Explore stunning images of Classic Las Vegas, exclusively accompanied by historical narratives and personal stories that will allow you to appreciate Vegas in a whole new way..
Las Vegas Neon Photo Gallery
Las Vegas was a dusty railroad town in the 1930s. In the depths of the Depression, the building of Boulder Dam brought workers (and their families) from around the country. Thomas Young, of the Young Sign Company, of Salt Lake, was passing through Las Vegas and he saw the future, the illuminated future that would help catapult this small desert town into one of the premiere icons of mid-century modern roadside architecture - NEON!
The El Cortez Hotel and Casino
It's brick facade dates back to 1941 when Marion Hicks built the small casino with 59 rooms. When Bugsy Siegel finally made that long drive up the highway in the early 1940s, it was not to have a fever dream about building a carpet joint on the Strip but to muscle his way into the race wire at the El Cortez. But the Hollywood story sounds better no doubt. Siegel finally got his hands on the El Cortez when Hicks sold the property to him in 1946. Renowned Southern California architect, Wayne McAllister did the remodel on the El Cortez in 1946.
The Golden Nugget sign
This is a picture of the Golden Nugget before Hermon Boerngne and Kermit Wayne added the bullnose facade. Unlike the frontier themed gambling halls on Fremont Street, the Golden Nugget sought to evoke the California Gold Rush era of opulent San Francisco. With its filigree Victorian rooftop sign that seemed to float in the night time sky 100 feet above the casino, Boernge captured the flavorand that era using a mixture of neon and incandescent light. The sign became a landmark on Fremont Street. Over the years, the Golden Nugget became one of the most photographed signs in the world.
Vegas Vic and the Pioneer Club
In a smart move in 1951, the Chamber of Commerce approached Young Electric Sign Company about designing and building a neon cowboy for the Pioneer Club. Vegas Vic was to become the icon of Fremont Street. Myths over the years included having various designers being responsible for Vic and many others purported to be the model. Vic was designed by one of Yesco's Salt Lake City designers, Patrick Denner.
Vic was 75 feet tall, had one moveable arm with a glowing cigarette in one hand and the other arm moved back and forth. He had a voice box that proclaimed "Howdy Podner" every 15 minutes. Vic stopped talking in 1966 when Lee Marvin and Woody Strode, tired after a day of working on location in the Valley of Fire for the film "The Professionals", were kept awake by Vic's friendly greeting. Taking a couple of bows and arrows from the prop department, one night they commenced shooting at Vic from their hotel rooms across the street at the Mint Hotel. City fathers decided that perhaps it was best if Vic stopped talking.
Vic has an older brother of sorts, Wendover Will located fittingly enough in Wendover, Nevada. He, too, was designed by Patrick Denner.
The Mint is truly one of the casinos on Fremont Street that people still miss. Built in 1957 with a tall, pink and white pylon sign designed by Yesco's Kermit Wayne and Hermon Boernge, it was an eye-catcher. The white stripe of lights that raced across the front of the sign and then upward to the heavens to light the starburst at the top made the Mint one of the most photographed icons on Fremont Street. According to Alan Hess, the Yesco designers worked with the architects, Zick and Sharp, on the design of the Mint. The sign was one of the first to exploit the three dimensional sweep of neon on Fremont Street.
Fremont Street, post 1955
Fifth Street Liquor
This neon sign, restored by the Neon Museum and on display, originally graced Las Vegas Boulevard (known to locals as Fifth Street).
The Bow and Arrow Motel sign
Restored by the Neon Museum, this sign is a wonderful example of the many motel neon signs that used to dot the landscape of Classic Las Vegas.
Hacienda Horse and Rider
This wonderful sign once graced the sign at the Hacienda Hotel on the Fabulous Las Vegas Strip. It now rides high and proud over Fremont Street, having been restored by the Neon Museum.
Originally designed by neon designer, Brian "Buzz" Leming. Brian "Buzz" Leming grew up in Henderson and always loved drawing. He became a fireman with the local department before deciding that what he really wanted to do was design neon signs. He mentored under Betty Willis and worked with the legendary Hermon Boergne and Kermit Wayne. His signs include the Lawless Center, the Hacienda Horse and Rider that rides above Fremont Street and the Rio sign. He was part of the design team on the original Aladdin Sign and the original Caesars Palace sign. Buzz retired in 2008 after a long and colorful career.
