What is considered a historical home in a city as young as Las Vegas, barely a hundred years old? It’s where midcentury modern is about as dated an architectural style as you can find — and new again, simultaneously?
The national standard is the house must be at least 50 years old, according to Heidi Swank, executive director of the Nevada Preservation Foundation, which strives to save the state’s noteworthy older buildings. “It’s not just about the age, but also the story of the home and how much it’s altered over time,” she said.
The property for sale at 1404 Maria Elena Drive in Las Vegas could be historically important, Swank speculated, because of its original owners. “Given this was Art and Jayn Marshall’s house, and they were very significant to Las Vegas history.”
In 1955, Arthur Marshall and his brother-in-law, Herb Rousso, founded Marshall Rousso, a chain of specialty retail clothing stores in casinos and airports. In 1966, the Marshalls had a custom home built in Ridgeview Estates, where they frequently entertained celebrities and politicians, such as Red Skelton and Winston Churchill III, as seen in Marshall’s book “The Marshall Plan,” co-written with Jack Sheehan.
“He knew a lot of celebrities, because of having fairly high-end clothing stores in many Strip hotels. I’m sure Ann-Margret, Lola Falana, Liza Minnelli and women like that who were headlining in Las Vegas, I would say it’s a certainty that they shopped in Marshall Rousso stores,” Sheehan said. “Art always loved celebrities, and I’m sure he would have made a point of introducing himself, and he was very close friends with Red Skelton. Art had a custom-made Rolls Royce and Red Skelton fell in love with the car, and begged Art to sell it to him,” which he did, reluctantly.
The house is in the Huntridge neighborhood, and all the lots on the street measure 0.35 acre or more. Located north of Oakey Boulevard and east of Maryland Parkway, it is close to Sunrise Hospital, the north end of the Strip and downtown businesses. The mature tree-lined streets were designed to be pedestrian-friendly. Many local family names including Molasky and Boyd appear in the street’s property records. It is around the corner from homes that have been owned by many prominent Las Vegans, including Liberace and County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.
“Needless to say, that was a very upscale neighborhood in the 1960s. There was a lot of business deals that transpired between people in that area who grew up together and stayed friends through the years.” The neighbor across the street was Bill Boyd, retired CEO of Boyd Gaming, Sheehan said. “They’ve been lifelong friends, and from that friendship a lot of business transpired, including Art becoming chairman of the board of Bank West of Nevada, which Bill Boyd started.”
Does that type of networking still take place in today’s luxury gated communities, many of which are double and triple-gated?
It’s hard to say, Sheehan said. “A lot of upscale businessmen, who were successful in Las Vegas at that time, would have no trouble meeting up, because the town was so much smaller,” he said.
The homes’ fourth set of owners are Ron Decar and Jamie Richards, co-owners of Ron Decar’s Event Center and the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, which they bought from Stratosphere owner Bob Stupak.
Decar sang lead in the “Folies Bergère” show at the Tropicana for many years; sang in the Las Vegas Hilton’s “City Lights”; and performed with Las Vegas headliners Debbie Reynolds, Jim Nabors and the McGuire sisters. Richards was an ice skater and dancer, appearing in the “City Lights” and “90 Degrees &Rising” productions and the movie “Carmen On Ice.”
Richards grew up in Las Vegas.
“The first movie I saw was ‘Mary Poppins,’ at the Huntridge Theater,” he said.
The pair bought the property in 2002 for $285,000. At the time, they were living in a house close by at Franklin Avenue and 15th Street, and when they heard the Marshall house had come on the market, they wanted to bid on it. It was bank-owned, Decar recalled, and “there were three people in front of us, and I just happened to have a nice chunk of change in the bank at the time,” which he offered to put down. The next day, the Realtor called to tell them they could move in within 30 days.
Richards and Decar have done their share of entertaining there as well, utilizing the large family room, den, formal dining room and outdoor areas for gatherings of 200 or more.
“Being entertainers, we used the house a lot in the beginning for parties,” Decar said. “All of our friends would come over and we’d have a karaoke machine and everyone would be singing and dancing. His (Richards’) mom and dad were dancers … very Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.”
Show business is apparently deep in their family histories. The house contains many photos of their family and friends, including Charo, Liza Minnelli and Julie Andrews, who was a longtime friend of Decar’s late friend and dancing partner, Carol Baker. He visited Baker at her childhood home in England in the 1980s, and ended up bunking next door at the home of Andrews’ parents. Even though Andrews was long gone by then, “it was probably one of the best times of my life,” he said.
The couple converted part of the back patio closest to the house into an enclosed lounge, adding a large custom bar and sliding glass doors into the backyard. Hanging above the bar are a set of framed, original costume designs by the renowned designer Bob Mackie, as well as a photograph of them with Mackie.
The house came with a Tango-built pool (a top pool company at the time, later bought by Anthony Sylvan), which Decar and Richards refurbished, adding a large spa and water feature. They installed palm trees and a flagstone fireplace against a wall. They downsized an outdoor bath to a stand-alone shower, enclosing it with stone and glass blocks, and used the square footage gained to expand the shower in their master bath.
Some of the bedrooms have the original hardwood floors; the others are carpeted. Three have en suite baths. The master bedroom includes a spacious 18-foot-by-12-foot loft, with a wooden railing that Decar stripped and restored to its natural finish.
The master bath came with top-of-the-line fixtures, including a Jacuzzi tub, dual sinks, and all the toilets in the house are wall-mounted, which was super fancy at the time, Richards said. “We had it appraised when we bought it, and the guy said, luckily everything they did in this house, even though it was 1967, was top-notch for the day, so even though it’s an old house, how it was built (was) way ahead of its time,” he said.
The couple, who are married and have been together for 28 years, are selling now to downsize, and are thinking about moving into a condo they own in the Palms Place. “We want to scale down. We’ve looked at homes, but the issue is being too far away from work,” Decar said. “Since both of our dads recently passed away, we’ve seen what it’s like to get rid of stuff, especially when you’re older, and that’s not fun, so we though why not think about that and scale down.”
They also have a home in Puerto Vallarta, Decar said, “that we never have time to get to, called Villa Tesoro Del Mar, which is rented frequently, near where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor filmed ‘Night of the Iguana.’”
The neighborhood is one of the most stable in the downtown area, the pair said, adding that on their block, three homes are owned by the original buyer. They hope whoever buys their home will appreciate the snapshot of Vintage Vegas this neighborhood and its residents offer as much as they have.
About the House
Location: 1404 Maria Elena Drive, Las Vegas in the Ridgeview Estates, near Huntridge
Size: 4,684 square feet, 0.36 acre lot, five bedrooms, four baths
Features: Retro architectural details, Floridian-style windows, wood beams, custom built-ins, multiple fireplaces and entertaining areas, kitchen island and pantry, laundry room, adjacent bedroom with separate entrance; large pool, spa and water feature; poolside shower; four-car garage with six-space carport; master bedroom with loft/office; single story.
History: Originally built in 1966 by Arthur and Jayn Marshall of Marshall Rousso stores; sold in 1994 to James Corey, who served on the Las Vegas City Commission from 1967-1971. Bought for $280,000 in 2002 by entertainers and business owners Jamie Richards and Ron Decar.
Listing: Bill Berning, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services