Bottle Wall


bottle wall

A bottle wall is a wall made out of glass bottles and binding material. A building construction style which usually uses 1l glass bottles (although mason jars or 1/2l glass jugs may be used as well) as masonry units and binds them using adobe, sand, cement, stucco, clay, plaster, mortar or any other joint compound to result in an intriguing stained-glass like wall.

Although bottle walls can be constructed in many different ways, they are typically made on a foundation that is set into a trench in the earth to add stability to the wall. The trench is filled with a rubble of pea gravel and then filled in with cement. Rebar can be set into the foundation to add structural integrity. Bottle walls range from using one bottle as a filler in a thin wall to making walls two bottles thick. Most intriguing though, is the wall made from bottles cut in half, matched, and joined to another bottle of the same size and color.

If the bottles are filled with a (dark) liquid, or other dark material, the wall can function as a thermal mass, absorbing solar radiation during the day and radiating it back into the space at night, thus dampening diurnal temperature swings.

The use of empty vessels in construction dates back at least to ancient Rome, where many structures used empty urn embedded in concrete. This was not done for aesthetic reasons, but to lighten the load of upper levels of structures, and also to reduce concrete usage.

It is believed that the first bottle house was constructed in 1902 by William F. Peck in Tonopah, Nevada. The house was built using 10,000 bottles of beer from Jhostetter’s Stomach Bitters which were 90% alcohol and 10% opium. The Peck house was demolished in the early 1980s.

Around 1905, Tom Kelly built his house in Rhyolite, Nevada, using 51,000 beer bottles masoned with adobe. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, has a bottle house, made from over 3,000 whiskey bottles, that it uses as an ‘Indian Trader’ store today. The house is a remake of the Rhyolite Bottle House replicated from photos taken by Walter Knott in the early 1950s.

Bottle Village was built by the self taught senior citizen Tressa ‘Grandma’ Prisbrey in Simi Valley California. Beginning construction in 1956 at age 60, and working until 1981, Prisbrey transformed her 1/3 acre lot into an otherworld of shrines, wishing wells, walkways, random constructions, plus 15 life size structures all made from found objects placed in mortar.

The Washington Court Bottle House in Ohio was made with 9,963 bottles of all sizes and colors. The builder was a bottle collector and, to display his collection, he had them built into this house which was on display at Meyer’s Modern Tourist Court.

The Kaleva Bottle House in Kaleva, Michigan, was built by John J. Makinen, Sr. using over 60,000 bottles laid on their sides with the bottoms toward the exterior. The bottles were mostly from his company, The Northwestern Bottling Works. The house was completed in 1941, but he died before he could move in.

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