Welcome to Las Vegas sign
This iconic sign has been welcoming visitors to Las Vegas for over sixty years. It was designed by Las Vegas native, Betty Willis. Betty Willis was born and raised in Las Vegas. Her family used to travel by train to Los Angeles when she was younger and she fell in love with neon signs and their vibrant colors. After studying at the California Art Institute in Pasadena and working in the art department/marketing at the old MGM studios, she returned to Las Vegas and began her career as a Neon Designer in those halycon Classic Las Vegas days. She has designed many of the most iconic signs we associate with Las Vegas: The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, the Moulin Rouge and the Blue Angel, just to name a few.
The original Stardust Hotel facade
The Stardust Hotel and Casino shortly after it opened. Kermit Wayne was one of the senior designers, along with Hermon Boernge, at YESCO that routinely got tapped for big jobs and this one was no exception. The construction foreman asked YESCO and the other sign companies for ideas. YESCO held a design contest among its top designers.
Kermit Wayne's galaxy of neon facade and sign were chosen. According to Alan Hess, with so much space and so many fragmented elements spread across the huge lot, the facade and sign were crucial to the design. Passing motorists had to be engaged as they approached the resort and the signage had to tempt them off the highway. Because the Stardust was surrounded by desert, the owners were afraid that at night the hotel would be hard to see.
Abandoning the Old-West themes and the more sophisticated signage of the other hotels, Wayne went for broke and put the entire solar system across the front of the hotel that exploded out towards the edges. At the facade's center was a large, plastic earth, that according to Hess, "was 16 feet in diameter, formed in slices three feet across and ringed by a Sputnik, which was right off the front page of the daily papers. Cosmic rays of neon and electric light bulbs pulsed out from behind the earth in all directions."
Three dimensional planets spun into the night alongside twenty neon starbursts. Plastered across this universe, in space-age lettering that became iconic, were the letters Stardust. The "S" alone contained 975 lamps. During the day, the sky's painted sheet metal looked deep blue but on a clear night the neon constellation was said to be visible sixty miles away as motorists made the turn around the mountain into Las Vegas.
Standing on the highway in front of the hotel was a free-standing planet, a circle with a cloud of cosmic dust surrounding an outer ring and covered in stars. The resorts name was emblazed across the top amid a circle of neon. The marquee board boasted the Lido de Paris (all the way from France) and the lounge entertainment. Smaller signage marked out the property lines. The roadside sign was no bigger than the Desert Inn's Marquee or the Flamingo's but it took neon signage on the Strip into the stratosphere.
The facade was bent slightly in the middle allowing the planet earth to jut out. This was to conform with the building. The southern half of the sign angled back so it could be seen by north-bound traffic.
El Rancho Hotel and Casino
When Thoma Hull was building the original El Rancho Vegas he hired famed architect Wayne McAllister of the firm McAllister and McAllister. The first rendering closely matched the finished complex. The neon-lit windmill atop the main building would become its trademark. In those early days, the neon signage could be seen for miles. The buildings were all painted white and thegrounds landscaped with green grass, flowers and palm trees.
The Sands Hotel and Casino sign
The Sands Hotel, probably more than any other, came to symbolize the Las Vegas of our collective memory. The roadside sign was a departure from the usual sheet metal and neon displays that beckoned road-weary travelers to stop and stay. McAllister designed a 56-foot (the S alone was 36-feet) tall sign, by far the tallest on the highway at that time. With its elegant modern script, the sign blended with the building to create a mid-century modern paradise. The sign and the building had motifs common to both. The sign was fabricated by YESCO. With its egg crate grill, cantilevered from a solid pylon, it played with desert light and shadow. In bold free script, it proclaimed "Sands" in neon across the face. At night, it glowed red when the neon spelled out the name.
The Somerset Shopping Center
Not far from the famed Las Vegas Strip on Convention Center Drive sits a shopping center that dates back at least fifty years or more. This wonderful neon sign has anchored the center from the beginning.
