Haven’t we all, at one time or other, dreamed of getting away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life – perhaps in favor of a more rustic lifestyle? Some people actually make this dream a reality, investing in a country home or maybe a cottage by the ocean. But, one bold couple took this idea a giant step further and went full-on Flintstones. They fashioned their dream home from a cave – and this fantastical mountain retreat has to be seen to be believed…
Bisbee is a former Arizona mining town, which these days acts as a playground for the baby boomer generation as they seek out homes in which to spend their twilight years. Located approximately 80 miles south east of Tucson, its population is just 5,575.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the small, unique city is said to have drawn its share of hippies, creative people and fringe culture fans during the wild 1960s. And some might argue that the stunning mountain landscapes near this modest-sized, independent-spirited town are the perfect location for a distinctive home like no other…
In the 1970s, then, Cathy Clark (née Wertz) and her artist peers abandoned the inaccessible housing market of Colorado’s nascent skiing bergs in favor of the better deals to be found around Bisbee. And athough she had originally set her sights on opening an art school in the Arizona town, Cathy ended up running a plant shop nearby. This is where she met the love of her life.
Randy Clark clearly had a passion for nature and greenery – or perhaps it was just Cathy – as he met his would-be wife in her plant nursery. The couple wed some years later in 1985, and Cathy would go on to work as an inspector for the agriculture department. Her role involved caring for the landscape and enforcing the state’s plant laws – the beginning of a beautiful relationship with the south-eastern Arizona land.
And as Cathy and Randy’s emotional ties deepened, so did their passion for the mountainous area around Bisbee. In fact, a year before they walked down the aisle, the pair set out on an exploration of the over 35-acre mountainside site of their dreams, just outside the town in Chulo Canyon – even scaling its surrounding fence to gain access. While some might have assumed that the spot was perfect, however, it did have one massive flaw.
The raw terrain and the rugged surrounds were breathtaking, and the couple could’t resist buying the plot. But how could they possibly construct a home on this land? They were concerned that whatever they built might somehow detract from the cliffside site’s original charms. However, the gutsy pair refused to give up on their vision.
The determined couple pitched up and decided to camp on the site of their future dream home, waterfall, ponds and all – despite being stumped by the dilemma of how to build their desert castle there. But their devotion, along with a lot of patience and a little luck, would eventually make their wish come true.
Not long after they’d purchased the parcel of land, though, the Clarks found themselves startled by loud bangs coming from the vicinity and decided to look into it. It turns out that the thunderous sound had come from the handiwork of their neighbor, an ex-mining engineer named Gus Gonnason, who had been crafting his own cave home via explosions about a mile away. The couple asked him, “When you’re done, can you come over and do one for us?”
To their delight, Gonnason agreed to the proposal; by the time he was finished, moreover, almost 3,000 square feet of crag and boulder was excavated from the cliff. And there they had it: the perfect site on which the couple could finally build their new home. But this wasn’t to be just any home, as the Clarks plotted to fashion their very own luxurious dwelling on the rustic mountain site.
A team of craftsmen and creators from the area was assembled to piece together the Clarks’ fantasy pad – some even resided on-site for nearly two years during the building process. The pair’s vision of a cozy cave house came to life, slowly but surely, before their eyes… and the results were amazing.
The upscale 2,980-square-foot Flintstones-esque cave casa features a trio of bedrooms, a sun room with glass facades, a high-end kitchen, a dining room suitable for eight guests, two bathrooms, a sleep loft and a walk-in closet. But that’s not all that the stunning cave has to offer…
The stone palace also boasts a 890-foot guest unit, an underground parlor room and a built-in garage. The cave even includes a detached home office, a workshop area and a library structure – all part of the bespoke pseudo-rustic abode. But it’s not only the awesome interiors that will make you want to return to cave dwelling yourself.
The luxury cliffhanger – known by Arizonians as “the Cave House” – doesn’t require heating or air conditioning as a result of the naturally efficient cave climate, which ensures that the temperature remains a pleasant 68 degrees most of the time. However, it can also reach temperatures as warm as 72 degrees in the hot months and 65 degrees in wintertime. But for those who prefer to stay cooler, relief is only a short walk away.
The mountain manor’s surrounds are also home to some breathtaking pools – thanks to Mother Nature – which are just a brief sprint up the mountain. These provide an ideal way to cool a down while remaining true to the cave lifestyle. However, these pools represent just a small portion of the offering of rustic wonders found in the local area.
The locality is also rife with a glittering array of flora and fauna – including over 400 indigenous plant species, 79 avian species and 113 species of butterflies. It teems with amphibian life, as tadpoles, among other animal friends, are frequent visitors to the Clarks’ natural pool. Astounding exterior and interior features notwithstanding, however, the Clarks have now had a change of heart.
How could anyone walk away from such a quirky, unforgettable property – not to mention the charms offered by its surrounding area? Nevertheless, the Clarks have decided to pass their craggy little palace onto a new owner as they seek more of a nimble, fluid lifestyle. But they have some strong ideas about who they’d like to be the new king and/or queen of their cave castle.
Cathy has indicated that she’d like to see a fellow nature lover and protector move into the stylish house, in hopes that they will preserve and improve its features in harmony with its precious rustic locale. She also imagines that this will ensure a bright future for research already completed in the area with regards to vegetation and animal life.
But why exactly did Cathy and Randy want to leave behind the home that they worked so hard to build out of pure rock? Well, the reason is simple – and not unlike the gripe many owners of “normal” homes have. Apparently, running a cave home is a 24-hour around-the-clock job. So in 2012 they put the cliffside home on the market, and its price tag was equally steep…
The quirky, custom-built, grotto-attached home was listed for an impressive $1.5 million. But Bisbee Realty real estate agent Jean Noreen seems to reckon that the mountain escape is worth every penny. As she told Forbes in 2012, “It would make a great… yoga retreat or… an alternative healing place,” adding, “It’s very peaceful.”