Our Preservation Spotlight today turns to Jack LeVine, who has been documenting and trying to preserve the central urban core and downtown neighborhoods for many years.
Jack is also the force behind the website, VeryVintageVegas.com where he has been documenting those neighborhoods and homes for the last few years. He is a proud sponsor for the "Movies in the Park" events at Circle Park in the Huntridge neighborhood and has been a vocal proponent of historic preservation for many years.
We wanted to include Jack in this series because he was, like us, one of the early bloggers on history and preservation in the bright light city!
CLV Blog: How did you become interested in preserving Southern Nevada history?
LeVine: My interest in historic preservation began long before I lived in Las Vegas, and long before I became a Realtor. The first home I rebuilt – where I cut my teeth learning to do plumbing and electric and drywall and painting - was an 1886 former farmhouse in the middle of a 1910’s neighborhood about a mile from downtown Columbus Ohio. The accompanying photo is the only one I have – taken 30 years after I had sold the property.
It had been turned into 8 studio apartments sometime in the 40’s or 50’s. It was the hidden stain glass window over the stairway landing that really got things started for me. From the outside we could see that there had once been a window which had been sided over, but you couldn’t tell from the inside. Once we opened it up – we discovered that the stain glass panel was still there. It changed the entire direction of the project and became the focal point of both the interior and exterior of the property.
We decided – on our own with no guidance and knowledge of preservation techniques, practices, or costs to try to make the home look like it might have looked in 1886.
Rebuilding the farmhouse was just a side project. Our real gig was in the trucking industry – moving computers and trade shows and art and antiques for Allied Van Lines. Through a strange plot twist we ended up being on the preferred driver list for the Smithsonian Institute. In 1988, just after moving to Las Vegas – the Smithsonian asked me to move their “Frank Lloyd Wright: In the realm Of Ideas” Usonian Home exhibit from DC to Dallas. We moved it twice again after Dallas while it was on its 2 year nationwide tour. That’s how I discovered the marvels of “Mid-Century Modern” architecture.
By the time I was living in Las Vegas we were blowing up and tearing down all kinds of wonderful buildings. I started seeing people rip out beautiful homes.l It was heartbreaking so I decided to try to do something about it.
CLV Blog: What is the most interesting historical fact/image/object you have found and why?
LeVine: About 6 years ago – I tripped on something buried in the weeds in the backyard of a foreclosed home. It was a patterned concrete block. I’d always admired them, but now I had one of my very own. It turned into perhaps the only, if not the biggest collection of them that I’m aware of. Now I have 30 different patterns prominently displayed in my back yard. I subsequently documented all the 50 or so patterns that exist in Las Vegas. The one pictured here was rescued from Caesar's Palace.
The hundreds of patterns that exist around the world are a defining architectural element of 50’s and 60’s architecture and design. They are definitely prominent in the historic mid-century neighborhoods of Las Vegas.
CLV Blog: Can you talk a bit about your dedication to preserving Las Vegas history.
LeVine: When I became a Realtor in 1990 – the only area of Las Vegas I was truly interested in was the central urban core. By 1990, most of Las Vegas already had become cookie cutter stucco/tiled roof boring. It only got worse from there. I sold them – but I certainly didn’t like them.
The post-war first big boom of growth in Las Vegas gave us what we now call the historic Mid-Century Neighborhoods that I specialize in today. From the beginning of my Real Estate career, I encouraged people to preserve the homes, architecture and décor. Eventually – in 2004 I totally concentrated my business on homes from the 50’s and 60’s. I started the blog – VeryVintageVegas. Lynn Zook, Brian Paco Alvarez, Mary Joy Alderman and Pam Hartley and I were the nucleus of the 2007 effort to “Save the Huntridge”. Mayor Oscar Goodman appointed me to the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. I founded the Southridge Neighborhood Association, which later split into Southridge and The Beverly Green Neighborhood Association. This year I joined the board of the Nevada Preservation Foundation which will among other goals assist the Historic Neighborhoods to achieve official designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Once upon a time – I felt I was the only one out here trying to preserve and protect and promote the historic homes and neighborhoods and architecture. I’m happy to say that lots of allies have shown up along the way and that we now have a whole cadre of like minded people.
CLV Blog: What's the future of preservation of this history in Las Vegas?
LeVine: It's a mixed bag. As marvelous as it is that there are lots of us who care and are trying, however, there's way more people who just don't care, or are willing to put short term financial interests ahead of the big picture.
CLV Blog: What's the biggest obstacle to overcome in preserving Las Vegas history and why.
LeVine: Education is the key. From the single home-owner to the big bucks developers, casino moguls, speculators, and government officials - it's vital that they understand that it's important for us to preserve and cherish what's left of our history.
CLV Blog: Why is history and preservation work important to Las Vegas residents?
LeVine: Once something is destroyed - it can't be put back. Neighborhoods with historic designation around the country have shown us that acquiring official designation increases not only property values, but also a sense of belonging and caring about the people places and buildings around us.
Cultural tourism is an entire growth industry that can add significantly to the economy of Las Vegas. Tourist want to experience the whole story of Las Vegas, not just the strip. They'll tour our neon and our neighborhoods, and museums. The worship of all things mid-century is growing at an astonishing rate. We're fortunate in Las Vegas to have some of the best Mid-Century Modern architecture in the country. It needs to be brought back to life and we need to show it off to the rest of the world.
We learn from our past - as long as it hasn't been bulldozed, blown-up or covered over.
To learn more about Downtown, its architecture and its neighborhoods, be sure to check out Jack's blog, VeryVintageVegas.com
To learn more about the Nevada Preservation Foundation, you can visit there website here.