This iconic sign, designed by neon designer Betty Willis, has been a favorite of neon-lovers for almost fifty years. it had been a staple on Main Street and featured a wonderful animated sequence of a young girl sliding down into a pool, until it was badly burned in an electrical fire.
Sill's Drive-In located at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Charleston Blvd was one of the premiere high school hang-outs back in the days of Classic Las Vegas. "Good Food need not be Expensive" was its motto.
Classic Las Vegas Strip Photo Gallery
The Classic Las Vegas Strip was very different than it is today. Today, the property is so expensive that hotels build right out to the sidewalk, trying to utilize every square foot. The Strip has become the domain of pedestrians walking from hotel to another.
Originally, the hotels were designed for the automobile driver. They had large neon signs that beckoned you to pull off the highway, come out of the heat and stay for awhile. The long drive-ways led to a porte cochere where bellmen raced to unload your car and take your bags. The swanky air-conditioned lobby could be seen through the floor to ceiling glass panes.
No one walked the Strip, as the empty land between the properties was huge and made that all but impossible. There were the original hotels that had staked their claim to this five mile strip of desert and that would be responsible (along with television and the Las Vegas News Bureau) for making Las Vegas "the Entertainment Capital of the World".
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.
In 1941, theater magnate R.E. Griffith and his nephew, architect William J. Moore, were passing through Las Vegas on their way to California to purchase building materials for a resort they were planning in Deming, New Mexico. They saw the El Rancho Vegas under construction. Tommy Hull's resort hotel was rising alone on the dusty highway except for a few bars and saloons. Griffith and Moore thought there was room for at least one more resort. “We came to Las Vegas and found that the opportunities were fabulous.” Moore recounted in his oral history.
They scraped their plans for the resort in Deming and decided to build on property just south of the El Rancho Vegas. They figured if they built south of the El Rancho Vegas, travelers on the Los Angeles Highway would see their resort first and be tempted to pull in to their resort instead of the El Rancho Vegas. They tracked down Guy McAfee, the owner of the property and for $35,000 bought 35 acres of highway-fronted property. McAfee was overjoyed to have sold the land for so much money, thinking he had suckered a couple of rubes into overpaying for the property. Moore and his colleague, Jack Corgan, did the final drawings for the resort in a hotel room in Dallas.
By now we all know the myth. Benjamin Siegel, looking a great deal like Warren Beatty, drives up a dusty highway into Downtown Las Vegas. Not liking the dust, the crowd or the frontier architecture, he takes a ride back out of town. He stops off the dusty, empty highway and has a fever dream. He announces to Virginia Hill, looking a great deal like Annette Bening, that here is where he will build the world's greatest hotel, The Fabulous Flamingo. It's a pivotal moment in the film "Bugsy" but the reality is that it is a myth.
The Thunderbird began life as a dream shared by two good friends, local attorney Cliff Jones and general contractor, Marion Hicks. In 1946, they had bid on a Reno hotel in hopes of getting in the gaming business. Unfortunately, they were outbid. They returned to Las Vegas still determined to become resort owners. On the trip home they discussed their possibilities and both agreed that building a hotel on the LA Highway (Highway 91) would be the best idea. There were already two hotels, the El Rancho Vegas and the Hotel Last Frontier that were doing good business. The Fabulous Flamingo was beset with building delays due to shortages created by the just ended War.
Deciding to wait until building supplies were more easily attainable, they set out to find the right piece of property. The land they wanted was owned by Guy McAfee, then owner of the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street. The three men negotiated a deal (and wouldn't you have wanted to be a fly on the wall listening to that!) The property fronted on 1,100 feet of the Highway. They also bought a piece of land along Paradise Road.
The first hotels on the Las Vegas Strip were known by their names, El Rancho Vegas, the Hotel Last Frontier, etc. A visionary with a sense of early branding decided that his new hotel would be more and thus, Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn was born and would become world famous, even long after Clark himself had shuffled off this mortal coil.
