Listing agent Preston Westmoreland calls it the “house that took a billion years to build.” Stanley Marcus, famed businessman and former CEO of Neiman Marcus, called it the “most original home in America.” The city of Scottsdale calls it a historical treasure. For $ 4.2 million, you can call it home.
It’s known as the Boulder House, which is located on 9 acres of beautiful desert property in Scottsdale, AZ. This three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom house is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’s actually built inside a mound of ancient boulders from the Precambrian era.
“You can’t believe this guy pulled it off,” Westmoreland said, referring to Charles Foreman Johnson, the building’s architect.
Sunnie and Bill Empie purchased the land after they saw an ad that basically said, according to Westmoreland, “Does anyone want to buy my rocks?” After buying the land, the Empies contacted Johnson. The home was finished around 1980.
The boulders that comprise 60% of the structure aren’t just any old rocks. They’re roughly 1.6 billion years old, according to Fort McDowell Adventures. Westmoreland, who first sold the home about 10 years ago, says archaeologists believe the rocks were an encampment for ancient Native American tribes.
A slit between two great slabs positioned at just the right angle sends a slice of sunlight from one end of the home to the other during the spring and autumnal equinox. The light stretches to a chiseled petroglyph on a far boulder wall, and archaeologists believe it functioned as a calendar.
“The ancients were able to track when spring was coming for planting and things like that,” Westmoreland said. The petroglyphs inside and outside the home are believed to date to about A.D. 1100.
On the first floor is a great room—Westmoreland says it can hold about 80 people—with a huge fireplace. In places where the boulders part, custom-made glass fills the gap.
To create the floor, Johnson came up with color-infused concrete.
“It was a brilliant way to do it. It ran around the boulders like a lake and solidified,” Westmoreland said.
Right off the modern kitchen with stainless-steel appliances is a set of stone steps. They wind between jutting boulders and lead to the master bedroom, which Westmoreland describes as cozy. A custom-cut door leads to a patio with views of the Sonoran Desert and twinkling city lights.
The master bath has a walk-in shower-tub combo and a modern sink, whereas sinks in the other bathrooms are rocklike sculptures designed to fit the home’s boulder origin.
One bedroom has an alcove stained with black scorch marks, remnants of a prehistoric fireplace. Westmoreland tells would-be-buyers, “Don’t brush the carbon off! It’s very valuable.”
Surprisingly, the ancient calendar and fireplace might not be the most interesting features of this home. That honor goes to one of the 20 “vulva forms“—ancient rock carvings of female genitalia.
The biggest one, just off the great room, is 8 feet tall, 4 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. According to Westmoreland, a visiting curator from the San Diego Museum of Man said it was “one of the best examples” of the form he had ever seen.
So, who would want to buy this home?
The last time the home was listed, it took a “long time” to sell, Westmoreland said. He told us the right kind of buyer would be someone who’s in tune with nature. The home’s current owners, who are descendants of the Yavapai-Apache tribe, decided to sell the home after 10 years because they weren’t able to spend much time there. One of their recent additions to the property is a labyrinth fashioned from quartz stones and shaped in a Native American medicine wheel symbol.
The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and was featured on the cover of Architectural Digest in 1983. But if you drove by it, you might just think it was a pile of old rocks.