Thursday, September 07, 2006

A visit to Dr. H's Museum of Nevada History

Several weeks ago I finally got to visit Dr. Hammergren’s house. Dr. Hammergren is a former Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, a neurosurgeon, and runs a ‘Museum of Nevada History’ at his home here in Las Vegas. When I say his home I do mean the place where he lives. It’s big – he originally purchased a home in a nice neighborhood, and over time purchased the houses on either side of him. He built rooms between the three houses making one large house and added additional floors on top, as well as a viewing deck up on the roof.

Driving up to the house you can tell it might be a little unusual.

And walking up to the front door also gives some indication that this is not a normal house.

I think the small space shuttle parked in the driveway kind of gives things away.

I must apologize for the limited number of inside photos. There were so many things so close together that I just couldn’t capture it without a major wide angle lens, so I have a lot of pictures of small areas. But walking through the front door, the entrance way has a small chapel complete with benches and stained glass windows. There is also a real gondola on the side, I think from the Venetian canals. Turning to the right through a real bar (don’t know where that came from) is the music room. With a big beautiful piano, some golden Egyptian thrones and lots of instruments. Up on the balcony is a singing group:

Dr. H opens his home once a year to the general public around Halloween. I never made it to that occasion, as the newspaper has stories in advance and 30,000 to 40,000 people usually attend. Too much of a crowd for me. But he also opens the place to other groups – his wife said they can comfortably host a party of 500 with food and drinks. Looking at the size of the place I can believe it. But I got in because of the Red Hats. One of the women I talk to here at work is a Lioness and a member of the Red Hat Society. The RHS is a social group that has no dues or meetings or formal stuff, it’s just a bunch of ladies that get together once in a while to have fun. Colleen, at work, talked my wife into joining a few months ago, and so B has attended several of the events.

Dr. H’s mother was really involved with one of the local Red Hat groups (there are several in the LV area) and so invites the ladies over periodically. Usually husbands are NOT allowed at these events, but this time guests could go along. So I was able to get in – here are the ladies posing for a photo

Dr. H is on the far left, the one in the black hat. My wife is in there somewhere.

Going up the big crystal staircase from the music room is the planetarium. Dr. H was able to get a real projector from somewhere, and he built a domed room to use it

The room is full of comfortable chairs, so that you can lean back and look at the star show.

Off the main bedroom – the bedroom is all blacks, and just did not photograph well. He has a circular bed surrounded by carrousel horses. Off the bedroom is one of Liberace’s dressing rooms recreated. Dr. H bought it from the Hilton.

Going through the big kitchen (each of the three houses still has a kitchen, but one was made large for the use of caterers) to the back yard is the main pool. This is a view from up on one of the balconies:

This pool is behind the house on the right. Going to the back yard of the middle house we find a large area with a karaoke stage:

You can see some of the signs Dr. H has purchased from casinos that have been rebuilt. He gets most of his stuff from casino sales, when places are torn down or remodeled. Behind the Showboat sign is one of the big paddle wheels that were part of the Showboat theme - it's fifteen feet high and motorized so it still spins.

Standing on the stage the view is to the east, with this on the left side

And this on the right

This is what the area looks like from up on the roof. You can see some of the chairs for the audience.

Looking in the opposite direction when up on the roof is a nice view westward towards the strip.

If you use one of the telescopes located up there you can see the casinos, not very visible between the trees off in the distance. This neighborhood is about six miles due east of the main casinos on the Strip.

From up there you can also look across some of the courtyards. This angle shows you the inside of a mockup of a Russian space shuttle and a silver US space capsule, part of the Roman Forum and some more casino and hotel signs.

This shot is the same courtyard from the other side. Off to the left are the yellow cars from the roller coaster that used to be up on top of the Stratosphere tower (sorry, that roller coaster is no more, other rides being built up there) which is on top of a small model of Freemont Street which used to be used in parades, which is on the roof of the bar behind the karaoke stage. It’s a huge bar, where probably 100 people could stand side by side getting drinks.

So that’s my small tour of the doctor’s place. We spent about two hours wandering around looking at things. At times I came across the doctor describing what was in the room he was in. There were also some small tours given by some of the people that help the doctor at these events. There is so much stuff inside and out that B wondered how it was all kept clean. This was a Sunday and I did run across a worker in the back upstairs with a bottle of cleaner and some rags wiping things down, so I would guess that it is a full time job for someone to wander around and do that. They also probably have a full cleaning crew come in before a party to get the place nice.

So, the Museum of Nevada History is an interesting place to go to. Not much that would indicate what items are, and not much of a learning experience, but definitely a place that can fill the hours. Thanks, Dr. H, for opening your house to us. Visitors to Vegas would probably never get there, but for those of us living in Las Vegas it is a place to put on our visit list, and wait for announcements about the next open house.

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