Fred Schivo was a long-time gamer who had the idea for the Club Bingo, a 300-seat bingo parlor. He had to find investors that would be willing to take the financial plunge. He lucked out when he met Milton Prell from Butte, Montana. Prell had operated the "30 Club" in Butte but like many other gambling visionaries of the day he relocated to the friendly climes of Las Vegas in the 1940s. Though not as well known today as others such as Wilbur Clark and Del Webb, Prell nonetheless, made an impact on Las Vegas.
The Sands Hotel, probably more than any other, came to symbolize the Las Vegas of our collective memory. It was here that the color line was finally broken, it was here that Sinatra, Martin, Davis and the rest of the Rat Pack held court in the Copa Room and were the hottest tickets in town, it was here that Jack Kennedy visited during a campaign trip through Southern Nevada. It was where glamour and glitz met in the Desert and it helped propel tourism in the small desert mecca like no other.
1955 was a big year for the Strip. Three major hotels would open throughout the year and there was talk that the Strip was being over built and and would not be able to sustain itself with the number of tourists visiting. What is that old adage, if you build it they will come? Well, that worked for the other two hotels that opened that year, the Riviera and the Dunes but the Royal Nevada seemed jinxed almost from the beginning.
The Riviera created a stir before her doors ever opened. The hotel was to be a departure from the low-rise, two story garden style motel rooms that had been popular since the early days of the 1940s. The Riviera was going vertical, nine stories into the air, the first high-rise on the famed boulevard. With a price tag of $10 million, the hotel would have 291 rooms. According to Alan Hess, there was some question around town as to whether the desert soil would even support such a structure.
In the winter of 1954, it was announced that plans were moving forward on the building of a new hotel to be called The Dunes. The cost - $5 million. There were three major investors listed a restauranteur from Providence, Rhode Island, Joseph Sullivan, Coral Gables, Florida former theater magnet, Alfred Gottsman and Bob Rice who had made his fortune as a costume jeweler in Beverly Hills. They all had one thing in common: no gaming experience.
It was later believed that the money that Sullivan had invested actually came from Ray Patriarca, the head of a Rhode Island crime family, in return for reaping the under-the-table profits that would be made from his undisclosed participation.
From its roots as the central gathering and shopping district of a small town on the edge of something great, to its heyday as Glitter Gulch, a neon canyon of casinos and retail, to today's re-emergence as an alternative to the over-crowded and over-hyped Las Vegas Strip, the history of Fremont Street is the history of Las Vegas.
This is where Las Vegas was born and where its residents grew up. Its history spans over a hundred years and can still be glimpsed - if you know where to look!
Subscribe to our Fremont Street blog and join us as we uncover the stories of its fascinating past!
Fremont Street 1906
This is a postcard of Fremont Street in 1906. The land auction that gave birth to Las Vegas was conducted the previous year, 1905. In the foreground are the Overland Hotel and the Hotel Nevada. Today, the Overland Hotel is the Las Vegas Club and the Hotel Nevada is home to the Golden Gate.
That's the park that used to be in front of the Train Dept in the foreground of the postcard. On the left side of the street is the Overland Hotel and across the street is the Sal Sagev (Las Vegas spelled backward). Today the Overland Hotel is home to the Las Vegas Club and the Sal Sagev is home to the Golden Gate.
The El Portal Theater, owned by insurance man (and mayor) Ernie Cragin, was the first theater in Las Vegas to offer air conditioning. It was also segregated, with people of color made to sit in the balcony.
The Golden Nugget is sporting it's Victoria-era filigree sign but the Kermit Wayne'Hermon Boernge bull-nose has yet to be added. Vegas Vic has yet to debut. The El Dorado Club is owned by Kell Houssels, Sr and just waiting for Benny Binion to come to town. Upstairs from the El Dorado Club is the Hotel Apache.
Elmo Ellsworth and Dee Dee Lees stand on Fremont Street. Behind them is the Overland Hotel neon sign, the Las Vegas Club neon sign. On the right side of the street is a neon sign for Wilbur Clark's Monte Carlo Club and Vegas Vic's head can be viewed right behind the Monte Carlo Club sign.
