weather icon Clear

Couple creates cowboy dream home —VIDEO

Beware, city slickers driving on Dean Martin Drive just south of the Silverton in the southwest valley. You may be distracted by the eye-catching allure of a 2-acre, privately owned ranch that is open to the public. Between the numerous “welcome” signs, the promise of fresh eggs for sale or general kitschiness, it’s hard to pass by without stopping.

The McKee Ranch is a 501(c)(3) charity that welcomes visitors of all ages seeking a glimpse of Las Vegas’ rural past. Its mission is to educate the public about rural life in the Vegas Valley; provide a haven for large animals; and to preserve rural ranches. The long-term vision is to provide an agricultural extension for the school district and UNLV for demonstrations on sustaining all aspects of rural living.

Owners Max and Christi McKee live on site in an all-original, 3,200-square-foot, single-story ranch house that exudes Old West flair.

The couple possess the vitality and good looks typically found in the photo that comes with a new picture frame. Christi McKee could be a latter-day Elly May Clampett.

Because Las Vegas has grown into such a big metro area, Christi McKee wants to share as much of the rapidly vanishing ranch culture with today’s children, she said.

“Everybody had 2 acres and two horses. And, you always rode bareback — and that’s what we like to explain to kids — that’s the way Nevada used to be. Everybody had a lot of property, no fences, and you could just ride forever and ever.”

Max McKee grew up in Indiana, but his wife moved here in 1962, when her parents, John and Ann Miller, left Los Angeles to open The Las Vegas Racquet Club. It was a haven for successful local professionals, and sanctuary for many of the Strip’s performers and their families. It now serves as a wedding and meetings facility called The Secret Garden.

“The reason they came to the Racquet Club was so they could drink and play tennis with their families and not be bothered by the public,” she said.

Because Christi McKee’s parents lived kitty-corner from the ranch, the couple quickly noticed when a “for sale” sign went up in 1997. They immediately came over and offered to buy it on the spot. Three days later they closed the sale, at $304,000.

“We bought it sight unseen, ‘as was’ because we had to repair the floors, the roof, everything,” Christi McKee said.

For the first five years they occupied the property. It was much simpler than its current incarnation. They gradually increased the animals, exterior décor and added boarding services. Then, the McKees added two barns, just in time for the arrival of a batch of horses rescued from Northern Nevada.

“Everybody in Las Vegas was asked to take them on,” Christi McKee recalled.

She said her neighbor had given them their first rescue horse, Skipper D.

They bought a second horse to keep her company. Her husband gifted her with a rescue goat, Billy Jean, then pigs arrived and two steers that quickly outgrew the property and were re-homed.

The real estate crash prompted another influx of shelter animals.

“The last thing people had money for was horses, so we were left with six horses,” Max McKee recalled. The heard grew to 25. “We sustained them until about 2011, then we started working on the foundation.”

They now house 17 four-legged critters, including a donkey, ponies, miniature horses, goats and a potbellied pig. It is all part of an ongoing 4-H Club child development program that provides area kids a hands-on agricultural learning experience.

The house is full of treasures Christi McKee accumulated during her years operating Pandemonium Antiques, a store near Huntridge Circle that closed decades ago.

“It looked just like this. That was when Maryland Parkway had all the pine trees up and down the median. All the houses around the circle park were stores.”

Other treasures, like her personalized Barbie doll box have been in the family for years. Her father painted one for Christi McKee and her sister in 1957.

“My granddaughters just love this stuff,” she said.

There is an abundance of quilts throughout the house, on beds and fashioned into window treatments and pillows. Most were acquired at garage sales and swap meets, others donated.

“People know what we do, and they will bring us things,” Max McKee said.

“My daughters say I live in a souvenir store,” his wife added.

The guest room is a place no child would ever want to leave, with a closet full of costumes, toys, a 1950s doll house and cowboy collectibles galore, including a handmade cowboy baby quilt.

“This is where you will find any missing grandchildren,” Christi McKee said.

Old Golden books like “Annie Oakley” and “Sharp Shooter” are in plentiful supply.

“It encourages our grandkids to pick them up and read them. We never allowed our daughters to have (video games), or our grandkids. You come to the ranch and you do ranch things. Instead, we collect the Roy Rogers toys,” she said.

The adult guest room features a brass bed that is home to several rag dolls, an antique hobnail hurricane lamp, rocker and oak dresser.

There is no sense of the eclectic in her design plan. “It’s antiques all the way,” she said.

The kitchen expands on the rustic charm theme. Spices are stored in a coke bottle box on the kitchen counter, alongside a stove-top coffee percolator. An old wooden ironing board serves as an improvised kitchen island.

Christi McKee consulted remodeling professionals in the past about updating the kitchen. She said, “They just wanted to blow it up.” All she was after was a new kitchen sink and possibly to replace the white tile countertop.

“This type of tile has gone in and out of style four times, she said, “So, why bother?”

Because they couldn’t find the right sized replacements for the built-in stove-top and oven, and they didn’t want to do a full remodel. They left them intact, but powder-coated with red paint.

“There were so many other things that needed fixing when we first bought the house,” Christi McKee said.

The formerly brown appliances all still work.

“It’s just fine for two people. I mean, it’s not your gourmet kitchen, but we’ve fed a lot of people out of this kitchen.”

The house was built with two small bedrooms. The second owner expanded the footprint by adding a master suite with a double-door entry that lends a spacious feeling to the room. It’s large enough to include a master bath with dual sinks, shower and jetted tub with a view of the pool. A second wood-burning fireplace provides a focal point.

“You put a chunk of coal in there to keep the fire going overnight, and you wake up nice and toasty,” Max McKee said.

The rooms all have pocket doors, which Christi McKee notes, “are now back in style, but these have been here forever.”

As a child, Christi McKee rode a school bus that picked up kids from as far away as Nipton, California, as well as making stops at motels on the Strip before arriving at Paradise Elementary School, where she had classes with Judy Garland’s two younger children, Lorna and Joey Luft.

“Back in the day, you went to school with all the stars’ kids,” she said. “She (Garland) was appearing on the Strip at the time, and she was also in Las Vegas for a divorce. She was here for six weeks at the Hidden Wells Ranch. I met Liza Minnelli, but she was much older and cooler than we were.”

The couple belong to a close-knit community of rural estate owners in the area, and they attend all relevant zoning meetings to make their voices heard, said the McKees. So far, they have managed to halt a developer who bought several acres adjacent to their land and was trying to put a rental storage business there, which they said would have had barbed wire fences and other unattractive elements.

This October, will be their 13th year hosting a pumpkin patch, which began out of frustration at the lack of genuine, Midwestern-style fall festivals in this area, said Christi McKee.

“We called around and asked ‘where’s the pumpkin patch?’ and were told, ‘it’s in the parking lot of the Sunset Station Casino.’”

So they built one.

“And, it just took off. Everybody wanted the old-fashioned pumpkin patch,” she said.

This year, they expect thousands will come visit.

“We love it when people say, ‘this is our family tradition.’ ”

