The Upside Down House (Lee Vining, California)

Upside Down House
Photo by Greg Schechter

The Upside Down House is a roadside attraction inspired by a series of children’s books. The Upside Down House was also the first man-made attraction with the sole purpose of attracting tourists to the area. It is somewhat interesting that there was a need to create roadside attractions in the area since it is located among some of the most incredible natural wonders anywhere on Earth.

The Upside Down house was the idea of Nellie Bly O’Bryan (1893-1984), and was inspired by two of her favorite children’s stories, ‘Upside Down Land’ and ‘The Upsidedownians’. What is known as a “house” is really a large upside down shed with some furniture suspended from the ceiling. Saying that it is nothing special though does not give credit to the little attraction that has been pulling weary travelers off the road since the mid 1950s (1956 to be exact).

Through the 1980s and 90s, after the 1984 death of O’Bryan, the Upside Down House fell into disrepair. It was far enough out of the way that tourists did not see it every day and it was a tough time in American history for upside down things. Despite the crumbling building seemingly serving no purpose, it was saved by locals and moved to its current location at the Old Schoolhouse Museum in Lee Vining, California. Prior to its relocation, the upside down house was located along the U.S. HWY 395, just north of the Tioga Lodge.

Upside Down House Facts

  • Adding to the charm of the Upside Down House, the informational plague is upside down.
  • Nellie Bly O’Bryan has been described as a lover of Mono Basin, and a hater of gravity.
  • The house is at the corner of 1st St. and Mattly Ave. Just about a block off of U.S Hwy 395.
  • In 1917 O’Bryan became the first licensed woman movie projectionist in LA.
  • O’Bryan completed the house  to what has been described as “much fanfare” in 1956.
  • The Upside Down House is furnished with upside down things including chairs, a bed, a table, and more importantly, a cat!