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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Casa Vista del Cielo Estate Seeks New Owners at Auction

Every house has a story to tell. But Casa Vista del Cielo is a story unto itself.

As its name implies, the 5,500-square-foot custom-built hacienda is perched just under the stars on a high plateau above Nogales, AZ. Situated on 40 rolling acres of ranching property, the house offers 360-degree unobstructed views of the high Sonoran Desert and easy access to the art communities in Santa Cruz County and to neighboring wine country.

Even the four bedrooms and four baths, including two master suites, offer picturesque views through strategically placed windows in each room.

When the property goes to auction on Jan. 28, its new owners will take possession of more than a stunning estate. They will inherit a legend. A legend that links a popular old-style western movie actor, a celebrated writer, a model, a renowned Thoroughbred horse trainer, and an actress and her tragic murder.

Ellen Griffin Dunne, once married to writer and investigative journalist Dominick Dunne, helped design and build the home on a portion of 1,200 acres her father, rancher Tom Griffin, purchased in the 1920s, according to Sigrid Maitrejean, maternal cousin to Ellen. Griffin sold property he owned nearby to actor Stewart Granger in 1956, added Maitrejean, a former U.S. diplomat alternately based in the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil and about a dozen other countries.

Ellen, known as “Lenny,” was a model when she met and married Dominick in 1954. The couple’s only daughter, actress Dominique Dunne, 22, was murdered in 1982 by a boyfriend. A few years later, Lenny, who was suffering from multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair, moved from Beverly Hills back to the family property in Nogales and chose the second-highest plateau to build her dream home, Maitrejean said.

“She never wanted to sell it although all kinds of people wanted it,” said Maitrejean. “It’s built in a very traditional style from fired adobe with big porches, big doors, flat roof and beautiful views.”

She said the rolling hills are dotted with blooms in the spring making the scene, “spectacular.” Nighttime comes alive with city lights from both sides of the border, as well as clear views of the stars, she said.

Maitrejean said Lenny designed the large, hand-carved wooden doors and the wrought iron gate at the entrance.

Current owner Wade Dupree, a native of North Carolina, and his wife Jeannie purchased the property after he left his top executive post with Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse to start his own business.

Wade says Jeannie called him in North Carolina to tell him she’d found the perfect home for them in Nogales. He flew out for a visit and as the realtors were driving him up a hill they challenged him to guess which house it was.

“When we rounded a curve I looked up and saw two rainbows over a house; one going east to west and the other north to south. I said, ‘That must be it. You’ve got the Almighty working for you and who am I to argue with the Almighty?'”

He said the couple was so taken by the breathtaking vista they were continually drawn to the curved windows and patio.

“My wife apologized to me frequently saying she didn’t get anything done because she’d walk from room to room gazing out at the scenery for 20 or 30 minutes at a time.”

Wade said he continued the practice of leasing grazing rights to Bill Baffert, whose son is Bob Baffert, one of the most successful Thoroughbred horse trainers in history. Highlights of his career include victories by Silver Charm in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1997 and the Dubai World Cup in 1998. Baffert-trained Indian Blessing and Midnight Lute also boast illustrious careers as race horses.

“Bob and his daddy had racing horses,” says Wade, who added that he and Bill became friends.

The Duprees spent $100,000 in landscaping and other improvements, including adding double locks on exterior doors and a security system. They installed a decorative fence around the sizeable pool near the patio but were careful to not conceal the view.

“I used to sit outside with Finian, my Irish setter, and watch the sunset while Jeannie was in the kitchen. You won’t believe it but that dog would look to the west as the sun was setting. He loved sunsets.”

Both his wife and dog have passed on and Wade says he’s ready to pack up the memories and hand over the property and its legend to new owners.

The estate will be auctioned at 2 p.m. on Jan. 28. For more information, contact Southwest Real Estate Auctioneers at 1-800-895-9064 or visit