Thunder Mountain Indian Monument

Thunder Mountain Indian Monument

* P.O. Box 162 * Imlay * Nevada * 89418 * United States of America * http://www.thundermountainmonument.com/ *

Thunder Mountain is a little artistic wonder along the side of Interstate 80 near Imlay, Nevada. It is also known as “The Place Rolling Mountain Thunder built”. This array of odd kitch construction as a collage of bizarre and trbal art, while maintained and managed by Daniel Van Zant, is one of Nevada’s historic monuments that was built by his father “Frank Van Zant” a.k.a. “Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder”. The Thunder Mountain Monument is a property of exotic folk art and architectural oddities spread over five acres of land standings as a roadside art park, museum, monument to Native Americans, and as a retreat for pilgrims aspiring to the “pure and radiant heart”. The local neighbours of Van Zant were split – some feared his oddity while others saw him as a spiritual guru. Frank was a Creek Nation member who was born in Okmulgee, Oklahoma on November 11th, 1921. At age 14 he left the reservation and enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps and then the Army Air Corps during WWII. From there he transferred to the Tank Corps for several campaigns in Europe. After his service, he studied theology for 1 1/2 years wanting to become a Methodist minister. Brushed off by the hypocrisy of the church, he dropped out of divinity school and became a law enforcement officer working for two decades as a sheriff’s deputy in Sutter County near Yuba City, California. After his service with the police, he became a private investigator, and with his third marriage set out for the Nevada lands where he became reincarnated as “Chief Rolling Thunder Mountain”. No one really knows why such radical changes came about in his life, but it boiled down to a dream he had one night where a big eagle swooped down from the sky and told him this is where he should build his nest. Another story tells about Frank and his young bride Ahtrum heading west in 1968 to “find a place in the sun” where they landed 130 miles northeast of Reno, at the oneime railway station of Imlay, and where his 1946 Chevy pickup truck saw its last day, and it was on this spot he set up camp, and the property owner offered him the land for a price he couldn’t refuse. Inspired from a moment in youth where he saw a bottle house in the desert near Death Valley is what led him to build the artistic houses that are now the monument. Made primarily of bottles cemented together with daub and slate ceilings, he built a 3 story monument from a one-room travel trailer. He added corridors, stairways, upstairs bedrooms, and other rooms on to the structure. Whatever trash he could get his hands on to turn into building materials he did including automobile windshields as picture windows, chicken wire formed into ornamental statuary and cemented with concrete, scrap iron and galvanized pipe as rebar, old automobiles as foundations. Every square foot of the structures exterior is covered with friezes and bas-relief tableaux depicting historic Indian massacres or bureaucratic betrayals of Native Americans. Statues, multiple arches, and a carved wooden eagle adorn the roof. After the main building was built, a roundhouse, hostel house, 40×60′ work shed, underground hut, guest cabins, and a “Tim Burton-like” children’s playground was also constructed. The resort and rest area became a popular location for hippie artisans and countercultural movers/shakers. By the 70’s, Thunder Mountain began falling into disrepair, and in 1983 the 3 story hostel house burnt to the ground caving in the underground hut. Eventually the hippies left, his wife and three children left him. Alone, depressed, and health failing, he shot himself on January 5th, 1989. The estate became deserted, being only visited by curious roadside visitors spying the monument from the highway as well as being the destructive ground of various vandals. People would break into the house at night to party and tell ghost stories. The remains began to crumble and decay. His son tried to donate it to the State Parks of Nevada, but they called the place a mess. So Dan and his wife cleaned up the place. Lacking funds they have plans for a visitor center to be constructed some day. The site includes a large somber statue of the son who killed himself, Sarah Winnemucca the Paiute Peacemaker, the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl, Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe, and a couple of statues of Thunder himself all built from “white man’s trash”. Rathing: 5 stars out of 5. Visited 9/5/10


 

 

 

 



 



 



 

 

 

 

 

 







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