Lonnie Hammargren is a bit of a local legend—a retired neurosurgeon and former lieutenant governor, Hammargren’s home also happens to be a veritable wunderkammer.
Hammargren, now 78 years old, is a lifelong memorabilia collector. On the state’s annual Nevada Day, which celebrates the state’s admission to statehood in 1864, he opens his Las Vegas abode to visitors for an open house, drawing thousands of visitors each year. Hammargren spends more than 50 hours each week on his “Hammargren Home of Nevada History,” carefully organizing his ever-growing trove of memorabilia, with occasional help from his wife Sandy. Though he keeps joking that each item will be the last, the collection has never once stopped growing, and likely won’t stop anytime soon.
His wunderkammer includes an indoor Barbershop Brothel, an underground mine, a mini Taj Mahal, a T-rex replica, and an animatronic tiger, to name just a few things you might find. Most of the collection is tied into two of Hammargren’s central passions: education and science, and many of them have required cranes and some serious manpower to transport into place. There is also plenty of Nevada and Las Vegas pride on display.
Though most of his collection has been built on donations, Hammargren has also spent $10 million out of his own pocket on purchases, construction, and maintenance.
He built his home museum in 1969, has lived there since 1971, and has no intentions of ever leaving. In the basement beneath the garage, Hammargren has created an Egyptian burial chamber, fully outfitted with a golden sarcophagus, where Hammargren has instructed that he be buried. In 2007, he even held an “Awake Wake” for himself, which featured a Jazz funeral march and a mock burial.
If you’ve never celebrated Nevada Day, this seems like a great way to do it. “Animatronic tiger.” What more is there to say?