A significant number of roads in the valley are named because they sound like they came from a Zane Grey novel, and at first glance, one might assume Hidden Well Road is in that category. Peg Crockett knows that is not the case. In 1937, her parents built the Hidden Well Ranch.
“My father was an architect in Pasadena, (Calif.),” Crockett said. “When he retired from his practice, we moved out here. There was a little cottage on the property, and Mother and Dad lived in that, and there was a small shed out back that Dad refinished in knotty pine and made my house. It was my castle.”
Her father initially planned to build a dude ranch with a partner at the nearby McGriff Ranch, but the partner was too slow to act, and Crockett’s father bought Hidden Well instead and built a guest ranch, renting to vacationers looking to get away from it all.
The Boulder City railroad spur cut through the northeast part of the ranch property.
“He built two guest houses and quarters for the help,” Crockett said. “The main building had a dining room, a living room and a kitchen.”
Crockett was in high school when her family moved to the valley, and she attended Las Vegas High School on Seventh Street, the building now occupied by Las Vegas Academy. They had only a handful of neighbors near the ranch.
“The owners of White Cross Drugs lived across Paradise Road from Hidden Well,” Crockett said. “We bought the property from the family that owned Cantrell Cleaners, and a guy that started an insurance company was one of the nearest neighbors.”
The family quickly settled into Western life. Crockett rode in several Helldorado parades and helped entertain the ranch’s guests with cookouts and trail rides.
“We had horses, and I loved it,” Crockett said. “I turned from a little city girl into a cowgirl overnight. I had the boots and the hat and the Western shirt. We all did in those days.”
The ranch became a place where celebrities of the day could get away from crowds and where writers could think and work on their craft. Lloyd Douglas finished his novel “The Robe” there and began his next, “The Big Fisherman.” Both were made into films in the 1950s, the former starring Richard Burton and the latter starring Howard Keel. Douglas’ wasn’t the only well-known writing to come out of Hidden Well Ranch.
“(Valentine Davies) got the idea for ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ there,” Crockett said. “The guest book is full of interesting people.”
Mark Hall-Patton, the administrator for the Clark County Museums, concurs that it’s a celebrity-filled guest book.
“Alfred Hitchcock stayed there,” he said. “Rosalind Russell, Irene Dunne and Dean Jagger stayed there. William Powell was married there. They were big names at the time, near the height of their careers.”
The names might not be as familiar these days, but the films they were in may be, including “My Favorite Wife,” “Anna and the King of Siam,” “His Girl Friday,” “Auntie Mame,” “Twelve O’ Clock High” and “White Christmas.” In an odd coincidence, Jagger was in the film version of “The Robe.”
Bandleader Benny Goodman was staying at the ranch when he married his second wife, Alice Hammond Duckworth.
“His wife was with us for six weeks before the marriage,” Crockett said.
At the time, Nevada had liberal divorce laws and only a six-week residency requirement, so many people seeking a divorce moved to the state temporarily and stayed in places such as Hidden Well Ranch.
In 1948, Margaret “Peg” Nickerson married George Crockett, who built and operated the airport that eventually became McCarran International Airport. She said her parents retired and moved to La Jolla, Calif., in the early 1950s. About the same time, the Crocketts built their own ranch nearby, on a hill overlooking the airport.
All of the ranches in that area are gone now, replaced by suburban houses, light-industrial buildings, offices and highways. The land where Hidden Well Ranch was located is near the southern loop of Pilot Road. Clark County claimed Crockett Ranch by eminent domain a week after George Crockett’s death in 1990.
“If you take the airport connector from the south, about halfway through the ramp you drive through our living room,” Crockett said. “It was a wonderful place to be, a wonderful place to bring up kids. It was a good town in those days. (Sheriff) Ralph Lamb did a bang-up job in keeping it that way, too. My hat was always off to him. It still is.”
Hidden Well Road and George Crockett Road run parallel to each other, on either side of the 215 Beltway.
“That works out pretty well, doesn’t it?” Crockett said.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.