52°F
weather icon Clear

Treasure Island booty adorns ‘Pirate’s Cove’

Grandparents delight in doing something nice for their grandchildren and then sitting back and watching little faces light up with excitement. Craig Tillotson did that nearly 25 years ago in what some folks might characterize as to infinity and beyond.

But this is no “Toy Story.” No Peter Pan tale. “Treasure Island”? Oh yeah, it definitely has a touch of that.

Tillotson’s journey into the world of “imaginary,” as his son, Derek, describes it began when his father bought a quaint stucco home in a secluded Boulder City community adjacent to a mountain overlooking Lake Mead National Recreational Area. The Salt Lake City resident wanted a vacation home where his family could spend time at the lake and explore hiking and bicycle trails throughout the rustic desert area.

Originally, the elder Tillotson incorporated a Southwest theme for furniture and artwork throughout his one-story, three-bedroom home. Then he started renovating, adding a second floor and a wing on one side. A freestanding garage not far from the main house inspired Tillotson to create a casita for visiting guests.

Tillotson, who has an eclectic taste for vintage automobiles and motorcycles from the 1950s and 1960s, began scouring antique shops for stuff to fill his vacation home and casita, figuring it all fit together with the Southwest theme.

During one antique shop excursion, Tillotson was smitten by two pirate statues, which he snatched up to post on his property. Family members and guests loved the life-size figures and encouraged him to pursue more pirate paraphernalia.

About this time, “Pirates of the Caribbean” was hitting cinemas worldwide and many kids fantasized about being Johnny Depp’s infamous pirate character Jack Sparrow. Tillotson’s grandkids were no exception.

And then, as if the heavens had opened and plunked a chest of gold in Tillotson’s lap, Treasure Island on the Strip was changing its brand and dumping much of its pirate booty.

Tillotson hightailed it to the auction and began buying pirate-themed exhibits comparable to what you’d see at Disneyland or some Hollywood movie lot. A few of the cast members from the original Treasure Island show even helped braid ropes for handrails and bridges Tillotson said he needed for authenticity.

“My dad is such an amazing creator,” Derek Tillotson said. “His imagination just started going wild. We went to Disneyland and the Cayman Islands and took pictures for inspiration. This is the funnest place on earth. If you call it an amusement park, you miss that it has kitchens and bedrooms … It’s like having your own private Disneyland.”

Tillotson purchased two adjacent lots, dubbing the space Pirate’s Cove, and built two additional pirate-themed properties and named them Port Royal and Tortuga Bay. The original home he calls Swashbuckler Bay. All three residences have fully operational kitchens, as does the property named The Casita. Each room within each building also has its own pirate name such as the Davy Jones Suite, the Pillage Room, Plunder Room, Egyptian Treasure Suite and a haunting motel-sized room and bath combination dubbed The Voodoo Room with baubles, bangles and skull-type stuff hanging everywhere.

“The Voodoo Room is my Dad’s imagination to a T,” Derek said. “He loves to create experiences for people. He put many hours into creating the Voodoo Room and bought things from all over the world to put in this room.”

Derek’s sister, Trina Sheranian, an interior designer, helped her father with some of the furnishing concepts as did his mother-in-law, Ann Daniels, a skilled faux-mural painter.

Besides the four residences, another building houses a weight room and basketball court. Derek said the entire compound of five buildings, 18 bedrooms and 22 baths occupies a footprint of 20,000-plus square feet. Also, there are three swimming pools, two hot tubs and two waterslides. One waterslide snakes through the replica of a pirate ship with cannons and dumps riders into a 15-foot deep, 50,000-gallon swimming pool. Towering above this same pool is a tall-ship’s mast with crow’s nest diving platforms at the 40-foot, 30-foot and 20-foot marks. Less courageous swimmers also can dive off the cliff structure’s base.

“People come here and say, ‘Holy cow,’ ” Pirate’s Cove property manager Brad Voshell said. “It’s hard to wrap your head around this place.”

Voshell, a professional landscaper, has been property manager for 10 years. He has two assistants who help him keep Pirate’s Cove operating properly. A nearby mountain on property, for example, has cascading waterfalls that require care along with two gazebos perched at challenging levels for those inclined to do a little hiking. Strewn throughout the mountain are numerous sinister-looking pirate statues staring down at you, and bleached-white erect skeleton figures brandishing cutlasses and wearing spooky smiles.

