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Mansion 54 in Las Vegas throws black-and-white party

Updated December 9, 2018 - 3:28 pm

The great gingerbread house is no more.

We speak of the late Hartland Mansion, the fancy estate at 1044 S. Sixth St., just east of Las Vegas Boulevard (down the street from Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum). The regal structure remains, but the fabled design, the mansion seemingly slathered in red and white frosting, is now part of Las Vegas lore.

“Our theme at the onset has been classic black and white, get rid of the gingerbread, the blue carpet — every color in the rainbow was in here,” says Epic Venues founder Gene Campbell, the Bay Area real estate entrepreneur who has turned Hartland Mansion into Mansion 54. “We want to bring it back to a classic look. Before it was, ‘Wow, OK.’”

The design and name are meant to evoke a contemporary atmosphere and refined decor. It fits the business vision of Campbell, who is leasing the space for convention business, weddings, charity functions and one-off parties. The mansion’s opening is being phased in until its gala premiere in March.

Friday night, Mansion 54 hinted at the days of its title inspiration, Studio 54, with a thumping VIP preview event for the Epicurean Charitable Foundation. About 300 folks (including the Vegas Golden Knights Drumbots) rolled into the event, with the party overtaking the indoor pool deck. Hartland’s open swimming pool, one of its signature design elements, has been drained and topped with reinforced plexiglass. Yes, you can, and should, dance on it.

Many of the areas on the 31,500-square-foot property, which dates to the 1940s and has been host to a bevy of stars and events, have been exhaustively overhauled. Even the outdoor fountains are being repainted and new turf installed.

As Campbell says, “The amount of discretionary maintenance has been insane.”

Inside, the mansion is almost unrecognizable from its previous incarnation. One of the main dining areas is now the Monroe Room, with an Andy Warhol painting on the ceiling, looming down on guests. The main event space, with the clear-topped pool and stage, has been dubbed the Warhol Room. As Campbell describes, that space and the 35-foot-high entry hall, can be the home to rotating exhibits from Las Vegas artists.

But clearly and aggressively, the former personality of Hartland Mansion has been intentionally stripped away. The legendary glue-gun work of the late Larry Hart, a member of the famed Hart entertainment family (including the late mother, Toni; and siblings Garry and Linda), has been totally eradicated.

“You have to admire the diligence to what he did, “Campbell says. “The detail and effort is impressive, and the integrity of some of that design has been painted over in white. It is still there, just muted.”

The reason for the major overhaul are multifold. Campbell bought Hartland Mansion from Garry Hart at the “distressed” price of $2.9 million, after it was originally listed for $3.5 million in 2015. Campbell, who once ran more than a dozen health clubs in the Bay Area before selling off his final club in 2013, snaps up distinctive and historically relevant buildings and turns them into chic event spaces.

Epic Venues’ recent projects in San Jose, California, The GlassHouse (an old bank building) and Corinthian Grand Ballroom (a onetime Scottish temple), fit that model. Epic Venues has also taken over the Temple Macon in Macon, Georgia, which was built in 1925.

In Las Vegas, Campbell also made a run at Stirling Club at Turnberry Place, but couldn’t pull his capital together quickly enough to make the purchase.

“I really felt I was going to get that together,” he says of Stirling Club, itself reopening with a VIP party on New Year’s Eve. “I’m jealous that I didn’t get that deal, actually. There is no doubt it’s going to be a home run.”

Similar to Hartland Mansion’s strategy, many events are sure to be open to the public — all depending on who leases the property for the party. Overseeing the day-to-day operations is General Manager Angela Williams, a Las Vegas resident since 2001. Williams has built a career as an events planner and hospitality exec, most recently for Epic Event Rentals (a partnership with Campbell). Williams has also worked as an event planner for Charlie Palmer at Aureole at Mandalay Bay, and at Wolfgang Puck at Springs Preserve.

Williams is the direct contact for all Mansion 54 operations and is the face of the property in the neighborhood. She’s already organized two events, including a Halloween block party and the monthly Las Vegas Arts District meeting on Nov. 20. Williams has been knocking on doors, answering questions and making sure Mansion 54 doesn’t run afoul of the neighbors (the parking system, always a point of emphasis, worked all right Friday with a valet setup and ride-share drop in the back of the property).

At Friday’s event, Williams was easy to find, with a gold-glittered “54” carved into her hair. She also helped served a celebratory opening-night cake. It wasn’t gingerbread.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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