Spring Mountain Ranch: “A Diamond in The Rough”

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Our story begins with one Ms. K—an American socialite, pseudo actress, businesswoman who had married and divorced on more than one occasion—and the trials and tribulations that are attributed to a robbery for jewelry that was worth a small fortune. An attractive woman indeed, an American baroness of sorts (or better yet “Gold Digger”) who enjoyed flaunting her baubles and wealth for all to see.

As diamond rings go, it was massive: the center blue-white stone weighed more than 33 carats and was roughly the size of a small marble. And it was surrounded by two smaller baguette-shaped diamonds on each side. Ms. K loved the ring and wore it everywhere—always snug on her finger. After all, who could blame her?

All that changed one evening at her sprawling ranch about twenty-six miles southwest of Las Vegas… not a hotel suite in Paris. Presumptuous, now aren’t we? The Ms. K I am alluding to is not one named Kardashian, but rather one Ms. Krupp, Vera Krupp to be exact. The lines of parallel to be drawn between these two women is simply uncanny. The setup for this penning is all but torn from Page Six of nypost.com. However, this story dates back to the eve of April 10th of 1959, a night when everything changed.

Vera Krupp and her foreman were finishing dinner when three men knocked on the door offering to blacktop her long driveway. Within seconds they’d forced their way in, ripped the ring off Krupp’s finger (to the point of drawing blood), and tied the pair blindfolded back-to-back with wire from a lamp.

The robbers had done their homework. They rifled the ranch house like they knew it well—stealing along with the ring about $700,000 in cash, a revolver, and a camera.

Krupp and her foreman eventually got free, but because the battery-powered ranch phone was dead, they had to drive to the Las Vegas airport to call authorities. The FBI were quickly involved, under the assumption (which later proved correct) that the stolen diamond would be transported across state lines.

The FBI was soon directed to John William Hagenson, a fugitive wanted in connection with a similar robbery in California. Drawing on nearly a dozen field offices, the FBI tracked Hagenson’s zigzag moves across the country and eventually arrested him in Louisiana. The FBI soon added other suspects to the list and were able to piece together the movements of the thieves from city to city. At the same time, all field offices had their ears to ground to see if the large stone would end up for sale.

And it did, about six weeks later. An agent in Newark, New Jersey, heard a rumor from a criminal informant that a local grocer was asking around, trying to sell a big diamond. The FBI quickly located this man: James Reves. Agents searched his hotel room in Elizabeth and found the center diamond in the lining of his coat hanging in the closet. The two baguette diamonds were recovered from a jeweler in St. Louis during the course of the investigation.

Hagenson, Reves, and several other accomplices were brought to trial in November 1959. On November 20th, Reves and two others were found guilty. A few weeks later Hagenson and the other suspects were convicted as well. Hagenson—the alleged mastermind—later beat the rap on appeal.

With all diamonds recovered, Ms. Krupp was able to rebuild her ring. In 1968 after her death, it was bought at the then record auction price of $305,000 by Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor died in 2011 and the diamond was auctioned at Christie’s by her estate on December 16th 2011, having been renamed the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. It was sold for $8,818,500 (including buyer’s premium, $9.39 million as of 2017) to the South Korean conglomerate E-Land, setting a record price per carat of $265,697 for a colorless diamond!

Home on the Range

And now without further ado: The Ranch. Spring Mountain Ranch is a slice of heaven on earth, a virtual diamond in the rough so to speak. Located 15 miles away from Las Vegas, far removed from the neon lights of “Glitter Gulch,” this 520-acre oasis is located within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, beneath the colorful cliffs of the magnificent Wilson Range. Open daily, summer park hours are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The main ranch house features a fascinating history of celebrities who once lived here. One will see Howard Hughes’ bar, as well as personal belongings of Vera Krupp.

History comes to life with special programs at the ranch. Offered during the spring and fall seasons, see costumed role playing and reenactments of historic events, including tales of early settlers and the Civil War. Actors tell tales in first person, so you truly feel like you’re going back in time.

Spring Mountain Ranch is also popular for its outdoor “Super Summer Theatre” series that runs every May through September. Destination Fabulous, your premier Las Vegas destination management and Las Vegas special event company, recommends to tourists and families alike to enjoy a musical or play at the outdoor theater. Now playing: The Wedding Singer. View the performance calendar and get ticket information by visiting www.supersummertheatre.org or calling (702) 594-7529.

Keep in mind that at 3,800 feet, Spring Mountain Ranch is usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the Las Vegas Valley. Make sure to bring your iPhone 7 and take photos of all the desert plant life. These include desert scrub, black brush, pinon-juniper and riparian desert marigold, globe mallow, brittlebrush, Joshua tree (not to be confused with U2’s 30th anniversary tour for their landmark album of the same name), Mojave Yucca, and Indigo bush. After a good winter rainfall, the spring brings a burst of wildflowers.

FAB FACT: Some of the trees are more than 400 years old. Please be careful and do not climb them.

While there’s plenty of animal life, most are nocturnal. These include lizards, snakes, squirrels, kit fox, jackrabbits, cotton tails, and wild burros. Bighorn sheep, rock squirrels, badgers, and mule deer dwell in higher elevations.

As far as Las Vegas special event space is concerned, there is a huge picnic area as soon as you enter the park that can be utilized for corporate parties and functions. Open from 8 a.m. until dusk, this is a peaceful place to relax and enjoy a picnic basket filled with fresh fruit, crudité, and a bottle of Merlot.

If one were to be as lucky as me, you may have the good fortune of meeting… Nancy Le Gal. Miss Nancy is without question the resident authority of all things “Krupp.” Her vast knowledge on the history of Spring Mountain Ranch is “Wikipedia-like,” and her tour will keep you spellbound from start to finish. As with any great storyteller, Miss Nancy paints pictures with the spoken word, which in turn paints a picture in one’s mind that is as compelling as anything produced by a Hollywood movie studio that makes it to the “big screen.” You’ll beg for more and you’ll long for the day that your paths might cross again. Miss Nancy is not a tour guide; she is a treasure. A bona fide Nevadan treasure to be as cherished as the grounds of State Park where the Spring Mountain Ranch stands.

And next time you find yourself in Spring Mountain Ranch Sate Park stop by the main ranch house. I hope you’ll be lucky enough to be there when Nancy Le Gal is storytelling.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,

P.S. The journey is the destination…

Wikipedia Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
And… Nancy Le Gal