In the Mojave Desert along State Route 127, a stretch of highway more commonly known as Death Valley Road, sits the small town of Baker, California. With a population of less than 1,000 and routine summer temperatures of more than 110 °F (43.3 °C), there are not a lot of reasons or opportunities to spend time in Baker. While Baker may not have too much to brag about, they have since 1991 been home to the World’s Tallest Thermometer. And really, is there a more fitting place for a giant thermometer to live than in one of the hottest places on earth?
When Willis Herron decided to build a sign for his business that doubled as a thermometer in 1991, he turned to the Young Electric Sign Company to produce his vision. The original $700,000 spent on the was unfortunately not enough to insure that it was safe from severe weather, and within a few month it was snapped in half by 70 mph winds. The sign was promptly rebuilt but suffered another unfortunate weather related disaster when high winds caused dramatic swaying that resulted in most of the light bulbs to pop out and crash on the ground below.
Not willing to admit defeat and walk away with a $700,000 lesson, Herron had 125 cubic yards (96 m3) of concrete poured inside the steel sign for reinforcement. This protected the thermometer from the wind and brought the weight to a staggering 76,812 pounds (34,841 kg).
The thermometer, restaurant, and newly created gift shop changed hands a few times over the years and in September 2012, the new owner turned out the lights citing high operation costs and a poor economy. The Herron family became the owners of the thermometer once again in 2014 and an official re-lighting ceremony took place on July 10, 2014, the 101st anniversary of the hottest ever recorded temperature.
At the base of the thermometer, near the gift shop, a commemorative plaque describes a bit about the history. There is also small parking lot and an exhibit on how hot it needs to be to fry an egg in an iron skillet.
World’s Tallest Thermometer Facts
- The thermometer is 134 feet (41 m) tall and weighs 76,812 pounds (34,841 kg).
- The maximum temperature reading is 134 °F (57 °C).
- The previous World’s Tallest Thermometer in International Falls, Minnesota was only 22 feet tall.
- Both the height and max temperature honor the 134 °F temperature in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, an international record that stands to this day.
- There is a commemorative plaque at the base of the thermometer that describes its history.
- The world’s tallest thermometer is located at 72157 Baker Boulevard in Baker, California.
- It originally took almost 5,000 light bulbs to construct three-sided display.
- The Young Electric Sign Company also made many of the neon masterpieces that graced the Las Vegas Strip.