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History

The information below is currently being reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission.

Paleo-Indians first arrived in the Las Vegas valley more than 10,000 years ago. Later groups left behind rock art that is still visible on the landscape.
10,000 Years Ago
2,000 Years Ago Anasazi Indians moved into southern Nevada and lived along the Muddy and Virgin rivers. The “Lost City” are ruins of the Anasazi community that can be found in Overton, Nevada, northwest of Las Vegas. The Pauite people also explored the Las Vegas area.
In 1829-30, Antonio Armijo led a trading party and team of scouts from New Mexico to California, entering the Valley through the Las Vegas Wash.  Two of the five scouts were Rafael Rivera and Salvadore Maes.
1829
1844

John C. Fremont arrived in Las Vegas and kept a journal describing two springs he found. These writings were very popular and lured pioneers to the west.  The writings were used as a guide by Mormon Pioneers in 1855.

The Las Vegas Mormon Fort, now the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Park,  was constructed along the Las Vegas Creek by Mormon missionaries, the first permanent non-native settlers in the Las Vegas Valley. The Mormon Fort is the oldest inhabited building in Nevada.  The fort and surrounding acres were eventually owned by the Stewart family who sold a portion of the land to the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad in 1902.  Today, the fort and dwelling has undergone major reconstruction and serves as a museum and visitors center at Washington Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard North.  The fort is listed on the state and National Registers of Historic Places.


1855
1864 Nevada was admitted into the union as the 36th state on October 31, 1864 without the area known today as Clark County. This occasion is celebrated annually as a state holiday.
Octavius Decatur Gass, Nat Lewis and Louis Cole relocate from El Dorado Canyon to the abandoned Las Vegas Ranch (Las Vegas Mormon Fort).  Gass bought out his partners in 1868.
1865
1866 U.S. Congress passed a bill allowing Nevada to extend its southern border into the Arizona Territory, covering the territory to the point where the Colorado River meets the California Border.
John Powell and James B. Wilson, African-American ranchers, founded the Spring Ranch near the Las Vegas Springs.
1872
1882 Archibald Stewart acquired the Las Vegas ranch (Las Vegas Mormon Fort) in payment for a loan from O. D. Gass. He died the next year in a shooting at the Kiel Ranch. His widow Helen stayed on and raised their children.
The State Land Act of 1885 offered sections of land at $1.25 per acre, encouraging the development of farms and ranches in the area.  These were the predominant land uses until 1905.
1885
Late 1800's Mineral finds near Goodspings and Eldorado Canyon began a modestly successful mining industry in southern Nevada.

The population of Las Vegas was 22.


1900
1902

Helen Stewart sold a portion of her Las Vegas Ranch property (Las Vegas Mormon Fort) to Montana Senator William Andrews Clark for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad.

Las Vegas was founded as a city on May 15, 1905, when 110 acres of land situated between Stewart Avenue on the north, Garces Avenue to the south, Main Street to the west, and 5th Street (Las Vegas Boulevard) to the east, are auctioned off by the railroad company.

The completion of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, linking Southern California with Salt Lake City, established Las Vegas as a railroad town. The availability of water made Las Vegas an ideal refueling point and rest stop.

J. T. McWilliams laid out his Original Las Vegas Townsite (now Historic West Las Vegas) on what is now the west side of the railroad tracks.


1905
1906

The Overland Hotel (later the Las Vegas Club) and Hotel Nevada (later the Golden Gate) were constructed at Fremont and Main Streets.

The Nevada Legislature created Clark County on July 1, 1909, with Las Vegas as the county seat. The new county was named after William Clark, who brought the railroad to southern Nevada. Prior to the formation of Clark County, southern Nevada was part of Lincoln County.


1909
1910

The population of Las Vegas was 800, while Clark County had a population of 3,321.

The “old adobe”, the first permanent structure at what was to become Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, was constructed c. 1910.  The park is an historic district and is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

Las Vegas was incorporated on June 1, 1911. On that day, voters in the unincorporated township of  Las Vegas went to the polls and voted on the issue of incorporation. The results were 168 in favor of incorporation and 57 opposed.  Las Vegas Age front page - June 3, 1911

Ranch owner Helen J. Stewart sold 10 acres in downtown Las Vegas to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, establishing the Las Vegas Paiute Colony.


1911
1912

The Airdome, the first outdoor theater in Las Vegas, opened on Fremont Street.

