Friday, November 8, 2013

The Hammargren Home of Nevada History

Anyone who has even driven on Sandhill Road between Tropicana and Flamingo could not have missed the one strange wall with all sorts of things barely visible over it. Old casino signs, spaceships (some complete with little green men), and bizarre rickety structures are all visible in short bursts. Who lives there and what is all of that stuff, and—more importantly—who wouldn’t want to go inside and see what else is there?

The house, well actually it’s three houses morphed into one, belonging to Dr. Lonnie Hammargren, a retired neurosurgeon and former Nevada Lt. Governor. Yes, he really does live there. The concept of this Las Vegas landmark is to preserve Nevada’s history via Dr. Hammargren’s personal collection. He purchases anything and everything that catches his interest. Some of it may be invaluable to resale, but these are overshadowed by the incredible rare pieces that he has. For instance, the original Batmobile sits in his garage; the roller coaster from the top of the Stratosphere casino sits on his rooftop; numerous Liberace artifacts are littered throughout his collection. In other words, there is a lot to take in.

The whole thing began in 1971 when, after a night of drinking with the neighborhood’s developer, he was approved to build a second story planetarium in his home. Over the last 40 years, it has been continuously growing.

While his home is generally off limits to the public, once a year for Nevada Day he opens his doors to all residents or visitors of Las Vegas. I missed it the last few years; something always seemed to come up at the last minute and prevent me from attending. This year, however, I finally entered the Hammargren Home of Nevada History.


One of the first things you see upon entering through the main entrance way is the chapel. I'm not sure if actual services are performed here.

This is pretty typical of any nook and cranny of the Hammargren estate. Paintings, violins, flags and a mannequin, all in a five foot by five foot space. You could walk through the same rooms multiple times and find something new each time here. 


A view from the second floor loft in the main house. 



The outside of one of the three of Hammargren's houses.



This is an alleyway between two of the houses. 


A bridge connecting two of the houses.


Popeye and a statue possibly from Harrah's Casino adorn the side of Hammargren's backyard stage.


The old roller coaster that used to be on top of the Stratosphere casino now adorns this rooftop. 


One of the rooftop observatories. While you can't tell from this photo, the palm tree to the left should give you a gauge of how high this actually is.

An oversized hand of Lady Liberty sticks up out of the cluster below. On the ground, I never saw if there was more to the statue or not. 

This photo sums up the Hammagren house. I love contrast of the wall--on one side is a regular street, on the other a model of Hoover Dam, a swimming pool with a small submarine, an old casino sign and...and...and...


            This was actually used by NASA as a test capsule prior to becoming a UFO.


Either that's a dummy or some asleep on the job. I'm not sure what this is, but it looks like something that just landed on the roof. I believe it is more NASA scraps, possibly part of a satellite.


A dummy parachuting out of a plane.

Only in Vegas.



This miniature Abe Lincoln sits in his own reflection pool version of the Lincoln Memorial. Hammargren seems to favor both Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. There are a number of paintings, curios, and books about these two presidents throughout the Hammargren houses.



Yes, Hammargren even has a T-Rex in his backyard. I estimated him to be about fifteen feet tall. 


I found this guy hidden in the bushes of one of the backyards. That's an elephant raring his trunk behind the palm bush.


This is a statue of Garuda, a bird-god from the Hindu pantheon. This one seems to be of a Balinese style. He is usually depicted with Vishnu, but not always. 



I found this Russian bear to b quite interesting. I don't know his history but he certainly belongs here.



A shelf of fascinating figurines and old bottles. 





This vintage 1932 Rolls Royce is a rare "boat tail" model. 






This is the iron lung that Hammargren will one day be buried in. He has a special Egyptian styled crypt built underneath his house, where he plans to spend eternity. Did I mention he plans to be pickled in Vodka within the iron lung? 

  



Pop’s Oasis. That brought back memories. It was the original casino in Jean, Nevada, before the Gold Strike or the now demolished Nevada Landing casinos were there. It was very small compared to them. It stood near where the post office and courthouse are now located. I grew up in nearby Sandy Valley, and Pop’s Oasis was the closest casino to us, and it had an arcade. Gambling tokens from Pop’s were dropped into the foundation of the Nevada Landing when they built it in 1989, one year after Pop’s closed down. 



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