Lonnie Hammargren Welcomes Nevada Day Visitors

Some 1500 Las Vegans attended Lonnie Hammargren’s 2013 Nevada Day Open House.
Photo by Diane Taylor

For years, my husband and I have driven by the home of “some guy” on Sandhill Road. who collects things..big things. We could see part of the collection over his wall on Sandhill.

Gradually we discovered that the home belongs to ex-Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and ex-neurosurgeon Lonnie Hammargren. For the past 18 years, on or around Nevada Day, Hammargren has held an open house.

(On October 31, 1864 Nevada was admitted into the union. Nevada Day is usually celebrated on the last Friday in October. Hammargren’s open house this year was held Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3 from Noon to 5 p.m. Visitors paid a donation of $10 to tour the home.)

So my walking group decided to visit Hammargren’s home. We couldn’t have been more surprised. One home was actually three homes connected by a facade that Hammargren says is a duplication of the Palace of the Governor found in the Mayan Ruins of Old Mexico. Yes, though we expected to see a home filled with Nevada souvenirs, we found a world of Hammargren treasures celebrating all the histories that intrigued him with a few laughs thrown in as well. And yes, Nevada history was there, too.

I took a video of part of my tour, but clearly I didn’t see everything. Hammargren is a collector…of things he likes whether they be souvenirs from his grandfather’s tavern in Sunrise, Minnesota or a cathedral ceiling from the former Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.

Hammargren attempts to organize his collection in various rooms, but signs are few, so a valuable or interesting item may be between two collectibles of little value. Visitors have a hard time knowing which is which. (How wonderful a personal guided tour would be!) Wikipedia tells us Hammargren served as Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor from 1995 to 1999 and that Hammargren gave up surgery in 2005 when the cost of his malpractice insurance was raised to $275,000 a year. In 2009, says the online encyclopedia, as part of a medical malpractice settlement, Hammargren agreed to give up surgery permanently, though he maintained his medical license.

Aside from being a history buff, Hammargren likes to laugh, and bits of humor are sprinkled throughout his home. This character is advertising E Clampus Vitus, the fraternal organization dedicated to the study of the history of the American West. Drinking may be involved as well.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Proudly, Hammargren remembers having his home being featured on TV’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous; at the same time, he’s had court issues with his neighbors regarding the height of his personal museum. He was present at the open house, and on the Sunday we visited he welcomed former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian as his guest. The two men sat front row in the open patio area where they could greet guests and see the action on a nearby stage featuring non-stop entertainment. Refreshments were available for purchase, and Hammargren estimated that he would have some 1500 visitors for the weekend.

Visitors encountered few empty spaces in Hammargren’s home. His collections spanned floor to ceiling.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Is Hammargren a genius? A character? A collector? A musician? A hoarder? Maybe all of that. One room I didn’t see was the master bedroom which is said to contain a working carousel surrounding a round bed once owned by MGM. A video distributed (for a donation) talks of a scale model of the Lincoln Memorial built by Hammargren, a rocking chair covered with leopard that once belonged to swimmer/movie star Johnny Weissmuller and a staircase used by Liberace in productions at the Riviera Hotel & Casino. Hammargren plays the piano, and while Lieutenant Governor had an electronic piano installed in his desk to entertain constituents. Teddy Roosevelt was his favorite president, he says. “I was small and nearsighted and had to use the same courage (that Teddy used) to achieve.” Here is an article written by Megan Edwards about the Nevada Day Open House in 2008.

Our group was glad we didn’t have all the “stuff” Hammargren has in terms of keeping it all dusted….and we did wonder about that hoarding thing, but we also had a great time looking at room after room of unusual items. After all, where else would we have seen full-sized and miniature trains, a nine-foot New Guinea shield, artifacts from Frankie’s Lounge in Las Vegas and the original basket used in the movie, Around the World in 80 Days?

Comments

2 responses on “Lonnie Hammargren Welcomes Nevada Day Visitors

  1. I put a link to Megan Edwards’ article about the 2008 Open House above — And if you want a real odd experience — attend one of the yard sales at this house sometime…. (These sales are a rarity).

    Mark

  2. While looking at a bunch of junky memorabilia might be interesting to outsiders, that sad “behind-the-scenes” truth was revealed on a recent episode of Hoarders.

    As of the taping of the show, Lonnie and his wife, Sandy, were $750,000 in debt and potentially about to lose of their three homes (bought side-by-side to expand his hoard). Understandably, they are no longer rich. Lonnie was only able to make about $4,100 during an auction he thought would net him MUCH more. He claims to have spent $10 million on his stuff, but the actual value is a fraction of that amount. Lonnie has serious delusions about his massive hoard, while his wife was very realistic…she teared up more than once. Like a typical hoarder (classified mental disorder), Lonnie was picking the stuff over the happiness of his wife that he claims to love.

    Lonnie also did NOT want to hear about required “provenance” (proof of origin) being needed with the claim that something is famous and worth a lot of money. For example, the supposed NASA test capsule, has no NASA markings whatsoever and NO proof of its origin. Expert historian, Mark (Pawn Stars “beard of knowledge”), explained that replicas were indeed made, but Lonnie refused to believe such facts. It was clear that Lonnie was not playing with a full deck; he had creepily grandiose ideas about himself, like being the most interesting human to live. He was completely serious.

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