The Woodlawn Cemetery began operations in 1914 when several prominent local women persuaded the Union Pacific Railroad to donate ten acres for a city cemetery.  The cemetery is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.


1914
1920

The population of Las Vegas was 2,304.

The first airplane flew to Clark County. Randall Henderson, with Jake Beckley as passenger, landed south of Las Vegas on a level strip just off the Los Angeles highway (now the Strip).

Seven states signed the Colorado River Compact, setting the amount of water from the Colorado each state could use. Nevada was the first state to ratify the compact on January 27, 1923.


1922
1923

The Historic Westside School was built in Historic West Las Vegas on W. Washington Avenue and D Street. The building was the first grammar school in West Las Vegas and is the oldest remaining schoolhouse in Las Vegas.  The school is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register, and the state and National Register of Historic Places.

Lorenzi Park opened as Lorenzi’s Lake Park (later Twin Lakes Lodge) with a pool, dance pavilion, lakes and orchards. In the late 1940s and early 1950s the site served as a dude ranch and as housing for scientists employed at the Nevada National Security Site (Nevada Test Site).   The park is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register as an historic district.


1926
1928

The first building in the Las Vegas High School Neighborhood Historic District was constructed, coinciding with the announcement of the signing of the Boulder Dam Act providing for the construction of the Hoover Dam.  The historic district is generally bounded by Bridger Avenue, S. Ninth Street, Gass Avenue and S. Sixth Street, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The El Portal Theater (now the El Portal Southwest Souvenir shop) was constructed on Fremont Street.
The Boulder Club opened on Fremont Street.


1929
1930s

The population of Las Vegas was  5,165 in 1930.
Development began in Boulder City to house workers on the Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam).

Las Vegas Club (1930), Meadows Club (1931), Apache Hotel (now Binion’s) (1932), and the Frontier Club (1935) opened on Fremont Street, and the Boulder Club (1929) began legalized gambling in 1931, also on Fremont Street.

The Henderson House was constructed on S. Ninth Street in what is now the Las Vegas High School Neighborhood Historic District.  The house was designed and built by architect A. L. Worswick in 1930 in the Mission Revival style for Nevada State Senator Albert Scott Henderson and his family. The Henderson House is also listed individually on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register.


1930
1931 Divorce laws were liberalized in the State of Nevada, making residency easier to attain. A "quickie" divorce could be attained after six weeks of residency. These short-term residents stayed at dude ranches which were working ranches taking in paying guests to help make ends meet. Surviving examples are located at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs and at Lorenzi Park.

First gaming license in Nevada was issued to Mayme Stocker at the Northern Club.

Beginning in 1931, the construction of Hoover Dam brought an influx of construction workers which started a population boom during the Great Depression and gave the valley's economy a needed boost.
 
While many forms of gambling took place illegally for many years, it was officially re-legalized in March 1931 by the state legislature.

The Jay Dayton Smith House was constructed on S. Sixth Street near Garces Avenue for Mr. Smith, a dentist who became a community leader in the field of education in Las Vegas.  The house was designed by architects Warner and Nordstrom and built by the Hampton Brothers Construction Company. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The first home was constructed on Fifth Place in what is now known as the John S. Park Neighborhood Historic District.  The district is generally bounded by Park Paseo, S. Ninth Street, Franklin Avenue and Fifth Place.  The district is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and National Register of Historic Places.

The Las Vegas High School, now the Las Vegas Academy, was built at S. Seventh Street and Bridger Avenue.  Constructed in 1931, the opulent art deco style building represents the growth and development of Las Vegas during the Hoover Dam construction.  The high school is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

The Clark County Indigent Hospital, the predecessor of today’s University Medical Center, was founded on what is now West Charleston Boulevard. The Pair-O-Dice Club opened in 1931 three miles south of Las Vegas on the Los Angeles Highway, today’s Strip.  It was later bought by Guy McAfee who changed the name to the 91 Club in 1939. In 1941 it was incorporated into the Last Frontier.

The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, now the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, was built in the Neo-classical style as part of a massive Depression-era government building project.  The building was the site of the McCarran-Greenspun trials, as well as the Kefauver hearings into organized crime.  The building is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the state and National Register of Historic Places.


1933
1935

The first Helldorado celebration, parade, and rodeo hosted by the city of Las Vegas began in 1935. 

Hoover Dam is complete. At 726 feet high and more than 1,200 feet long when built, it was the tallest dam in the world. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at the dam’s dedication.  The dam is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark.

