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Lonnie Hammargren keeps Nevada Day home tour tradition going

Updated October 26, 2017 - 10:36 pm

Outside his homes reads the sign: Palace of the Governor. For many years, the three homes, expanded and attached by a pair of bridges and signage, served as a Nevada Day tradition for visitors who would stroll the grounds and marvel at what they saw.

The tradition of visiting what’s known as The Hammargren Home of Nevada History carries on this year, from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“This is the last time we’re gonna have it here, maybe ever,” said former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, a neurosurgeon who moved into the original house on 4218 Ridgecrest Drive, near East Flamingo and Sandhill roads, in 1971.

Over the years, he has filled the yards and homes with objects. At least 1,000 people would come on Nevada Day weekend, when he opened his house to the public, Hammargren said.

But until recently, he was unsure if he would keep up the nearly 30-year tradition. His original house has now gone into foreclosure, and along with that, some of his collection sold at auction.

“I got 5 cents on the dollar for that stuff,” he said of his recent auction.”My tastes are unusual.”

Hammargren is asking for a $15 visiting fee, which he said would go toward the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, or a donation of a piece of Nevada history.

The white-haired 79-year-old with aviator glasses surveyed his collection Thursday morning. He wore a blue NASA jumpsuit. He said he doesn’t want to think about the things he lost.

Instead, he holds up a picture of motorcyclist Gary Wells, on whom he operated decades ago after Wells was injured during a failed attempt to jump the fountains at Caesars Palace.

Hammargren shows off the original design for the Clark County flag. One of the original Apollo space capsule mock-ups. The paddle wheel from the former Showboat hotel-casino.

He points out the Batmobile in his driveway, old Flamingo hotel signs and the original Nevada safe from the Genoa Courthouse, taken out after a fire in 1910.

He has a picture of Jack’s Bar, which was Carson City’s first bar. And outside, a model airplane made from a Leonardo da Vinci design. He also holds tributes to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, because, Hammargren said, “I’m thought to look like him and think like him.”

The former Vietnam flight surgeon said he was one of two neurosurgeons in Las Vegas when he moved here more than three decades ago. Hammargren said he started collecting as a 5-year-old boy with a butterfly collection.

On Thursday, he strolleded past a dinosaur eating a hot dog and Scooby-Doo driving a carriage. He admired the old Bentley engine and a Harley-Davidson. He took a gander at his whale’s tooth and one of the original Apollo design projects.

“It’s me,” he said of his collection. “It makes me unique in the whole world. Nobody has done what I’ve done.”

Hammargren, also known by some as Lonesome Lon when he sings and plays the piano, walked past a sign.

It read: “Whoever has the most things when he dies … Wins.”

“I’m winning,” he said with a smile.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter.

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