Built during the Cold War, when being vaporized by Russian nukes was an imminent fear of many Americans, the subterranean palace is pure 1970s-era luxury. Click here or on the images to go to a slideshow; scroll down for a video tour.
The late Girard “Jerry” G. Henderson, an entrepreneur who had an interest in technology and a strong desire to protect his family from the atom bomb, spent millions creating the perfect nuclear hideaway. Now his 16,000-square-foot underground house, situated in southeast Las Vegas at 3970 Spencer St., is on the market. (Click here to go to the listing.)
Henderson, who made his fortune at Avon Products, hired Kenneth and Jay Swayze to build the property for $10 million in 1978. The Swayze brothers' Underground World Homes, inspired by visions of an apocalypse, designed many clandestine hideaways, including Henderson’s previous home near Boulder, Colo.
Surrounded by rusty iron gates, the aboveground portion of the Las Vegas house (top left photo) is 2,800 square feet that sits on a 1-acre lot. It fits in comfortably with the surrounding properties. But take an elevator down 26 feet beneath the ground and you’ll find another house--this one truly built to last.
In fact, the home has been preserved in all its 1970s-era glory, including a now-retro kitchen (lower left photo), bright pink walls and a fake backyard fit for the Brady Bunch.
The listing agent, Winston King of Kingly Properties, believes that Henderson and his team thought of pretty much everything a person could want. (Scroll down for a video tour.)
At the center of the green carpet meant to mimic grass is a 6,000-square-foot home: three bedrooms, three baths, a laundry room, a dining room and a large kitchen, featuring era-appropriate gadgetry, such as a toaster built into the wall. Click here or on the images above to go to a slideshow.
The property includes many amenities and options for entertaining: a heated pool (lower right photo), two Jacuzzis, a sauna, two spas and a working fireplace, as well as a wet bar, a stage, a dance floor and a putting green.
The barbecue grill, hidden in an artificial rock (upper right photo), ventilates through the artificial trees. A remote-controlled lighting system simulates whatever time of day you’d like it to be.
“It was built to last forever,” King said. “Of course, nothing does, but it was built that way.”
As you might expect from a subterranean home, the building is full of highly personal aesthetic choices. The taste of the homeowner can be spotted throughout, including the murals painted on the walls of the “backyard,” depicting the places Henderson had lived—from Los Angeles, Colorado and New Jersey a sheep ranch he owned in New Zealand. For the three years the artist worked on the murals, she lived in Henderson’s guest house, also underground.
The builders estimated that someone could live solely in the house for at least a year, although the extensive pantry might need to be restocked.
Back in the 1990s, the home was listed for $8 million. Now this bank-owned curiosity is on the market for $1.7 million.
King said it would be a smart place for a musician to build a recording studio, or it could be a quiet hideaway for the super-rich.
Corporations have expressed interest in buying it for parties and other events. A Chinese buyer recently flew in from Hawaii to take a look, interested in booking tours and charging admission, but that didn’t work out. King estimated that the basement could hold roughly 100 people.
Why hasn’t it sold yet?
“Hey, it’s underground,” King said. “It needs a special person.”
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