The Historic Clark Avenue (now Bonanza Road) Railroad Underpass was constructed near Main Street.  The underpass was the symbolic gateway between what is now the Historic Westside and downtown Las Vegas.  The Clark Avenue Underpass is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Historic Fifth Street School was constructed in 1936 using federal funds as part of a building program to alleviate a population boom in Las Vegas.  The former school is now owned by the city of Las Vegas and serves as a cultural center.  The Fifth Street School is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.


1936
1940's

By 1940, Las Vegas' population grew to 8,422.  The outbreak of World War II on December 7, 1941 brought the defense industry to the valley.  The isolated location, along with plentiful water and inexpensive energy, made Las Vegas an ideal site for military and defense related industries. Special status was granted to the city, allowing for relaxed FHA home financing to meet the housing needs of an influx of military and civilian personnel. The Huntridge, Mayfair and Biltmore homes were all built under this program. In 1941, the Las Vegas Army Air Field (now Nellis Air Force Base) is built in the northeast, and in 1942 construction began on the Basic Management Complex (BMI) which produced magnesium for war efforts.  The Basic Townsite was built in 1942 near the BMI complex for workers and their families.  Basic Townsite and adjacent development was incorporated as the City of Henderson in 1953.

The western-style El Rancho Vegas Hotel and Casino, the first themed resort on the Strip, opened in 1941.  This was followed by the Last Frontier (1942), Flamingo (1946) and Thunderbird (1948) hotels and casinos.

On Fremont Street the El Cortez (1941), Pioneer Club (1942), Monte Carlo (1945), Golden Nugget (1946), Eldorado Club (1946) and Westerner Club (1947) opened.  The El Cortez Hotel and Casino is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Frank Wait House was completed in 1941 at N. Ninth Street and Ogden Avenues.  Wait, a one-time prospector, constructed the house himself using colorful stones, semiprecious gems, petroglyphs, and petrified wood as decorations.  The house is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register.

The Las Vegas Army Air Force forced the city to end prostitution on Blocks 16 and 17, the former red light district located on N. First Street between Stewart and Ogden Avenues in downtown Las Vegas.


1941
1942

The Biltmore Hotel and Casino opened at N. Main Street and Bonanza Road.

The Harrison Boarding House began accepting paying African American guests who entertained on the Strip but were not allowed to stay in hotels on the Strip.

The Huntridge Theatre, designed by renowned theater architect S. Charles Lee, opened in 1944 as part of the Huntridge Neighborhood housing development, built in 1942. The theater is listed on the state and National Register of Historic Places.   


1944
1946 Fremont Street from Main to Third Streets was named Glitter Gulch by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. 

The new McCarran Airport opened off of Las Vegas Boulevard.  An earlier named commercial McCarran Field shared space with the Army Air Field, now Nellis Air Force Base, in the early 1940s.


1948
1950s The population of the city of Las Vegas was 24,624 in 1950. The Desert Inn (1950), Sahara and Sands (1952), Royal Nevada, Riviera and Dunes (1955), Hacienda (1956), Tropicana (1957) and Stardust (1958) hotels and casinos opened on the Strip. The Westerner Club (1950), Horseshoe Club (1951), Lucky Strike Club (1954), Birdcage Casino (1956),  Silver Palace (1957) and Fremont (1956) opened on Fremont Street.

The Kefauver hearings took place at the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas (now the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement), looking into organized crime in Las Vegas.


1950
1951 The first atomic bomb is detonated at the Nevada Test Site north of Las Vegas. People flocked to watch the tests until the limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 required that nuclear tests be moved underground.

Paradise Township was created, which prevented the City of Las Vegas from annexing the Strip.

KLAS, the first television station in Nevada, began operation.


1953
1954 The Historic Berkley Square Neighborhood was built at Owens Avenue and F Street in West Las Vegas.  The neighborhood was the first in Nevada to be designed, financed and built by prominent African-Americans for African-American families and was a major step forward for local civil rights.  The neighborhood is an historic district listed on the state and National Register of Historic Places.
The Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas' first racially integrated hotel, opened its doors in May 1955 and closed in October of the same year.  Although much of the historic building has been demolished, the property remains listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
1955
1956 The city of Las Vegas annexed one square mile of land, its first such addition since incorporation 45 years earlier.

The "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign was created by Betty Willis.