Fremont Street when it was known as Glitter Gulch. A canyon of neon enveloped you as you drove down Fremont Street. The neon atop Mint, the Golden Nugget, Benny Binion's Horseshoe Club all contributed to the magnificent skyscape.
How modern was Classic Las Vegas? Very. In the post-WWII era, Las Vegas experienced not only a population boom, the heyday of the Las Vegas Strip, but it was also inspired mid-century modern architects from Welton Becket (the patron saint of Los Angeles MCM architecture) to local architects Zick and Sharp. Some of the best examples (the Cinerama Dome, the Convention Center, etc) have been demolished but there are still some terrific examples of the architecture throughout the Las Vegas valley. Just keep your eyes open when driving around and you will be pleasantly surprised!
One of coolest auto dealership buildings ever to grace the Las Vegas Valley. Located on Boulder Valley, this mid-century modern building looked as if it could take flight.
Photo courtesy of Alan Sandquist
Sears at the Boulevard Mall
Sears has been the north end anchor of the Boulevard Mall since the Mall first opened back in 1966. This photo shows you what the building looked like back then. The paper plate entrance was still there in 2010.
Photo courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
The original Convention Center
It sat back from Paradise Road like a recently landed flying saucer. At night, it was rimmed in a green neon glow that gave it an other-worldly feel. Cassius Clay beat Floyd Patterson here, the Beatles played here in 1964 and the Doors in 1968. Martin Luther King gave a speech here and Mahalia Jackson a concert, countless high school students graduated from here. Across the street was the Landmark Hotel, modeled after the Seattle Space Needle, giving this part of Classic Las Vegas a definite mid-century look and feel.
Photo courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
It was located on Viking just down Paradise Road from the Convention Center, the Landmark and the Diplomat Apartments. Not every city had a Cinerama Dome (Los Angeles and Seattle come to mind) but Las Vegas was one that did.
A great place to see movies, my mom took me to see "Gone With the Wind" (roadshow version) there in 1967. My friends and I saw many a film there in the early 1970s including The Three Musketeers and The Hindenburg.
McCarran Airport's Delta terminal at night
Designed by Los Angeles architect Welton Becket, the Delta Terminal at McCarran Airport still stands but today, you can't get a view of it like this one.
Photo courtesy of Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
McCarran Airport at night
Next time you go to McCarran, try to imagine that it once looked like this - only about 40 years ago!
Photo courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Classic Helldorado Photo Gallery
The Las Vegas Helldorado event began in 1934, when Arizona carnival barker Clyde Zerby acknowledged the opportunity to make a quick buck off of workers at the Hoover Dam site and the thousands of visitors who flocked to see the immense construction project develop. The theme harkens back to the Valley’s frontier roots and the Wild West. The first Helldorado was a rowdy affair, featuring a “hoochie coochie dance” show and other attractions that would let Dam workers blow-off steam.
In 1935, because of construction on the Dam and the legalization of gaming in Nevada, Las Vegas was a booming town, and Fremont Street was burgeoning with saloons, gambling halls, hotels, shops and restaurants. But City leaders knew that once construction was complete, the boom could end and Las Vegas could wind up a ghost town.
The local Elks Lodge decided an annual production of the Helldorado Days festival could provide just the kind of community spirit that would entice Dam workers and their families to stay in Southern Nevada and also encourage visitors back to experience the flavor of the Old West. The idea worked.
Under the Elks Lodge No. 1468 supervision, and with support from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and local businesses, Helldorado Days took off. The more salacious activities were eliminated and replaced with family friendly parades, contests, and a rodeo.
Each year, as the City of Las Vegas continued to grow, the Helldorado festival expanded in both scope and reputation. In 1946, the festival was so well known that Roy Rogers filmed a movie in Las Vegas with Helldorado Days as the backdrop.
Sands Float for Helldorado
The Sands Hotel, possibly the most iconic hotel of the Classic Las Vegas era, sponsored this extravagant float in the Helldorado parade in the 1950s. This is one reason why the old Helldorado parade once rivaled the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena.