Voshell said the waterfalls, waterslides, fire pits and mist systems are operated by state-of-the-art automated timer systems. There are 12 different pumps that operate the waterslides and waterfalls, he added. Swimming pools are heated to 90 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter.

“It’s like being in your own private amusement park,” Voshell said. “If you can’t find something to do here, it’s time to go.”

Voshell said between 500 and 600 people stay at Pirate’s Cove annually. After people leave, a crew of nine clean and prepare the compound for the next guests.

“We are never ahead of the game. There is always something to do,” Voshell said of the maintenance upkeep. “We take care of all the pools and landscaping in-house. It takes a few days for people who come here to get orientated to the place. But it all flows nicely together.”

Derek said Pirate’s Cove is not open to the public; guests are Tillotson family members or special guests of the family.

“Pirate’s Cove was built as a family retreat and not open to the public,” Derek said. “It’s not a bed and breakfast. It’s not a hotel. Dad built this property for his grandkids. It’s a creation of his imagination. He is in his element when he shows Pirate’s Cove to the grandchildren.”

Derek said his family stays at Pirate’s Cove at various periods throughout the year. His father is an avid bicyclist and hiker and enjoys exploring trails around Lake Mead. They also have used the compound to host charitable events for Boulder City and the local hospital.

The Tillotsons also established a world hunger program, Nourish the Children, to distribute nutritional food packets to children in starving countries. Derek Tillotson said more than 350 million meals have been distributed worldwide.

Nourish the Children, as stated in company literature, is an initiative of Nu Skin, a for-profit distributor of nutritional and skin-care products. Craig Tillotson has been associated with Nu Skin since its beginnings, as stated in a company profile.

“Anyone who is into construction is pretty impressed with Pirate’s Cove,” Derek said. “So is anyone who’s into landscaping and interior design.”

When asked the value of Pirate’s Cove, Derek said it’s impossible to calculate with all the thousands of dollars of antiques on property and the time and expense spent getting it to where it’s at today. It’s hard to comprehend the massiveness and all the attractions from outside the walls of the compound, which is exactly the type of privacy the Tillotson family wants.

