Elizabeth moved to Cambria in 1967, lived on a ranch about 20 miles north of town, raised 2 chil-dren with her then husband and worked at the Cambria School District for 27 years as a school sec-retary. Her interests are botany, photography and history, both local and global. 

During his many years in Cambria, Art Beal preferred to be known by his nickname, Doctor Tinkerpaw. He also answered to the name Captain Nitt Witt after being called a nitwit by someone in Cambria. (Hence the name Nitt Witt Ridge.) But Art was anything but dim. 

Born 20 miles north of Cambria in 1896, Art was the son of a Klamath Indian wom-an who died when he was just 10 years old. As an orphan, he passed through sever-al institutions and took odd jobs before becoming a vaudeville entertainer. (He claimed to have performed an act with a stunt dog and a one-legged bicyclist at the Toronto World’s Fair in the 1920s.) Later, he would become a famed long-distance swimmer, freestyling 22 miles of the Hudson River and across San Francisco Bay. His swimming career led him to a number of famous entertainers who became friends, including Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and Willie Nelson. During his years building and living at Nitt Witt Ridge, he was profiled on several television programs, highlighting his eccentricity. 

Sometime in the early 1970s, a man gave Art a small loan to keep up Nitt Witt Ridge, and Art trans-ferred the deed to him. When Art couldn’t repay the debt, the man threatened to destroy Nitt Witt Ridge and develop the property. But in 1975, friends of the unusual homebuilder formed The Art Beal Foundation, which purchased back the deed. The purchase also funded work to have Nitt Witt Ridge recognized as a California Historical Landmark in 1981. Today, the bronze plaque can be seen on the home’s street level. 

When he died in 1992, Art’s ashes were spread under a redwood tree on the Nitt Witt Ridge property. Clippings of his varied accom-plishments, as well as photos of his high-profile friends, remain in the house to this day, right where Art left them. 


Art Beal & Nitt Witt Ridge 

Elizabeth Appel