If you grew up in Las Vegas in the 1980s (as I did), two things were inescapable. Wayne Newton and his massive 40-Acre ranch called Casa de Shenandoah was one of them. To be sure, back when Newton acquired the property and built his compound, the property on the corner of Pecos Road and Sunset Road was out in the boonies. Now, it's in one of the most developed parts of town. However, this isn't a story about the rapid growth of Las Vegas since 1980, this is a story about the fascinating history of Wayne Newton's version of Neverland, his home, Casa de Shenandoah. As a kid, we loved taking a route past Newton's Casa de Shenandoah to see if we could spot any of his prized Arabian horses or the zebras or giraffe rumored to also live on his nearly 40-acre resort. What we didn't know back then was the crazy history of the estate or what would transpire between 1981 and 2019, when he finally unloaded the property at a deep discount.
Back in 1966, the then-24-year-old Wayne Newton bought five acres of dusty desert located roughly 10 to 15 minutes southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. When he purchased the first five acres, they were vacant. Over the course of the next year, he had a stable and riding corral built. Newton lived in a guest house on the land with his parents, brother, and sister-in-law. In 1968, his new bride Elaine moved in. Between 1969 and 1972, Newton acquired more acreage to increase his holding to nearly 40 acres. He parked his Lear Jet on the property, even though McCarran International Airport is located just 10 minutes west of Newton's ranch.
Newton bred Arabian horses on the ranch during the 1970s. In 1973, he added two more houses and a hospital for horses to the property. By 1976, 120 Arabian horses lived at Casa de Shenandoah. That same year, Newton got to work on a new home on the property – a $4 million ($18 million in today's dollars) – southern-style mansion that Newton designed himself. The home was meant to be a replica of "Gone with the Wind's" Tara plantation. Elaine Newton decorated every room in the house, except for Newton's office, famously called the "Red Room," with red velvet walls, where he conducted interviews. Newton also stored his vast collection of Rolls-Royces and the 1928 Duesenberg that formerly belonged to Howard Hughes, on the property. Eight homes dot the property.
By 1979, Newton and his parents lived at Casa de Shenandoah with about 70 staff members. Deer, ducks, wallabies, peacocks, and swans also roamed the property freely. Casa de Shenandoah was protected by a roughly seven-foot-high white cinder block wall. Still, Las Vegans regularly dropped their pets – especially rabbits – over the wall, believing it to be an animal sanctuary rather than Newton's home. Newton also kept penguins and sloths on his property. He built an enormous birdcage to hold more than 100 kinds of avian creatures. He also had his own jet terminal and runway for his private plane. Presumably, he was able to use the nearby airport's air traffic control tower for his takeoffs and landings.
Newton's finances took a hit over the last several decades and really hit the skids during the economic downturn that started in 2008. By 2010, he had moved out of Casa de Shenandoah in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings. He sold the ranch to a development company in 2010 for $19.5 million and kept a 20% stake. The idea at the time was to turn Casa de Shenandoah into a theme park. However, over the decades, Las Vegas sprung up around Newton's once-remote ranch and the neighborhoods around the property were not interested in the increased traffic and noise a theme park would bring. Even though the city approved Newton's plans, his neighbors derailed it, adding to the list of lawsuits, money issues, and poor planning that the property has faced since Newton sold a stake in it in 2010. The development company he partnered with, CSD, LLC, went out of business and Casa de Shenandoah was put on the market again.
Casa de Shenandoah hit the market again for $70 million in the fall of 2013. It was the highest-priced home for sale in Las Vegas at the time. It eventually sold for $5.56 million in July 2019. However, the Casa de Shenandoah drama doesn't stop there. Newton and his second wife went to court to try and recover some of Newton's personal possessions including Jack Benny's violin, Nat King Cole's watch, and Jackie Gleason's pool cue. Newton argued that the items inside his former home belong to him, not the property's new owner. The owners of Casa de Shenandoah believe Newton's personal items and collectibles are part of the sale. Newton argued that he had permission to leave his stuff there in the partnership deal with the former owner. Newton finally won this battle and he was allowed to remove his personal items and collectibles from his former estate.
Where does Wayne Newton live now? Mr. Las Vegas just moved down the street from Casa de Shenandoah into a 9,145-square-foot home he bought for $3 million in May 2019. He also bought the adjacent 10-acre property about a month later. Is Newton amassing land for another Case de Shenandoah? Only time will tell…