Message #169 From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Date: Sun, 17 May 1998 22:43:40 -0700 Subject: Cowboy-Artist Lon Megargee And The Hermosa Inn [ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] : From: Cindy Winkleman firstname.lastname@example.org THE HERMOSA INN WAS BUILT BY AN ARIZONA COWBOY ARTIST The Hermosa Inn, an authentic southwestern hacienda, and LON’s at the hermosa, the on-site restaurant, were originally built in the 1930’s as the home and art studio of Arizona’s legendary cowboy-artist Lon Megargee. Today The Hermosa Inn offers quiet charm and comfortable seclusion in 35 individually decorated adobe casitas scattered over six and one-half acres of desert gardens, while LON’s at the hermosa has earned the reputation of being one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the Valley of the Sun. Megargee, a native of Philadelphia, came west just before the turn of the century to fulfill his boyhood dream of being a cowboy. He prospered in his quest, becoming a champion bronc buster and owning a ranch with as many as 500 cattle. He succeeded in chasing an idealized notion of the American dream of ranchers, Indians and settlers that was fast fading even during his time. The drought of 1908-1909, however, changed his future forever by robbing him of his land, cattle and horses. In exchange for food, Megargee began sketching for local Indians, his talent surprising even himself. He eventually made it to California where he lived with a cousin and attended the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. With less than a year of formal art education, he submitted and won a contract to paint 15 murals for Arizona’s first State Capitol Building, a contract that ultimately turned him into a successful commercial artist. The murals, completed circa 1913, still adorn the walls of what is now Arizona’s State Capitol Museum. In the 1920’s Megargee traveled cross-country in his quest for opportunity, ending up in New York City with a contract for Stetson Hats Company. The Last Drop from his Stetson was completed circa 1924 and is still the signature trademark inside every top-of-the-line Stetson hat. With the money from this commission, Megargee traveled to Spain where he became entranced by the honest simplicity of the typical Spanish home. After less than a year in Spain, he concluded, "on the desert, I just seem to belong." Upon his return to Arizona in the late 1920’s, Paradise Valley seemed far beyond the Phoenix city limits. When Megargee set his eyes on an isolated plot of land there, it spoke to him and he decided to build upon it his home and art studio. Influenced by his studies abroad, he worked without formal plans and used adobe blocks made from the surrounding rose-colored desert soil and wooden beams he retrieved from an old abandoned mine. He aged the exterior walls by pouring a mixture of oil and ash from the roof. He dubbed his unique Southwestern home "Casa Hermosa," which means beautiful house. As his house grew, Lon began running Casa Hermosa as a guest ranch to supplement his art income. Mysterious tunnels that run under what had been the main house are a testament to the poker games and late night parties that contributed to Megargee’s "raw boned charm" reputation. During his days at Casa Hermosa, Megargee produced some of his most spectacular paintings, some of which were reproduced by the Smithsonian and widely distributed. Other paintings are owned and highly valued by local residents. Local museums also display his artwork and organize exclusive exhibits from time to time. In 1950, nearly every bar in Arizona had a print of A Cowboy’s Dream, the first of four famous paintings he did as part of an ad campaign for A-1 Beer (Arizona’s Brewing Company), a campaign which ultimately inspired Anheiser-Busch ads in subsequent years. In the midst of one of many divorces and in desperate need of money, Megargee was eventually forced to put his beloved Casa Hermosa on the market. With each new owner, his home changed and evolved and became known as the Hermosa Resort. Then, in 1987, a devastating fire damaged the main building, much of which had been Megargee’s original home. In 1992, Paradise Valley residents Fred and Jennifer Unger, intrigued with the resort and its history, bought the property and set about to restore its original charm. The ngers worked with a local builder and designer, Dan Mac Beth to save the original adobe walls, ironwork and charred beams. The interior of the building was restored to reflect the original southwestern ambiance that had once been the vision of Lon Megargee. Photographs of him and prints of his artwork are on permanent display. Today, The Hermosa Inn and LON’s at the hermosa, are quietly nestled within a residential area. Picturesque green lawns and stone walkways lined with blooming flowers link the various dwellings, the pools and tennis courts inviting guests to stroll among the property’s six and one half acres of desert gardens. The intimate setting and amenities are as suitable for high level corporate retreats as they are for couples looking for an intimate desert hideaway. Villa style rooms, with two separate sleeping suites, a full-size kitchen and living room are perfect for family of four getaways. Smaller rooms with beehive fireplaces and hacienda style charm provide quiet comfortable seclusion. By day, LON’s at the hermosa’s main dining room basks in the natural light from a wall of French doors. In the evening, guests are captivated by soft candlelight, authentic, rustic southwestern furnishings and the flicker of beehive fireplaces. candlelit outdoor patio dining offers an engaging view of colorful sunsets and romantic moonrises against Camelback Mountain. At The Hermosa Inn, the only skyscrapers are the neighboring crests of Camelback and Squaw Peak Mountains and the most prominent sounds are those from desert songbirds. Some have even said that Megargee, who died in northern Arizona in 1960 at the age of 77, still visits his Casa Hermosa from time to time.