Casino on Mars Float Helldorado Parade 1950s
Notice that the Horseshoe has Joe W. Brown's name on the facade. This Helldorado parade was held while Benny Binion, the original owner of the Shoe, was "at college", a local way of describing Binion's stay in federal prison for problems with his taxes. During Benny's stay "at college", the casino was run by Joe W. Brown, who put his name on the facade.
Float in front of Corey's Restaurant
This is the "Strangers in Paradise" float on Fremont Street in the 1950s. That's Corey's Restaurant, one of the locals best loved restaurants, in the background.
Queen of Hearts float
In the mid-1950s, it looks like the Golden Nugget may have sponsored this "Queen of Hearts" float for the annual Helldorado parade.
Children in Helldorado parade
Even the young kids (this is a Scottish Children's group according to the caption) got to participate in the Helldorado parades!
Old Cashman Field during Helldorado
A Helldorado crowd at the old Cashman Field. Back in the day, the annual rodeo and carnival was held at this outdoor arena built by the Elks (the sponsors of Helldorado) under the leadership of "Big Jim" Cashman, one of the best boosters Las Vegas has ever had.
Helldorado Hillbillies Band
One of the many bands that played the fairgrounds during Helldorado Days at the old Cashman Field.
The Elks in their Leapin' Lena
The Elks patrolled the Helldorado festivities in their Leapin' Lena motor patrol car. You didn't forget to buy your Helldorado button or you would end up in the hoosgow! (an old western term for jail)
Going to the Hosgow!
These lovely ladies forgot the most important rule of Helldorado - buy a button or go to the hoosgow!
Rodeo Rider at Cashman Field
Rodeo Rider getting thrown
Rodeo Rider getting thrown at the Old Cashman Field during Helldorado days in the 1960s.
Rodeo rider on bull horns
Rodeo rider on bull horns at the old Cashman Field during Helldorado Days in the 1960s.
Classic Las Vegas Neighborhoods Photo Gallery
While Las Vegas began as a small railroad town centered around Fremont Street, by the late 1930's it was growing and expanding its boundaries outside it's downtown footprint. Huntridge, Marycrest, Berkley Square, Paradise Palms, Hyde Park, Twin Lakes, Charleston Heights, Biltmore Heights and more were all neighborhoods that were soon growing, especially in the population boom in the 1950s and 1960s.
Do you have photos of the Classic Las Vegas neighborhood you grew up in? Contact us if you'd love to share them!
Nevada Savings and Loan
This lovely beacon of mid-century modern stood for years at the corner of Charleston and Decatur before it was torn down for a drugstore.
Hyde Park School rendering
Designed by local mid-century modern architects Zick and Sharp, Hyde Park school was a model of efficiency when it opened. Located in the Southwest part of town, just off of Charleston Blvd, in what we would now call a pocket neighborhood, this school is still operational.
St. Anne's Church
Saint Anne's Church has been in the Huntridge/Marycrest neighborhood for over 50 years. Located just down the street from Bishop Gorman High School, this is another fine example of mid-century modern architecture that still stands.
Photo courtesy of the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Southern Nevada Hospital - Charleston Heights
Another example of architecture by Zick and Sharp. A hospital has stood on this site for over seventy years. Southern Nevada Hospital, now UMC, was a state of the art hospital when it opened. Located on Charleston Blvd, just west of the freeway, the hospital and this building still stand!
Designed by Southern California architects, Palmer and Krisel and financed by Irwin Molansky, Paradise Palms was one of the premiere mid-century modern neighborhood in Las Vegas. Located just off Desert Inn Road between Maryland Parkway and Eastern, many of the houses especially around the National Golf Course, are still standing.
Photo courtesy of Dennis McBride
Now a historic neighborhood, this neighborhood, designed by African American architect, Paul Revere Williams, offered middle and upper middle class African Americans an upscale neighborhood freed of racial covenants that were common in other neighborhoods.
Classic Las Vegas Programs
Back in the mid to late 2000s, we partnered with various museums around the Valley on programming. One of the benefits of coming to the events (besides getting to hear the history from the men and women who were there!) were the specially designed, commemorative hand-outs that we often provided.
Here are some examples!
On October 25th, at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas we held a lively panel discussion about the history of the legendary Stardust Hotel. Panelists included long-time employees, performers and Jim Seagrave, long time publicist for the hotel.
Growing Up on the Walking Box Ranch
This event was held April 28th, 2007 at the Clark County Heritage Museum.
The Walking Box Ranch was built in 1931 by western film star, Rex Bell. He and his wife, silent film star, Clara Bow, lived on the ranch and raised their two sons there. Throughout the 1930s the ranch, also home to some 1,800 head of cattle, served as an escape destination for some of the couple's famous Hollywood friends including Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Errol Flynn and Lionel Barrymore. In addition, Rex Bell had a western wear store on Fremont Store, was a yearly participant in the annual Helldorado Parades and was Lt. Governor.
Rex Bell, Jr grew up at he sprawling 400,000 acre ranch. He went to elementary, middle school and one year of high school in Las Vegas before going off to military school. He returned to Las Vegas and served as Clark County District Attorney before returning to private practice. Rex Bell, Jr shared stories of learning the ways of cattle, horses and people, reminiscences of ranch life and anecdotes of the ranch-bred system of values that followed him into the larger world.
Boomin' Up: Building Boulder Dam and Boulder City
Held on October 7, 2006 in conjunction with the Boulder Dam Museum and Historical Society and the Clark County Heritage Museum.
In 1931 work began on the engineering modern marvel of its day, Boulder Dam. Engineers had never built a dam of this size. Skeptics said it would never work. But in the depths of the Depression, construction workers and average joes heard the siren call of good wages and responded. Despite the backbreaking work, they came in droves hoping to get one of the coveted jobs on the project.
In spite of the sweltering heat and primitive conditions, men packed up their wives and children and brought them to a canyon on the Colorado River where the temperatures reached 120 degrees in the shade. Down there, on the canyon floor, there was no electricity, no running water, no air conditioning. Women set up little tent and box homes and made do with ingenuity and courage. The men went to work and the families endured the hottest summer on record because there was no alternative.
Then and Now: Growing Up in Early Las Vegas
In partnership with the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Pioneering Women of Las Vegas Journalism
Held March 21, 2007 at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.
From Florence Lee Jones Cahlan to Paula Francis, women have been at the forefront of journalism in Las Vegas. As writers, reporters and television anchors, they have worked hard to be taken seriously and to prove that they are as capable of doing the job as men.
Salute to Las Vegas High School's Rhythmettes
Atomic Las Vegas Photo Gallery
The Cold War following World War II brought above ground atomic testing to the desert outside of Las Vegas. Talented scientists and their support teams poured into town. Scheduled bomb blasts became a regular fact of life to the residents and reason for a party for the hotels. Children were waken in the pre-dawn hours to go outside and see history being made, the Strip and Fremont Street hotels held viewing parties and residents got used to the ground shaking and a mushroom cloud rising above the horizon...
Miss Atomic Bomb
The Las Vegas News Bureau photographers were always looking for a good idea for a picture- and photographer Don English hit on a doozy. They talked a showgirl into pinning a cotton mushroom cloud to her swimsuit and then snapped this famous photograph that has come to define the Atomic Age of Las Vegas.
Atomic Bomb blast and Fremont Street
This famous photo taken from a Fremont Street roof-top was snapped by Don English, one of the best photographers with the Las Vegas News Bureau. Don had overslept the morning of the scheduled blast and hurried downtown in hopes of snapping a shot of the mushroom cloud he knew would soon be rising. The shot made the cover of Life Magazine.
Don English at News Nob
The Nevada Test Site was about an hour's drive out the old Tonopah Highway. News reporters and photographers from around the world would descend upon Las Vegas for the scheduled bomb blasts. They even had their own special viewing section affectionately called "News Nob". Here is Las Vegas News Bureau photographer Don English striking a pose there.
Mushroom cloud from the Nevada Test Site
Royal Nevada welcomes Atomic Soldiers
The soldiers who were stationed at the Nevada Test Site would often need a little rest and relaxation and the various Strip hotels would comp the group to a show and drinks. Here is a group of soldiers at the Royal Nevada Hotel and Casino.
This mushroom cloud made the cover of Life Magazine in the mid-1950s.