Dale Nelson’s man cave is the centerpiece for the town of Wanship. Nearly impossible to miss, it’s the famous Rock House smackdab in the center of town.
The structure was up for sale in the early eighties when Nelson was a realtor, and he says, “I had to save it. Everyone who wanted to buy it wanted to bulldoze it. I just couldn’t let that happen.”
Nelson paid $20,000 for the home at a time when the economy was terrible and interest rates were rising, because he saw the enormous potential and the existing character of the old Pioneer home made from rocks quarried from a nearby hill. Seven children were raised in the Rock House and when Nelson purchased it, its primary heating source was still an outdoor stove.
What makes Dale’s entire Rock House a man cave? For the past thirty years he has been steadily filling the home with relics, taxidermy, scrap metal, and cool stuff ladies might not fully appreciate. “In thirty years my wife has slept here exactly three times,” he says.
His cave is visited by a mountain lion, whom he has befriended. And Dale is never lonely. Friends, or visitors with man cave aspirations frequent the property. Dale has a pile of scrap metal, big springs, cogs and other interesting stuff. “This was a friend’s relief from his difficult divorce,” Dale says. “Metal sculpture and welding are therapeutic.”
Dale’s primary occupation for the past 35 years was property manager. Owning 35 properties, and renting, maintaining and improving each one himself might appear to be a full-time job for three people, “but I do it all myself,” he says. In addition, Dale is a model, actor, historian, preservationist, antique dealer, realtor, carpenter and substitute teacher.
Dale’s work and life might seem scattered and swashbuckled, but he maintains, “You have to have goals, and it’s important that every day you keep your eye on what you want to achieve. Every day I keep a journal and write down who I have met and talked to and what I ate.”
Dale said he set out to become a millionaire when he was 25. He achieved his goal in just 15 years, mostly buying distressed properties in Park City. “I held one house for 16 years and I decided I wanted to get $800 K for that house, and I finally did. But’cha know what it sold for the very next year? $1.3 million.” He smiles big. Had he held all his Park City properties for a few more years, he would have had millions more.
While Dale admits he has achieved a lot in his life, he says he’s about 15 years behind in accomplishing his vision for the Rock House. Dale tells me all he wants to do, including putting an apartment into his massive barn and installing a heatsink and solar panels at the rear of the home. Dale says, “I have way too many projects and not enough time. I realize I’m going to die one day, so I better get some things done.” Dale decided last spring to sell his entire collection of antiques. He had been holding $100,000 of inventory that he sold for $20,000 just to get those things out of the way.
While I wouldn’t say Dale is a hoarder, he has massive collections of pioneer wagon wheels, farm implements, a Model A chassis stored atop a shed, hundreds of tools and piles of rusting metal all around the property. But every man cave needs a treasure.