Couple spent 30 years hand-building this Old West town

Couple spent 30 years hand-building this Old West town
·Homes Editor

It's the end of an era at the Deskovick ranch.

The end of more than one era, really.

In the mid-1980s, Stan and Marjorie Deskovick had already been accumulating Old West memorabilia for decades when he retired from his job as a general contractor and they downsized to their current ranch-style house.

It's on an acre near Hellhole Canyon Preserve, about 40 miles north of San Diego in Valley Center, California.

That acre of elbow room turned out to be just what they needed, because there was no way their collection was going to fit into their 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom on Rock Hill Ranch Road.

They set to hand-building themselves a little old Western town on their property, homemade signs scrawled in paint commingling with authentic trappings. (Click here or on a photo for a slideshow.)

"Dewey Cheatum + Howe Attorney's at Law," reads one sign. Outside the "saloon," another sign advertises "Beer 5¢" (and we had to go hunting for a ¢ symbol on our computer just to type that). The "office" for the local rag, the Bear Valley News, contains an 1897 Challenge Gordon platen press. Vintage goods of all kinds crowd the general store.

The Deskovicks do have kids, but the town wasn't for them or for grandkids, Deskovick told Yahoo Homes firmly. "I did it for me." It was a rewarding project.

Inside the saloon. Click any photo for a slideshow.
Inside the saloon. Click any photo for a slideshow.

Likewise his post-retirement gig as a John Wayne impersonator: "I used to go to Western fairs and people would say to me, 'You look like John Wayne.'" He's 6-foot-4, Wayne's height, and he's been getting comments about the resemblance all his life. At first he shrugged off the professional suggestions, but then "a coupla lookalikes said, 'You gotta do John Wayne, you look just like him!'" So he does, sometimes. At a party some years back, Deskovick told the San Diego Union-Tribune, he even met Pat Boone — who knew Wayne — "and he came up to me and said, 'You look more like John Wayne than John Wayne.'"

Word got around a bit about his post-retirement hobbies, though he never really advertised them. "I'm just recreational," he said. "I didn't get rich." Scenes from a few movies and commercials were shot in his town, or folks would rent it out to "have a little party."

(Click here or on a photo for a slideshow.)

Time wears on, though, and upkeep is getting to be a bit much for the Deskovicks. He's 83, she's 81.

They thought to relocate — listing the property last summer for $1.2 million and then dropping their ask to $950,000 in September — but selling turned out to be tough. "The appraiser for the lender is not going to appraise any of the collectibles or the antiques," their listing agent, Earl Brown, told "Just the house" — worth maybe half a million.

Truth be told, the Deskovicks aren't terribly keen to move anyway. Brown told us that when he asked the Deskovicks to describe their ideal house, they specified a smallish home on a fair bit of land with no neighbors breathing down their necks.

Pretty much their current situation, in other words.

And when we talked to Deskovick, here's what he had to say:

"What you have to pay for what you get, they're NUTS. So we just decided to stay right here." The listing was removed right around the time that Yahoo Homes reached him.

That leaves the town to be dealt with. The Deskovicks' kids have zero interest in it, Brown and Deskovick told us — well, except his son wants his Model A pickup truck, Deskovick said. It didn't sound like there were any hard feelings. "It's just too much," Deskovick said.

The plan now: "It is coming apart," Brown said. The Deskovicks have agreed to a four-day estate sale to be held Wednesday through Saturday of next week.

We asked Deskovick if he's sad about that. "Yes and no," he said. "It's not all gonna go. There'll still be stuff here. As long as I'm living, it'll be here."

Click here or on a photo for a slideshow of the Old West town that Stan and Marjorie Deskovick spent three decades building themselves.

[Editor's note, added after the original posting: A thousand apologies for accidentally omitting the link to the estate sale earlier! We've added it above; thank you to commenters for calling our attention to the omission. The sale will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT each day, March 4 to March 7, in Valley Center. The address will be released after 9 a.m. Tuesday PT. You can click here for more information: ... Also, a number of commenters have understandably clamored for a photo of John Wayne lookalike Stan Deskovick. We've asked Earl Brown -- who's not just their listing agent but their friend of 20-plus years -- whether he might have one. If he comes through, we'll add it here; it's iffy, because Mr. Deskovick has some health issues. And when we spoke to Mr. Deskovick on the phone, it became pretty clear that he wasn't likely to have any selfies on a cellphone. In telling us about the estate sale, he mentioned that we could see lots more pictures of his collection "if you look on, whaddya call it, the Internet -- one of those damn things." He asked us to send him a copy of the story, which we'll be printing out for him and putting in the mail.]

Also on Yahoo Homes:

Family is restoring abandoned French chateau
In frozen-in-time town, here's Billy the Kid's artistically updated hideout
A place to park your Wienermobile: Rundown Oscar Mayer mansion is for sale

P.S. The Deskovicks aren't the only folks to build a hobby Western town. Here's video of another, this one much pricier and in Colorado instead of California: