62°F
weather icon Clear

Famous underground Las Vegas house to open to public — PHOTOS

Updated April 2, 2018 - 10:00 am

It’s one of Las Vegas’ most famous homes and one shrouded in mystery that few people have ever seen.

It’s not the home of a celebrity or athlete that you can see on a bus tour or simply by driving by the address.

That’s because the home was built as a bomb shelter and is under the ground.

The famous Las Vegas property called The Underground House, 3970 Spencer St., will get a rare public viewing April 28 as part of a celebration of the city’s architectural history hosted by the Nevada Preservation Foundation. The gala, which will feature cocktails and appetizers, costs $150 a ticket; an extra $75 gets you access to a VIP reception.

There’s no more famous basement in Las Vegas than The Underground House. It was built in 1978 by entrepreneur Jerry Henderson and his wife, Mary. The site measures nearly 15,000 square feet, and the house sits 26 feet below the surface, but it’s not a normal basement.

It has its own midcentury-style, two-bedroom home measuring about 6,000 square feet and resembles many others built in Las Vegas in an earlier era. A 800-square-foot caretaker home sits in the rear. It doesn’t get sunshine, wind and rain, but it otherwise is like many other homes.

There’s a 6-foot-deep pool, a spa, a barbecue area, a carpeted six-hole putting green and even views when you look outside the window of the home or from the patio. It’s not the Strip city lights or surrounding mountains but murals of settings where the Hendersons had homes in upstate New York, Colorado, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Underground House event is one of many foundation functions as part of Home + History Las Vegas weekend on April 27-29 to raise money for historic preservation in Nevada.

“This is our crowning event of the weekend,” said Suzey Sligh Van Ness, the events and giving manager for the foundation. “People have been wanting to see this house for years and been asking about it. To preservation people, it’s a must-see.”

The Underground House continues to have a sense of mystery to it, even with the acquisition in March 2014 by its new owner, which paid about $1.15 million. The new owner is the Society for the Preservation of Near Extinct Species, a self-described secretive group whose goal is to promote of human life extension.

What better way to do that than purchasing a property intended to preserve life in case of a nuclear blast?

“That was (the Hendersons’) idea to use it as a cold-war bunker and a reflection of the era they lived in,” said Tee Thompson, a society member who oversees The Underground House and is living in it. “Their concerns were valid to them, so they built a home 26 feet under the ground. This was their everyday home.”

Jerry Henderson was an investor in several companies. He had a company called Underground World Homes, which had an exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and 1965 about living underground in the years following the Cuban missile crisis. Henderson also had an underground home in Colorado that measured about 45,000 square feet, Thompson said.

After Jerry Henderson died in 1983, his wife no longer wanted to live in the shelter. She built a town home on the surface, where she lived until she died in 1989. The entire property later ended up in foreclosure. Society President Mark Voelker resides in the town home.

The group has spent more than $1 million on improvements, including repairs to the sewage system and wiring and purchases of 1970s-era furniture that suited the home.

“We have done quite a bit of preservation, and aesthetically we tried to keep everything in line as it was when it was originally built,” Thompson said. “We have brought on professional artists when we have to do repairs on the walls to match what’s already existing.”

When the foundation asked if the home could be part of the annual gala, Thompson said the group wants to be part of the community and make people aware of the historic home and what’s been done to preserve it.

“When you go down there, you’re in a capsule and go back in time,” she said about the event, which is limited to 100 tickets. “It’s amazing to know at the same time we’re keeping the mystery of the home, which is part of the legacy.”

There’s a small elevator, but the home is accessed from a flight of stairs that’s now part of the lower level of the town home. The Underground House has lighting that emulates different times of the day. It has green carpeting in the patio area, and faux trees serve as hidden steel beams. Mountain and wilderness murals depict an outdoor setting. Rocks from the area near the Hendersons’ Colorado home site were used for landscaping.

The home is cooled with nine air-conditioning and has heating units and two ventilation systems. It runs off the valley’s electric grid and circulates air from the outside, both of which would prevent it from being used as a bomb shelter if the electrical system were destroyed and air contaminated, Thompson said.

Even though it’s built with concrete and steel, the home could not withstand a nuclear blast, Thompson said.

“He was thinking if there’s a nuclear bomb that they would survive down here,” she said. “According to science, we don’t believe it would survive a nuclear explosion. It would not be able to take the impact.”

Thompson said the group gets “unique letters” in which people ask if they can live there in the case of an emergency.

“There are still people that believe in the apocalyptic phenomenon,” she said. “People do a lot of prepping for these kind of emergencies. It’s not gone away, and pretty prevalent now if you look at social media.”

The home has two bedrooms and three baths. One was built for Mary Henderson at a cost of $30,000, Thompson said. Her bedroom and bath feature silk pink wallpaper.

It’s like many other homes with a dining room, living room and audiovisual room. The bar has short stools: Mary Henderson was less than 5 feet tall and her husband not much taller. The kitchen has pink-trimmed flooring and cabinetry and has an original toaster built into the wall and a food processor in a cabinet.

Thompson said it’s been a fascinating experience to live in the home. When you get up in the morning, she said, you expect the sun to hit you in the face and wake you up. Instead, you have to make your own light.

“I get to choose whether I want it day, night, dusk or dawn,” Thompson said. “When it is dark, it is pitch black, and it’s very peaceful and quiet. I don’t get to hear the outside elements. It’s beautiful being down here. If you’re not focused on what you’re doing, you lose track of time.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Real Estate Millions Videos
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
Real Estate Millions: Brett Torino Christmas
Real Estate Millions: Pia Zadora
Real Estate Millions: Lake Las Vegas
Real Estate Millions: 27 Burning Tree Court in Spanish Trail
LEED home
Real Estate Millions: Top 10 Most Expensive Homes Sold In 2018
Real Estate Millions: Operation Halloween
Realtor and owner of Operation Halloween, Nicole Tomlinson, shares high-end luxury 'tricks of the trade' for Halloween decorating.
Real Estate Millions: Ascaya Pool Home
$15.5M Ascaya home has 5,900-square-foot pool.
Rat Pack-era home once housed Las Vegas entertainers
3671 Tioga Way in Paradise Palms neighborhood Listed for $650,000 Professional photographers Mark and Sarah Gascoine
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)
THE LATEST
 
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.

 
‘Tanked’ star Brett Raymer lists home for $3.2M

You haven’t seen or heard the last of Brett Raymer. The quick-talking and energetic former co-star of the Animal Planet reality television show “Tanked” can only been seen on reruns for now. The show recently announced its cancellation after 15 seasons and more than 150 episodes.

Luxury master-planned communities continue to thrive

The Las Vegas luxury real estate market had its strongest year since the Great Recession and shows no signs of slowing in 2019.

 
Hilltop resort has room for limo: Auction is this weekend

Sunsets are spectacular from inside the 7,400 square feet of glam and palatial splendor known as Sapphire Oasis at the eastern edge of the valley.

Home + History Tour set for April 26-28

Many of these historic homes and neighborhoods are on display during the fifth annual Nevada Preservation Foundation’s Home + History event April 26-28.

 
Gearing up for midcentury modern week

Retro to the last detail, David Ibarra and his husband, Jeff Andrews’s, 1963 rancher has a cool, hip, space-age vibe.