“When the neighbors want to check it out, we show them,” Derek said. “Otherwise, all the craziness and fun at Pirate’s Cove is contained. It was built for our grandchildren. Pirate’s Cove will be in our family forever.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Real Estate Millions Videos
Real Estate Millions: Underground Car Garage in Las Vegas Home - Video
Take a tour through 9708 Verlaine Ct, where the homeowner designed an underground car garage featuring an elevator and a see-through glass floor to show off his car collection.
Real Estate Millions: House Auctioned in Tournament Hills - Video
DeCaro Auction International auctions off 9021 Grove Crest Ln inside Tournament Hills.
Real Estate Millions: 6645 El Campo Grande
New American 2020 Home - Video
Take a tour through the 2020 New American Home with the architectural design concept of combining indoors and outdoors together.
Real Estate Millions: 1950's Remodel with John and Jon
High-end luxury resort designers, John Klai and Jon Sparer, were living in a 13,225-square-foot mansion on the westernmost edge of Las Vegas in the exclusive golf course community, The Ridges. Both wanted to return the heart of the city and to live a more established neighborhood, and chose McNeil Estates, a beloved midcentury neighborhood designed for “country living in the city” when Las Vegas was booming in the 1950s. The first home they bought in McNeil became too cost effective and then they spotted the charming 1951 ranch home on the corner and Ashby Avenue and Strong Drive, its yard still boasting a lemon tree planted by the original owner, Mrs. Mary Porter.
Real Estate Millions 4915 Spruce Road - Video
The home is 4,466 square feet, and has four bedrooms including a private master loft and secondary lower-level master, four baths, two-car attached garage. The home is on a quarter-acre lot. Adjacent quarter-acre lot is being sold with the property.
Winchester District Kellner Compound | Real Estate Millions
Nestled in a twelve-acre gated enclave of seven homes, 2850 South Mojave is located in the historic Winchester District. The Kellner’s property features two (of the seven) distinct, modern-designed single-story homes. The main home showcases 6,143 square feet with three bedrooms and four and a half baths. The guest home is 4,750 square feet with five beds and four baths. Kellner’s journey from Cape Town to Las Vegas is an authentic rags-to-riches story. His parents passed away when he was young (his mother when he was 13 and father at age 17). When he was 18, Kellner immigrated to southern California as a tribute to his late father.
Real Estate Millions | The Property Brothers talk Dream Home No. 1
Drew and Jonathan Scott, TV's Property Brothers, talk about their newest Dream Home project in the MacDonald Highlands community in Henderson, NV. (Angus Kelly/Real Estate Millions)
Real Estate Million: 9840 Dorrell Lane - Video
This 3,107 square feet features three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms that sits on 2.1 acres with a landscape that has unique plants and trees.
Real Estate Millions Barry Shier's Home - Video
Take a tour through the former CEO Barry Shier's of Mirage Resorts and Golden Nuggets home on Billionaires Row.
Real Estate Millions 5 Wood Creek Court - Video
5 Wood Creek Court features an award-winning Ozzie Kraft pool with a lazy river, grotto, waterfall, a swim-up bar, and jacuzzi, outdoor loggia with strip and mountain views.
Real Estate Millions: Spanish Trails
Blackstone Group reportedly interested in acquiring MGM Grand, Bellagio
The Blackstone Group, who purchased The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and the Hughes Center office park, is reportedly looking to buy and lease back the MGM Grand and the Bellagio. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Real Estate Millions: 1382 Ruby Sky Ct
Lake Las Vegas Henderson Home - Video
The views of Lake Las Vegas from 8 Rue Promenade Way are panoramic and through each arched window, postcard-perfect. Impeccably groomed shores, waterfalls, golf courses, and upscale living define the exclusive landscape. But it's the European-inspired, 7,000-square-foot home with floor-to-ceiling windows, stone fireplaces, curved stairways, French doors and ample nooks and balconies that suggest palatial hideaway.
Real Estate Millions: "Property Brothers" design a "drag room" - VIDEO
"Property Brothers" reached out to Las Vegas entertainer Frank Marino to design a "drag room" for Mark Hooker, who is performing as his stage persona “Margo Caprese,” known as the Vintage Vegas Vixen, in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sun City Summerlin Dream Home - Real Estate Millions
Bob and Doralee have recently built there new dream retirement home in Sun City that mimics the style of there previous home.
Top 10 Most Expensive Homes in Las Vegas - Video
These are the top 10 most expensive homes sold in Las Vegas.
Lake Las Vegas Blue Heron Vantage Views
Video courtesy Lake Las Vegas Media/Drone Las Vegas & Black Room Productions
Golden Knight's owner Bill Foley's House for sale in The Ridges - Real Estate Millions
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.
Real Estate Millions: Temple Rock Court Boulder City
Temple Rock Court features four bedrooms, fourth bathrooms and is listed at $1.5 million.
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.
THE LATEST
Classic architecture inspires design

Every home tells a story. The narrative of Ellen Bouterie’s home is that of a personal memoir. Drawing inspiration from French, Italian and English influences, each room weaves a beautiful tale reflecting Bouterie’s personality and lifestyle.

Miami chic found in Las Vegas’ Lakes community

Within The Lakes community, 2909 Coast Line Court expresses the sleek sophistication and laid-back comfort of southeastern Florida design right down to its stunning waterfront views.

Couple designs “house of good friends” — VIDEO

Deborah and Craig Huntington designed their incredible half-acre custom estate as the “Villa dei Buoni Amici,’]” which means “house of good friends.”

Summit mansion is work of art — PHOTOS

Walls of polished Las Vegas rock, quarried from Jean, resemble the deep tones and lines of petrified wood. The travertine floor runs seamlessly one direction from one end of the house to another. In the entry an art piece doubles as a hidden closet. White orchids on a center table are proportionately arranged.

The Summit in Summerlin takes shape

The Summit Club, Summerlin’s ultra luxury golf resort community, has come a long way since the resort started pre-selling lots in 2015.

Top 10 highest-priced luxury resale homes sold in 2019

The Summerlin home of Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley ranked as the third most expensive single-family home sold in Las Vegas in 2019.

 
Summerlin mansion lists for $3.5M

The home showcases six bedrooms including two master suites. Other features include 14 baths, a subterranean level with game room and wine cellar. Its stylish resort-like backyard offers a salt-water pool with exercise jets, spa, two barbecue areas, fire pit and fire wall.

 
Local renovator turns diamond in the rough into oasis

The renovated 8,010-square-foot home features six bedrooms, six baths, a pneumatic elevator servicing a two-story, 3,000-plus-square-foot entertainment wing, a 12-foot Amanti fireplace, which is one of only three ever made, a theater with three-tier stadium seating and 60,000-gallon swimming pool with water slide, waterfall and grotto.