If you look hard you can see certain threads of repeating patterns in his additional appurtenances. But they may have more to do with the readily available building materials than any specific design he was hoping to achieve.
Nit Wit Ridge was truly an expression of independence. In an era where our homes must conform to certain building standards or local regulations, Arthur built in a different age. There is no doubt that he was on the outskirts of “good taste”, there was little the community could do to stop his dreams.
Great minds build alike
Arthur Beal’s creation is really no different than the creation of the Watts Towers built by Sam Rodia in essentially the same period. I do connect with Nit Wit Ridge in the aspect of creating a living space. Arthur must have received immense pleasure sitting in the garden, drinking a beer and thinking about his next addition. If you are taking in a tour of Hearst Castle, right up the road from Cambria, stop by and tour the poor man’s version of opulence. Both are the vision of a man’s home as his castle. I often wonder how much influence the construction of Hearst Castle had on Arthur Beal to create Nit Wit Ridge.