Like all good "Lost" Vegas stories, this one begins with a myth:
For decades, the story has been that hotelier Tommy Hull's car broke down on the old LA Highway (Highway 91) near San Francisco Avenue (now Sahara Avenue). It was a hot day with the sun beating down. While waiting for a tow truck, Hull counted the cars that drove by and envisioned a swimming pool that fronted on the highway and would invite weary, sweaty travelers to stop at his hotel.
It's a good story but it's a myth.
Tommy Hull was friends with civic booster extraordinare, Big Jim Cashman. Hull had a chain of El Rancho hotels in California and he operated the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Cashman worked hard to convince Hull that he should build one of his El Rancho Hotels in Las Vegas. One night over drinks at the Hotel Apache, Hull finally agreed with Cashman. It was 1939 and Las Vegas was a small town. Downtown on Fremont Street (click here for our Brief History of Fremont Street) were a few gambling halls and hotels but nothing on the scale of the El Rancho. Hull priced property in Las Vegas and then turned his eye to the County property on the other side of San Francisco Avenue. The property was owned by Mrs. Jessie Hunt and she thought it was worthless. She had 33 acres that she was all but ready to give away Wanting to get the most for his investment, Hull bought the property (and an additional 33 acres) at a cost of $150 per acre- oh those were the days- on the southwest corner of San Francisco Avenue and Highway 91.