There is no real and polite way to describe Dr. Lonnie Lee Hammargren’ home. Actually, it’s three homes together. Just like there is no real way to describe Dr. Hammargren himself without using the words “unique” or “special”. He is truly a state treasure.
The 78-year-old former Vietnam flight surgeon, former NASA flight surgeon, former Nevada Lieutenant Governor. He has worked on the famous and the ordinary. He held a wake for himself in 2007 because he wanted to hear what everyone was going to say about him at his real funeral! He has traveled all over the world and has called Las Vegas home for most of his life. Almost every year, he has opened His collection of oddities and pieces of history started when he was 5 with his mother
His collection of oddities and pieces of history started when he was 5 with his mother showing him how to capture and mount butterflies on peg board. Since then, he has collected pieces of Las Vegas history, Nevada history and oddities from his travels. We always joke that if a Las Vegas museum needs a piece of a new collection or exhibit, that they visit Lonnie’s place first!!
Almost every year, he has opened his homes up on Nevada Day, the day or weekend Nevada became a state. Yes, it really is three homes next to each other. If you ever go, take the map they hand you. You will need it to get out! The proceeds from money raised for the admittance fee goes to charity. This is not about him and he will tell you it’s not about him. He loves people, he loves his collection and he loves to share it with the world.
This year, he was doing it all with his beautiful and so forgiving wife, Sandy. Whom I was told was suffering some medical issues and was hospitalized. But Lonnie was there anyway, being the trooper that he is. He has a commitment to the people and he kept it.
The collection is somewhat organized by places he has been, sections of Vegas and Nevada, as well as people and entertainment. You can walk on the staircase Liberace used for his last performance in Radio City Music Hall. Lonnie may play a piece for you on Liberace’s piano. You can see gifts from people like the late Steve Irwin (Crocodile Hunter), or Evel Knievel. Both were friends of his.
Signs and other memorabilia from long-lost Las Vegas landmarks are also scattered throughout the homes. Signs from Steve Wynn introducing Frank Sinatra at his new Golden Nugget Casino or the valet sign from the Dunes are some of the examples. But you need to go slow and look everywhere because the place is PACKED to the rafters and beyond!
Last Time To See?
Lonnie has not been too consistent with his open house the last couple of years. His health, the amount of time and help it takes to get everything ready and the amount of work to clean up, has taken its toll on the local legend. SO IF he dos it again next year, I suggest You Go. It’s one of the “Vegas Only” things we talk about and like the Sahara and the Dunes, it’s not going to be here for ever!
If you do go, plan to spend a long time walking it all. Get tickets early, wear comfortable shoes and bring your camera. If you happen to see Lonnie, stop and thank him. He will talk to you and even show you some of his collection and tell you the story behind it all.