Trees cast a lacy shadow as the cacti and vibrant flowers bloom under the beating summer sun. In the distance, mountains stand tall while birds fly over their peaks. At sunset, the pink-haloed sun, desert greenery and dusty trails create a moment of serenity at the aptly named Casa Hermosa – “Beautiful House” in Spanish – in Paradise Valley.
Legendary cowboy artist Lon Megargee built Casa Hermosa in 1936 as a home and art studio. He eventually built an additional guest ranch, which brought wild parties to his private desert oasis.
“He was a very colorful character,” says Andrew Quinn, the Hermosa Inn’s resident historian. “There was nothing he couldn’t do or talk anyone into doing for him.”
Megargee envisioned Casa Hermosa long before breaking ground. He directed workers to lay the foundation and build it without plans. Instead of blueprints, he used a stick to draw a layout in the dirt.
Guests and friends from all over the country came for weeks at a time to experience the tranquility of desert life at his guest ranch – a place to relax in nature during the day and party well into the night. Rumors told of large secret tunnels underneath the house. The law would inevitably be summoned to shut down the fun, but guests would escape through the tunnels and reconvene later. These tunnels were discovered years later near the wine cellar of what is now the Hermosa Inn, Quinn says.
In 1941, ladies’ man Megargee went through another messy divorce. Bills piled up and he was forced to sell his beloved Casa Hermosa.
As the ranch changed hands from owner to owner, it grew physically but retained its original desert charm and Mexican- and Spanish-influenced architecture. Maintaining its painterly aesthetic even as it transitioned into the present-day Hermosa Inn has been paramount, Quinn says. “It was originally the private home of quite a colorful man,” he says.
Megargee’s art studio was transformed into LON’s restaurant and LON’s Last Drop Bar. New owners Ron and Mike Allred, developers from Colorado, recently invested $5.5 million in renovating and preserving the historical hotel. Megargee’s paintings and prints still line the walls of the Hermosa, where weddings and special events hearken back to Casa Hermosa’s nights of revelry.
— Sunaina Tandon
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