Las Vegas History: 10 Historic Buildings Las Vegas Hasn't Imploded
The hazard of a city so devoted to reinventing itself every few years is that very little exists of Las Vegas' 100-plus year history that hasn't been imploded (Aladdin, Sands, Dunes, Stardust, Landmark, Hacienda, El Rancho and Desert Inn), flooded (The Lost City, an ancient pueblo city covered by the waters of Lake Mead) or destroyed by fire (the Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas' first racially integrated casino). Despite Vegas' love affair with redevelopment, a few monuments to the city's history have escaped the bulldozer. If you're looking for historical Vegas, here's where it's at.
71. Mormon Fort (1855): Before the casinos, before the mob, before Steve Wynn, Las Vegas was a dusty stop on a trail primarily used by settlers and for monthly mail service from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. A series of natural springs provided water to support the Paiute tribes in the area and to refresh travelers taking the route. Those springs and the surrounding vegetation prompted early Spanish explorers to name the area Las Vegas, "the meadows" or the fertile valleys. In 1855, the Mormon Church saw the location as the perfect spot for a settlement. The adobe buildings of the Old Mormon Fort comprise the oldest non-Indian structure in Southern Nevada and the oldest historic building still standing today.
72. Golden Gate Casino (1906): Located at 1 Fremont St., the Golden Gate Casino is Las Vegas' oldest hotel-casino still in operation. The hotel opened Jan. 13, 1906, under the name Hotel Nevada. Room and board at the new hotel was $1 per day. Over the years, the Golden Gate (the moniker the hotel adopted in 1955 after a series of other names) would be the site of a number of Las Vegas firsts, including its first telephone and its first shrimp cocktail. The hotel still offers shrimp cocktails for only $1.99.
73. Railroad cottages (1910s): A handful of these homes still can be seen between Second and Fourth streets and Clark and Garces avenues, a nationally recognized historic district. The cottages were designed in the bungalow style and served as residences for railroad workers in the early 1910s. Of the original 64 built, just 12 cottages remain standing. While in this area, you also can see a number of Tudor Revival, Spanish Colonial and Bungalow homes built in the 1930s that are now occupied by businesses. The Mission-style Fifth Street School, listed on the National Register of Historical Places, also is located in this area. If your trip to Las Vegas doesn't include a visit to downtown, consider stopping by the Clark County Museum . One of the original railroad cottages was moved to the museum's Heritage Street, a re-created lane where several historic houses have been restored.
74. El Portal Theater (1928): Opened by William Pike and future Las Vegas Mayor Ernie Cragin in 1928, the theater, located at 310 Fremont St., was the city's first, and at times only, movie theater. Now home to a gift shop, the hacienda-style exterior is all that remains of the movie house's historic architecture. The interior of the theater has been gutted, leaving it up to visitors' imaginations to re-create El Portal's luxe offerings, which included box seats with leather chairs for the more discerning movie theater client.
75. Las Vegas High School (1930): The old Las Vegas High School, now known as the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, is one of Las Vegas' most-lauded architectural masterpieces. Opened in 1930, the building located at 315 S. Seventh St. is Las Vegas' best example of Art Deco architecture. The façade features concrete cast and stucco friezes depicting animals, vegetation and medallions. The building is listed on both the National Register of Historical Places and the state Register of Historic Places. Until the 1950s, this was the only high school in Las Vegas. Today the city has 39 high schools and continues to build more.
76. Post Office / Federal Building (1933): Built in 1933 with funds provided by the New Deal's Works Progress Administration, the building known locally as the Downtown Post Office epitomizes neoclassical style. In addition to being a post office, the building, located at 301 Stewart Ave., was the city's first federal courthouse and one of the sites of the 1950 Kefauver hearings on organized crime. The post office has now been converted into The Mob Museum.
77. El Cortez (1941): Anchoring the east end of Downtown Las Vegas, the El Cortez (located at 600 Fremont St.) opened in 1941. The rambling Spanish style of the original building still can be seen in today's resort. The casino has a much-storied history, including being owned by Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who sold it to fund the construction of the Flamingo Hotel. Today the casino is owned by Jackie Gaughan.
78. Little Church of the West (1942): Here in the city self-billed as the wedding capital of the world, this list would not be complete without at least one chapel. That chapel is the Little Church of the West. Built of cedar and California redwood, the chapel was designed to look like an old mining town's church and originally was located on the grounds of the Last Frontier (now the New Frontier). Over the years, the church has been the site of numerous celebrity weddings, including Betty Grable and Harry James; Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Saunders; Judy Garland; Mickey Rooney; Dudley Moore; Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford; even Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. OK, that last one is a bit of a misnomer: The Little Church of the West was the setting for Elvis and Ann-Margret's wedding in the movie "Viva Las Vegas." The historic chapel (it also is listed in the National Register of Historical Places) has married more than 100,000 couples in its 60-year history, and it's had to physically move three times to make way for progress and implosions on the Las Vegas Strip.
79. Huntridge Theatre (1944): Longtime Las Vegas residents know the Huntridge Theatre (located at 1208 E. Charleston Blvd.) as one of the city's premier movie houses. Over the years, Jerry Lewis, Abbott and Costello, Marlene Dietrich and Vincent Price have made appearances at the Huntridge. Newer residents know the Huntridge as the place to see live music. The Beastie Boys, Green Day, The Foo Fighters, Bad Religion, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Reverend Horton Heat, Red Hot Chili Peppers, NIN, Incubus, Insane Clown Posse, Godsmack, Everclear and many more have performed at the music venue. For more than five decades the theater has been a force for entertainment in Las Vegas. It also is one of the city's few Moderne-style buildings still standing. Listed on both the National Register of Historical Places and the state Register of Historic Places, the Huntridge was designed by one of the United States' best-known theater architects of the time, Los Angeles-based S. Charles Lee. Currently the Huntridge is closed and plans for the property have not been announced.
80. The Sahara (1952): One of last bastions from Vegas' golden age, the Sahara is now closed but is still standing. The modest two-story motel -- formerly called "Club Bingo" -- was a harbinger of the extravagance that was to bloom decades later in the desert. The Sahara opened with the area's first Olympic-size swimming pool. It also featured some of the some of Hollywood's biggest celebrities, including Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Spencer Tracy. Entertainers Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Tony Bennett gave way to a later era of stars such as Don Rickles, Liza Minelli and Sonny and Cher. One of the strangest moments in the Sahara's history came in the late 1960s when a homemade bomb was pulled from the wall of a Sahara hotel room before it detonated. The bomb scare brought to light a plot to extort $75,000 from then-owner Del Webb. The Sahara is also still remembered as one of the five hotels robbed by the Rat Pack in the original "Ocean's Eleven."