September 19, 2014 - 4:14 pm
A piece of Las Vegas history may be headed for a developer’s chopping block.
Entertainer Wayne Newton’s former home, Casa de Shenandoah, now called unset Springs Ranch, hit the market again this month. This time, it’s priced at $30 million. That’s way down from the $70 million price tag a year ago.
The 40-acre ranch on South Pecos and East Sunset roads was to be turned into a Graceland-style attraction. But after more than a year of lawsuits and a bankruptcy, the deal died last year.
Realtor Dale Thornburgh of Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty said most of the people who have contacted him about the property have been land developers.
The property will be open for public viewing from 5 to 9 p.m. today and Monday. It may be the last chance Las Vegans get to see it while it still has some shades of Newton.
Texas businessman Lacy Harber and wife Dorothy ended up with the property after museum developer CSD LLC, which held a majority stake, failed. Thornburgh said they want to sell the ranch and its companion commercial property across Sunset Road in a package deal.
The Harbers have spent more than $15 million on upgrades to the ranch where Mr. Las Vegas lived with his family since 1968.
“It’s a shame. The project would have been so good for Las Vegas,” said Realtor Kristen Routh Silberman of Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty. She represented the Newtons and Harbers in a 2010 sale. The museum development company purchased the ranch from Newton for nearly $20 million and agreed to pay another $2 million for a new mansion for him to be constructed on the property. The Harbers owned 70 percent of the company. The Newtons had 20 percent and another business partner, Steven Kennedy, held 10 percent.
“It started out as a real estate deal, and it turned into a museum project,” Routh Silberman said. “We called it Wayne’s World.”
She talked about happier times before the business trio fell apart two years later in a public legal brawl, and Routh Silberman was called as an expert witness in court proceedings.
She said she walked the property with the Newtons and heard stories about how as a teen, he, his mother and siblings lived in a small house, which still stands, near Pecos. As he got more gigs and earned more money, he bought land surrounding the tiny home. Years later, he built a bigger house for his mother, Evelyn, who died in 1986 of a heart attack.
Newton, 71, started performing in Las Vegas showrooms as a teen. He scored his first hit with “Danke Schoen” in the early 1960s. He would go on to be one of Las Vegas’ highest paid performers. For nearly 50 years, he raised his family and his prized Arabian horses on the property he assembled.
The ranch has eight houses, an equestrian center, green pastures, petting zoo, two swimming pools, a spa, fountains, a megagarage that can hold 27 vehicles, a tennis court and Newton’s airplane, which has been assembled into an attraction.
“It was a real rags to riches story,” Routh Silberman said. “It was the American dream.”
Newton talked of former neighbor boxer Mike Tyson jumping the wall and coming onto the property, she said. Newton told her he would get calls from the security guards asking what to do.
“Mr. Newton told them to leave him alone.”
Then there were the stories that weren’t told. If only the mansion’s dining room table made of heavy walnut could talk about the late-night parties with the Rat Pack of the 1960s — the real people, not tribute artists.
A lifetime of memories of friends, family, showrooms, TV, movies and USO tours are brought to mind when looking up at the mansion’s grand entry staircase.
The Harbers have cared for the ranch and made lots of upgrades. The grounds have been landscaped, more than 100 trees were planted on the property. Big shade trees lead to the mansion that has a mini-fountain in front of it, complete with lights and a sound system. Inside, the Harbers replaced the stair railing, wallpaper, flooring and bathrooms.
The paved walkway to the home has tiny peacock prints where some of the flock must have scampered across the wet concrete.
The birds remain on the property primarily because “they couldn’t catch them,” Thornburgh said. “They (the Newtons) tried to take them when they left.”
Nearby is the empty megagarage that was refitted with sound and audio to display Newton’s large collection of rare cars and motorbikes. Adjacent to that is an area that resembles an airport gate that leads to Newton’s plane. The engines are air conditioners and the seats are covered in plastic, waiting for visitors who will not come to listen to the story about the man who became king of the city of neon.
Touring the grounds one is reminded of a theme park after hours. Across the grounds are industrial-green waste bins and guard rails leading from one area to another. There are a few bleachers near a equestrian water trail. It certainly looks like there could be a gift shop somewhere. (In fact, there were plans for one.)
The commercial property across Sunset Road was to be designed to resemble one of Newton’s favorite showrooms, the Copa Room at the Sands. The mansion was to be a museum filled with Newton’s memorabilia, and tours would have included visits to his champion Arabian horses, more than 100 birds in a aviary, the petting zoo and a pool that housed African penguins, peacocks and wallabies and a pet sloth.
All those dreams are gone now. No one knows what will happen to the former Casa de Shenandoah.
This isn’t the first time the Harbers have been associated with iconic Las Vegas properties. In January, they sold a 55th-floor penthouse at Palms Place, the Tom Ford Ranch on East Russell Road and the Palms Estate on South Pecos Road owned by late casino boss Ralph Engelstad for an underwhelming $5.9 million in separate auctions. The Harbers purchased the properties after the Great Recession for $9.4 million, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Meanwhile, life goes on for the entertainer.
Last summer, Newton moved his family, most of his stuff and exotic animals to another estate a few miles away. He bought a two-story, 9,145-square-foot mansion at Oquendo and South Gateway roads for more than $3 million from Norbert Aleman, creator of the “Crazy Girls” topless show at the Riviera. A few months later, the Newtons purchased 10 acres nearby.
On Monday, Newton will perform with Jerry Lewis and other Las Vegas entertainers in the Nevada Sesquicentennial All-Star Concert at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Requests to the Harbers and Newtons for interviews for this story were not granted.