The McKee Ranch at 8982 Dean Martin Drive is open daily from sun up to sunset. The month of October it hosts a pumpkin patch, corn maze and flea market. For a $20 donation, any size family can enjoy the hay pyramid, photo booth, pony and train rides and take home a pumpkin. All proceeds go to support the nonprofit foundation. The event is scheduled from 2-7 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. They also accept food donations for The Veterans Village.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Real Estate Millions Videos
Peter Lik Designs Homes In Las Vegas - Video
Photographer Peter Lik has teamed up with Jewel Homes to design new homes for Las Vegas that take inspiration from different parts of the world.
Mount Charleston Home - Real Estate Millions
Louis Castle shows off his Mount Charleston home with beautiful view of the mountain.
Pardee Homes Terra Luna Wins Home Of The Year - VIDEO
Pardee Homes' Terra Luna in Summerlin wins the Silver Nugget's 2019 home of the year award.
Real Estates Millions: Midcentury Remodel - Video
Originally built in 1966, this Midcentury Remodel has been modernized to appeal to the masses. The larger than life windows brighten up the entire home and offer brilliant views of the nearby mountains and golf course.
Real Estate Millions: Lake Las Vegas (23 Summer House Drive)
Real Estate Millions: Angeles Home In MacDonald Highlands - VIDEO
Angeles Scorsetti's nearly 10,000-square-foot home she and her husband, Steve Mason, purchased on the Dragon Ridge Golf Course and spent six months remodeling, leaving behind their Mandarin Oriental penthouse where they lived 8 years above the Strip.
Real Estate Millions: Boulder City Home - VIDEO
Mal Farmer takes us on a tour of her Bolder City home that she remodeled and lived it with her late husband Richard for over 30 years.
Real Estate Million: 27 Shadow Canyon Court - VIDEO
27 Shadow Canyon is a $5.5 million dollar home is 9,825 square-feet with six bedrooms and 7 baths. Shadow Canyon is equipped with an assortment of Tesla Amenities including power walls, solar panels, and an electric car.
Real Estate Millions: 2019 New American Remodel
Real Estate Millions: Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort - VIDEO
Various RV owners living in the community of the Las Vegas Motorcoach Resorts gives the crew a tour of their motor homes.
Real Estate Millions: Brett Raymer's Tanked Home - VIDEO
Brett Raymer from the TV show "Tanked" gives us a look into his 4 story home on the edge of Lone mountain. What would a tanked home be without a 700-gallon custom aquarium in the kitchen and a 6,000-gallon Koi pond in its resort-style backyard.
Real Estate Millions: 460 Probst Way
460 Probst Way is listed for $4.5 million and has 5 bedrooms, 6 baths, 4 car garage and is 6,738 square feet. The home is in a gated compound with an outdoor pool, deck, and kitchen with near 360 degree of the las vegas valley. The house will be auctioned on April 26-29th.
Real Estate Millions: Home + History Tour - VIDEO
A 1963 Paradise Palms home. Originally called the Monterey, the open floor plan features a living, dining and kitchen area in main living area, original hardwood flooring, original central vac system, both master bathrooms have original starburst tile and vanities, fully renovated kitchen with quartz counters and new appliances, waterfall edge island with counter seating, ‘Cosmos,’ a Soviet-inspired lounge with fog machine, laser lights, sound system and full bar, fresh paint, retro furnishings, new carpet, pool, pool deck with seating and covered bar, lifetime block and steel construction.
Real Estate Millions: Jim Rhodes Home Most Expensive In Las Vegas - VIDEO
Jim Rhodes has created the most expensive home on the market in Las Vegas. The home is listed at $29,995,000, 9,798 sq. ft., 8 Bedrooms, 8 Full Baths, 2 Half Baths and has 360-degree views of the Las Vegas Strip.
Pawn Stars Rick Harrison Real Estate Millions - VIDEO
Reality TV star Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars shows his eccentric home off in the Red Rock Country Club. The house is 8,845 square feet. It has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three additional rooms. It is listed at $3,999,999.
Real Estate Millions: Boulder City Home (613 Lido Dr) - VIDEO
Sitting on top of a mountain overlooking the Lake Mead recreation area, Scott Baranoff gives a tour of his 4,655 square feet Frank Lloyd-Wright inspired home in Boulder City.
Real Estate Millions: Hard Luck Mine Castle
Real Estate Millions: Flip or Flop Vegas
Real Estate Millions: Myron Martin
Real Estate Millions: $15M Palms Place Penthouse
Phil Maloof’s Palms Place Penthouse, which takes up the entire 59th-floor, is for sale for $15 million. (Samia DeCubas/Real Estate Millions)
Real Estate Millions: The New American Home 2019
Real Estate Millions: The highest-priced condos sold in Las Vegas in 2018
Real Estate Millions: One Queensridge Place
Real Estate Millions: 1210 Macdonald Ranch
Real Estate Millions: Jonathan Marchessault
Vegas Golden Knight Jonathan Marchessault, shows off his Summerlin home.
Real Estate Millions: Say Yes To The Nest
Camila and Brent Lincowski have planted roots in the Las Vegas area with a $1.5 million home in Henderson.
Real Estate Millions: KB Smart Home
KB Homes and Google have teamed up to create a smart home.
Marc-Andre Fleury selling Las Vegas home for $2.5M - VIDEO
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has put his custom Southern Highlands home on the market for $2.5 million. The single-story home, built on a .63-acre lot in 2015, measures 5,285 square feet and has a 717-square-foot casita and three-car garage. It has five bedrooms and six baths. Fleury bought the home from former NHL player and fellow Canadian Sheldon Souray, according to public records. When he signed his three-year, $25M contract extension over the summer, Fleury told the media he and his family love Las Vegas and cited its great schools and neighborhoods with a lot of things for kids to do. Fleury said he and his family love their home in Southern Highlands, but wanted to be “closer to the Summerlin area." Home photos courtesy of Ivan Sher Group
Marc-Andre Fleury selling Las Vegas home for $2.5M - VIDEO
Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has put his custom Southern Highlands home on the market for $2.5 million. The single-story home, built on a .63-acre lot in 2015, measures 5,285 square feet and has a 717-square-foot casita and three-car garage. It has five bedrooms and six baths. Fleury bought the home from former NHL player and fellow Canadian Sheldon Souray, according to public records. When he signed his three-year, $25M contract extension over the summer, Fleury told the media he and his family love Las Vegas and cited its great schools and neighborhoods with a lot of things for kids to do. Fleury said he and his family love their home in Southern Highlands, but wanted to be “closer to the Summerlin area." Home photos courtesy of Ivan Sher Group
Real Estate Millions: Waldorf Astoria penthouses
Real Estate Millions: Cold Creek Log House
Home builder Toll Brothers has plans in Summerlin
Toll Brothers purchased of 128 acres of property near Mesa Park Drive and Town Center Drive will be used for a housing development. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Linda Faiss’ Boulder City home lists for $1.5M

