Former Lt. Gov. Hammargren Opens Home for Nevada Day, Halloween
Over a period of 20 years, former Nevada Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren and his wife, Sandy, have opened their home to the public for Nevada Day—the day that commemorates the state’s admission into the Union on October 31, 1864.
At 4318 Ridgecrest Drive, Las Vegas, Hammargren’s three contiguous houses feature a collection of unusual items that attracts up to 4,000 visitors each year. People queue up and stream past a jumble of items ranging from the Apollo spacecraft, to posters of the Moscow Circus, to the most recent addition—a six-foot-long golden pig, purchased at the Caesars Entertainment auction earlier this month.
Thirty years ago, Hammargren says he and his wife started opening their home to visitors as a way to celebrate Halloween. After about 10 years, he realized that Nevada Day was more important to him, and he and his wife started celebrating both holidays which happen to share the same date.
Hammargren says that random people have donated many of the items in his collection. “I call it Nevada history,” he says.
The assortment spans a wide range of human experiences and, some may say, overwhelms the senses. Yet Hammargren takes care to put like with like. In one “casino corner” of the yard, the newly-acquired golden pig will share a space with other figures—a totem-like Pacific Islander, human forms from the set of Phantom of the Opera, and a (literal) boatload of busts of male torsos.
For visitors, the display of these objects in vast, low-lit rooms and hallways can lend an eerie feeling to the Halloween-season experience. For some neighbors, the volume of open house pilgrims has presented challenges in the past, prompting complaints of sprinkler damage and littering.
A few years ago, Hammargren suspended the open house. He also sought—unsuccessfully—the designation as a “museum” from Clark County commissioners. Although his home didn’t get official museum status, he reaffirmed a Constitutional right to assemble.
“Nevada Day is significant for U.S. history,” he says. “Lincoln needed Nevada to join the Union [to help his bid for re-election].” The longest telegram ever sent was a sort of mini-census to prove that Nevada had enough residents to become a state, says Hammargren. It had the names of all 30,000 people who lived in Nevada on October 31, 1864.
Although this year’s open house will take place after Halloween—Noon–5:00 p.m. November 2–3—children still can explore the Hammargrens’ traditional haunted attraction, in all its Halloween glory. A reproduction of a mine contains artifacts from Goldfield, Nev. According to Hammargren, Goldfield was the largest settlement in Nevada during its mining heyday.
As for the experience of having so many people pass through his house every year, Hammargren says he’s appreciated everyone’s good behavior.
“No one steals anything,” he says. “They respect the property.”
Many also pay a $10 donation. This year, Hammargren plans to use donations to cover live entertainment and refreshments. In some years, he also uses funds to contribute to local charities.
Hammergren says he comes from a family of insurance agents who were based in Minnesota, and he’s been an Allstate customer for 42 years. In his wood-paneled home office, a plaque urges, “Think Abundantly: Energy Follows Intention.” His glut of quirky possessions seems to bring that motto to life.
A tour of the Hammargrens’ home offers a few hours of seasonal entertainment that is affordable, festive, and offbeat. If you haven’t already, be sure to check it out!