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Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village - Simi Valley, California

4595 Cochran Street, Simi Valley, CA

Bottle Village

Tressa "Grandma" Prisbrey didn't start building Bottle Village until she was 60 years old. Her first bottle house was inspired after seeing the bottle house at Knott's Berry Farm (a folly inspired by the original Rhyolite bottle house). It was simply a structure to house the enormous collection of pencils she'd been gathering for years. But from that beginning in 1956, the little garden and bottle-walled shacks on her property gradually became a small scale tourist attraction where Mrs. Prisbrey would show visitors the 17,000 pencils and many rescued dolls in her collection, and mosaics, houses and little towers made from glass bottles, television tubes and other colorful refuse scavenged at the local dump.

When she started her bricolage village the property was a dusty country lot next to a turkey farm. But nowadays Simi Valley is a clean community of townhomes and suburbia better known for its Ronald Reagan Presidential Library than a garden made from trash. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake heavily damaged the Bottle Village, caretakers of the site secured FEMA funds to restore the structures. But local Congressman Elton Gallegly introduced a bill to specifically prohibit federal funds from being used to repair the Bottle Village, and the funding was withdrawn. Since that time friends of the Village have worked hard to stabilize the structures and keep the site open to visitors by appointment.

The history of Bottle Village, photos and hours are at BottleVillage.com.

In 1982, filmmakers Allie Light and Irving Saraf made a charming film about Grandma Prisbrey and her creation. Buy a copy or watch it in online at FolkStreams.net.

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Copyright 2016 Matt Bergstrom