Beyond the Strip: Unusual Las Vegas houses

We don’t all live in hotels (some do — but let’s save that for another blog) or cookie-cutter homes with yards thisclose together. Once you get past that notion, you’ll find that Vegas has some of the quirkiest houses you’ll ever see. Besides all of the celebrities living here in the desert, these Vegas houses are superstars in their own right too.

Take a look at these eight bizarre Vegas homes that are sure to blow your mind.


We guess you never have to worry about extreme weather conditions. This underground home comes with faux trees, faux grass and faux everything. Photo courtesy of Vegas Inc.

1. The Underground House

3970 Spencer St.
Think back to the days your teacher had you bring canned food and bottled water in case any disaster happened during school hours. And who can forget those earthquake and fire drills? Well, businessman Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson took disaster precaution to the next level.

Let’s kick off this article by starting from the bottom. Henderson built this bunker, located on Spencer Street near Flamingo Road,  in the late ’70s to stay safe from any possible nuclear attacks and other end-of-the-world instances. Set 26 feet under the ground, this underground home offers plenty to do. According to a Vegas Inc. article, the home has a four-hole putting green, pool, two whirlpools, a sauna, a bar, a barbecue pit, casita and even a dance floor with a small stage. If you lived here you couldn’t possibly be bored, especially if you had a fun group of friends.

One of the odd features is the light control switch: You can choose day, sunset or night (complete with stars). This home also has fake trees and flowers, elevators, an intercom and fire alarm systems. The chimney is even disguised as a tree at ground level. But the story gets even odder: A group called Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species bought it for more than $1 million. We’re curious what they plan on doing with it.

The two-bedroom, three-bathroom house is built beneath a normal looking house — you would never even know it’s here. The bunker home is 5,000-plus square feet. Hopefully this eventually becomes a tour because we are totally interested.


From this view, aren’t you the least bit tempted to run inside frantically and expect something random in the living room? Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Weekly.

2. The Simpsons house

Henderson, Nev.
The Siiimpsons…remember getting excited each week to see what Bart writes on the blackboard during detention? And of course, we can’t get enough of the couch gags (this blogger’s favorite will always be “The Game of Life” one). If you’re a hardcore fan of “The Simpsons,” imagine living in a tricked out Simpsons house. Everything – from the sailboat picture hanging crooked over the frumpy brown couch to the brightly-colored walls  – was recreated to the T.  Built in 1997, the real-life Simpsons house was actually part of a marketing promo run by Pepsi and Fox.

The 2,200-square-foot, four-bedroom home had more than a thousand Simpsons-themed props to fill the house including Maggie’s bottles, Duff beer cans and even Bart’s tree house. This house was a prize in a nationwide contest. Sadly (for us anyway), the winner opted for the prize money and the house sold a few years later. All of the glorious Simpsons touches are simply a memory. Sigh.

The concept was freaking awesome, right down to the pink sedan parked in the driveway. For those of us who lived or visited Vegas back in 2007, at least we had a little fix: Select 7-Eleven stores throughout the valley dressed up as Kwik-E Marts to promote “The Simpsons Movie.” You could actually buy Buzz Cola and Krusty the Klown’s KrustyO’s cereal.


Not just for road trips anymore: This RV’s interior is way swanky. Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Weekly.

3. Airstream park, Downtown Las Vegas

East Fremont Street (between Ninth and 10th streets)
In case we need to school ya, an Airstream is a luxury RV popular for its 1930s-inspired rounded aluminum exterior. Zappos CEO/Downtown Project founder Tony Hsieh owns one and it looks spiffy. He rents out the others on this “urban camping” site. A Las Vegas Weekly story explained that the RV park includes everything from community campfires and a shared kitchen (made inside a shipping container). Measuring a mere 200 square feet, each airstream has wood paneling, stainless steel appliances, a Bluetooth stereo system and TVs. You can also rent out a 130-square-foot Tumbleweed but it doesn’t have its own kitchen, couch or the fancy high-tech stuff.

