Did You Know: East Valley Home to Ponderosa II

July 01, 2014

(Photo courtesy of Tom and Louise Swann)
Ponderosa II when it was built in 1963.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez)
The Ponderosa II today, located in east Mesa.
(Photo courtesy of Tom and Louise Swann)
Lorne Greene and his wife Nancy pose in front of Ponderosa II around the time the house was built in 1963.

It’s like having our own movie set right here in the Valley. A famous television house was replicated more than 50 years ago in Mesa. Its creation helped lure well-known television stars and new residents to the area.

It was among the longest-running westerns on television in the 1960s. "Bonanza" was the story of a single father and three sons living in an 1860s Nevada ranch called the Ponderosa. 

The city of Mesa has a replica of the famous Tahoe-style cabin home. Did you know Lorne Greene built Ponderosa II as a marketing tool? 

Louise Swann and her husband Tom are huge fans of "Bonanza" and call themselves the proud owners of Ponderosa II. The house is a cross between a livable home and a museum. 

“This was a flagship home to advertise Apache Country Club, which Lorne Greene had invested in,” said Louise Swann. “And so, Lorne built this house to attract people to come here and build houses and buy lots.”

The only sections of the Ponderosa often seen on the show were the living room, dining room and patriarch Ben Cartwright’s office. This home is exactly like the television house. A set of horns hang over a massive stone fireplace in the living room. Adjacent is the large rifle case and the stairs that lead to a second floor. The dining room table is situated the same as it was in the show.  

As we walk through the house, husband Tom Swann tells me the history of this iconic house. He said it was a challenge for developers to turn a television set into a livable home. When completed, it was a nearly 4,000-square-foot house on a half-acre lot, next to a golf course. 

“It was a set at Paramount and that was started in 1959, and in 1962 they started building this house, so it was only three years after the show ," Tom Swann said. “We’re told that it cost $100,000 to build this house in 1963. And I did a reverse calculator online and it came at over $700,000 today.”

Lorne Greene got permission from the show’s creator to build it. He added two bedrooms, an Arizona room with a bar and a large patio. The Swanns say Ponderosa II was Lorne Greene’s getaway home. The cast of Bonanza even came to the valley for a house-warming party.

In 1967, Greene sold Ponderosa II. That owner lived there for 40 years. When the Swanns learned it was for sale, they bought it and used old photos to assure everything in the house is true to the show.

“Everything in here is ours that we’ve purchased to add to the look," Swann said. "So, the house is pure 1960s, but the inside is pure 1860s.”

 The Swanns are organizing a 2015 "Bonanza" fan gathering in Mesa. This house will be among the locations where evening social events will take place.