Faiss’ Santé Fe estate, 835 Temple Rock Court is listed for $1.5 million through Bret Runion, broker of Desert Sun Realty.

Realtor specializes in midcentury remodels

Just say midcentury modern to Hayden Ross, and she’s all in. The Las Vegas Realtor and special needs physical education teacher for the Clark County School District specializes in that architectural style.

Designer Angeles Scorsetti creates showcases in home

The home, itself, is a series of elaborate showrooms, including the cabana, decorated by the perpetually inspired Scorsetti. All of the furniture and lighting is from their company, Scorsetti Design, which has a studio on 3091 Tompkins Ave. They have access to a library of 1,000 vendors all over the world. The interior decorating firm has created unique looks for many high-end homes throughout the Las Vegas Valley.

American Institute of Architects holds trade show in Vegas

About 20,000 members of the American Institute of Architects will descend upon Las Vegas Wednesday through Friday for the first time in 14 years as part of its annual gathering that had the group in New York City a year ago.

Las Vegas estate comes with Tesla for $5.5M — PHOTOS

GLH is collaborating with Tesla Inc. and other new technology vendors to create “superluxury homes of the future.” The company’s goalis to showcase intelligent, elegant, automated and eco-friendly homes within an integrated smart community that includes transportationas part of the residents’ lifestyle amenities.

New American Remodel built for energy efficiency — VIDEO

In seeking a Las Vegas home to turn into a state-of-the-art, high-end luxury remodel, architect Michael Gardner chose what he referred to as a “poorly built” 1950s single-story downtown ranch home on a property with well and water rights in an agriculturally designated area.

Las Vegas motorcoach resort offers luxury amenities

The Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort has elevated the RV lifestyle to a fine art, with amenities like a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a fitness center, a 24-hour guard gate and concierge services.