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

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.