The Villa was built in 1926 by oil magnate Waite Phillips who used it to oversee his 300,000 acres (120,000 ha) cattle ranch in northeast New Mexico. It was built in a Mission and Spanish Colonial motif befitting the American Southwest.
Phillips named the house by combining the first half of his name with monte, the Spanish word for mountain. In addition to the Villa, Phillips built several other retreats on his ranch's property, including Fish Camp on the Agua Fria Creek and Hunting Lodge near Cimarroncito (now Philmont Scout Ranch camps).
Along with over 90,000 acres of land, Villa Philmonte was donated to the Boy Scouts in 1941.
Phillips donated the Villa, along with 91,538 acres (37,044 ha) of land and the Philtower office building in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the Boy Scouts in 1941, supplementing a 1938 gift of 35,857 acres (14,511 ha) that had created the Philmont Rocky Mountain Scout camp, near Cimarron, New Mexico.
The Philmonte land donation is now home to Philmont Scout Ranch.
The Boy Scouts of America has operated the property since that time and has opened the Villa to Scouts and visitors as a museum. Regularly scheduled tours are offered during the summer.
“The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”