And if you’ve ever frequented Gold Spike bar (also part of the Downtown Project), the Airstream park has a shared garden made for folks to hang out and mingle. The park is part of Hsieh’s $350 million investment into making Vegas more like a city-city.

We see this as a cool concept to rent out to family and friends. But we know the whole point is to socialize with strangers from all walks of life. All we’re missing are campfire songs, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” scary storytelling and marshmallow roasting.


May we have this dance? Swim, dine and dance the night away at the Hartland Mansion’s gorgeous event venue. Photo courtesy of the Hartland Mansion website.

4. The Hartland Mansion

525 Park Paseo
Measuring about 31,000 square feet, the Hartland Mansion is the epitome of a classic Vegas mansion. This is a popular spot for weddings, birthdays and fancy-schmancy dinner soirees. It started out as two residences in the 1940s and transformed into one in the early 1970s. The Hart family bought the house from original owner Lawrence Arvey nearly a decade later. Two fires later, the late Toni Hart, a gospel artist, decided to rebuild and restore the mansion, which took seven years to complete. After completion, the mansion served as an ideal venue for parties. The space also hosted fashion shows, as well as a private Las Vegas Symphony concert with 400 guests.

There’s celebrity history here too: Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone shot parts of “Casino” in this mansion, while Willie Nelson sang here on another occasion. Before the Harts took over, past visitors included Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Sammy Davis Jr., Liberace, Tony Bennett, Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan, among others.

The Hartland Mansion has eight bedrooms and 13 bathrooms (nine full and four half). There’s an “Elvis Room,” a “Velvet Room” and the spectacular “Grand Party Room” that features an indoor pool, a garden and plenty of room to dine and dance. If you ever make it out here, make sure to take a picture in front of the double spiral staircase — it’s very “Gone with the Wind” style.

The house is on the market for $3.5 million. If you have the dough, you can either keep the glam vintage Vegas feel or change it to the house of your dreams. The space is bananas.


Add a little color to your day at this middle-of-nowhere mansion better known as The Slammer. Photo courtesy of

5. The Slammer (Penn Jillette’s former mansion)

West Wigwam Avenue
The famed magician from “Penn & Teller” bought this A-frame house back in the mid-’90s. A-frame houses are actually built for snow, so we find it a bit wacky since this is in the desert. It originally sat on two acres and Jillette stretched it out to 10. As soon as he and his wife had kids, they added an additional wing.

“I would live here for the rest of my life if I didn’t have children,” said Jillette in a YouTube video posted by John Whiteside. “Children don’t want to be raised in a retreat.”

The house is selling for more than $2 million. If it’s not purchased by a private owner soon (real soon), developers will buy it for the land. This means the cartoonish house (which actually could pass as a “cousin” to the aforementioned Simpsons house if you think of it) will be bulldozed. “The Slammer is so eccentric, you can’t really sell this thing. That’s the downside,” he said.

When he lived here, Jillette said he had full-out rock concerts, including a performance by the late Lou Reed. The colorful, sprawling property has everything like a kid’s living room, steam room, gym, a room for band practice, a lecture hall and of course, tons of bedrooms. As an added touch, there are 12 turtles that swim in the backyard’s goldfish-shaped pond.

To avoid the bulldozing, Jillette’s organization The United Church of Bacon wants to try and save it and use The Slammer for parties and events.

Get lost behind a T-Rex or pose by a Batmobile at the Hammargren estate. Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Sun.

6. Hammargren Home of Nevada

4318 Ridgecrest Drive
Ever watched the A&E hit series, “Hoarders?” Talk about motivation to clean your place! If you ever had the pleasure of visiting this particular house, you’ll see that former neurosurgeon and lieutenant governor Dr. Lonnie Hammargren had a knack for collecting. And while some would call his hobby excessive hoarding, we find it excessively cool. Come on — how often do you see a life-sized T-Rex hanging out in someone’s yard? Or even a Batmobile for that matter?

The doctor turned two houses into one. He has hosted private tours for the past 40 years but due to health problems and neighbor complaints from lack of street parking, it may be on a permanent hiatus. Hammargren hosted an open house last year in honor of Nevada’s 150th birthday.

His tours have attracted thousands of visitors and include several themed rooms with artifacts from all over the world. And who knows? Tours for this may run again. If they do, we call dibs in the toy room so we have an excuse play all day.

Just your typical Vegas dream house — huge back patio, sparkling pools, bulletproof doors and windows. Photo courtesy of JPM Studios.

7. Lefty Rosenthal’s house

972 Vegas Valley Drive
You’ve seen the movies. Mob stories always so alluring, right? Famous mobster and Las Vegas casino executive Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s two-story home could star in its own. Located in the Las Vegas Country Club, it was part of the city’s first guard-gated housing area. Rosenthal had everything from bulletproof doors and windows to gun safes and steel fixtures protecting the house. These ultra-tough windows may have worked in his favor: There’s a chip on part of the glass suspected to be from a bullet.

Rosenthal also had soundproof rooms so the feds couldn’t listen in on his conversations. When he owned the house in the 1970s, he put about half a million sprucing up the place. The 1995 movie, “Casino” is largely based on this mobster’s life. Rosenthal passed away in 2008. As of July, the house is on the market for $777,777.


“Now this is a story all about how…” Wayne’s house looks very much like one from a hit ’90s TV show. Courtesy of Casa de Shenandoah.

8. Casa de Shenandoah

3310 Sunset Road
Last but most certainly not least, we gotta show some love to Mr. Las Vegas himself, Wayne Newton. Wayne Newton’s 52-acre property, Casa de Shenandoah is now open for public tours. Those days of cruising down Pecos Road (wondering what the heck was behind that darn wall) are finally over. We now have a behind-the-scenes peek into the crib he owned for the past 50-plus years.

The tour starts across the street at the visitor’s center, where you’ll watch a quick movie highlighting Newton’s start in showbiz. Afterward, you’ll hop on a shuttle which takes you past the golden gates. Get ready to ooh and ahh, especially when you see the private jet on the lot.

There is so much lush greenery, along with waterfalls, tall oak trees and ponds. You’ll forget you’re in Vegas for a second. You’ll get a chance to see his beautiful Arabian horses. These horses walk so gracefully and light, it almost looks like they’re floating. You can watch the horses gallop and just steps away, you can see them go for a swim. Wayne also has a penguin named Charlie and a capuchin monkey named Boo. We loved the bright, highlighter green parrot who whistles at the ladies. You may even spot peacocks lounging high up in the trees.

The private jet was also fun; you can take a selfie in the cockpit. (Roger that!) You’ll also see fun memorabilia in the museum, from childhood costumes and rare military keepsakes, to letters from past presidents and gifts from Vegas entertainers. He also has a row of classic cars, including Mercedes Benz models. Head to his house and you’ll run into some really bizarre, intriguing art and collectibles. The man had diverse taste, that’s for sure.

Once you head back to the visitor’s center, the gift shop area has everything like “Wayniac” shirts and handcrafted Native American jewelry. There are even stuffed animals (based on the real animals across the street) for the kids.

Read a detailed experience at Casa de Shenandoah and check it out for yourself 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. (with tours 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.), Monday – Saturday. Tours start at $35. Upgrade your tour and get peeks inside the mansion’s hidden rooms and passageways. You may even get a picture with Wayne.

We mentioned several unusual Vegas homes, but there are plenty of others. Honorable mentions: the Primm mansion on Tomiyasu Lane that Michael Jackson planned on buying, as well as the former home “haunted” by comedian Red Foxx (on Eastern Avenue, past Russell Road).

Think these houses are unusual? Take a peek at unusual Las Vegas themed hotels that almost opened on the Strip.


Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.