BAKER, Calif. (KSNV MyNews3.com) — What's 134 feet tall and offers weather information to weary travelers on I-15? It’s the world's tallest thermometer in Baker.
For years, the iconic tower lit up the desert horizon until neglect and power prices shut it down. But thanks to one family's determination, the thermometer is coming back.
The world's tallest thermometer proudly coaxed drivers to stop a while in Baker until a few years ago, when the lights went dark and the temperature shone no more.
The thermometer’s 134-foot height represents the hottest temperature recorded in the Northern Hemisphere: 134 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature was recorded right next door in Death Valley in July 1913.
Incredibly, the thermometer fell over once. In 1991, just before the grand opening, a freak wind gust pushed it right over. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and not long after, cement was poured down the center to prevent it from falling down again.
The thermometer's original owner, Willis Herron, who once owned a good chunk of everything in Baker, died in 2007. LaRae Harguess, Herron’s daughter, has joined the rest of Herron’s family in taking re-possession of the thermometer, which had been sold twice since Herron first owned it, dumping about $150,000 into refurbishing and re-lighting those towering digits.
To help pay for the thermometer's enormous power bill, which is by some estimates $3,000 to $8,000 a month, the family is also re-opening a small gift shop at the base of the tower. The family is also looking into ways to decrease power costs.
“We are replacing LED lights, so that will help. Eventually we want to go solar,” Harguess said.
Another property, the Bun Boy next door, is now for sale. Harguess hopes the restaurant will find new life once the tower is lit this summer, reminding those drivers whizzing by at 75 mph that Baker is worth a visit.
“I hear it's going to be really hot this summer,” Harguess said. “Who knows, maybe it will go all the way to the top.”