The Nevada State Legislature created the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The Morelli House was built by the Sand’s orchestra conductor and music director Antonio Morelli.   It is currently the headquarters of the Junior League of Las Vegas, and is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register and the state and National Register of Historic Places.


1959
1960s In 1966 Howard Hughes began a buying spree of Las Vegas hotels and other businesses.  His presence helped pave the way for the corporate ownership of hotel-casinos that followed.

The Mint (1962), Club Bingo (1962), Lucky Casino (1963) Lady Luck (1964) and Four Queens (1966) opened on Fremont Street.

Caesars Palace and Alladin opened on the Strip in 1966. The International and Landmark opened on Paradise Road in 1969. On both Fremont Street and the Strip, hotels and casinos were engaging in face lifts, remodels and multi-story additions.

Las Vegas encompassed 25 square miles and had a population of 64,405. Las Vegas had more than 22 percent of Nevada's total population on less than .02 percent of the State's land. At the same time, Clark County had a population of 127,016.

The meeting to end racial discrimination in Las Vegas casinos was held on March 26 at the closed Moulin Rouge Hotel Casino.


1960
1961

The La Concha Motel, designed by internationally known African-American architect Paul R. Williams, opened on the Strip, south of the existing Riviera Hotel and Casino.  The original property included the free-form concrete La Concha and a rectangular two-story motel building attached to the rear. The motel building was demolished in 2004 and the La Concha was moved to the Neon Museum to serve as the visitors center in 2005. The La Concha is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register.

The Mesquite Club clubhouse was constructed on St. Louis Avenue near S. Sixth Street to serve as the headquarters and clubhouse for the Mesquite Club, the oldest nonprofit women's club in Nevada. The Mesquite Club continues to occupy the building, which is listed on the city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register.

The population of the city of Las Vegas in 1970 was 125,787.

The Plaza (1971) and the California (1975) opened on Fremont Street.

The Circus Circus (1971), MGM Grand (Ballys) (1973), Harrahs (1974), Imperial Palace, Barbary Coast and Vegas World (1979) opened on the Strip.

Corporations continued to invest in the hotel/casino industry. Gaming became a legitimate business opportunity in the eyes of the larger nation and some properties were listed in the stock markets.


1970s
1980s

The Las Vegas economy remained strong and the population increased to 164,674. Clark County grew to a population of 463,087.

The Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Casino, the only African-American-owned hotel and casino in Las Vegas, was established on Fremont Street in 1980. 

The Mirage (1980) and Bally’s (1985) opened on the Strip.
 
Starting in the mid 1980s, a period of unprecedented growth began. Annual population increases averaging nearly seven percent caused the city's population to almost double between 1985 and 1995, increasing 97.6 percent from 186,380 to 368,360. At the same time, Clark County's population increased 84.3 percent from 562,280 to 1,036,180.

The population of the city of Las Vegas was 258,295 in 1990.

The Excalibur (1990), Luxor and Treasure Island (1993), Monte Carlo (1996), New York-New York (1997), Bellagio (1998), and the Mandalay Bay, Paris and Venetian (1999) opened on the Strip.


1990s
1995 The Fremont Street Experience opened. The $70-million canopy above Fremont Street provides visitors with spectacular light and sound show.  This creation also ended auto traffic on the street where teenagers cruised in the 1940s and 1950s.   The Las Vegas City Council grows from four wards to six. A vote of the people in 1999 approved an advisory ballot question allowing this change.

The population of the city of Las Vegas was 478,434 in 2000.

The New Aladdin (2000), Wynn (2005), Planet Hollywood (2007) and The M Resort (2009) all opened on the Strip.

The Las Vegas Springs Preserve, a cultural and historical experience near downtown Las Vegas, opened. 


2000s
2007

The three-block area known as the Fremont East Entertainment District opened. As part of its downtown revitalization efforts, the city’s Redevelopment Agency contributed funds to this renovation in an effort to attract additional non-gaming nightclubs, cocktail lounges and entertainment hotspots to the area.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, located on the 61-acre mixed-use urban community Symphony Park, celebrated its groundbreaking with a bell ringing.

The city celebrated the designation of Las Vegas Boulevard, from Washington Avenue to Sahara Avenue, as a National Scenic Byway with a neon sign lighting ceremony.


2009
2010

The population of the city of Las Vegas is 583,756 in 2010.

Demolition began to make way for a new City Hall and mixed-use office project in downtown Las Vegas, creating more than 13,000 jobs and providing more than $4 billion in investment.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino and City Center opened on the Strip.


2010s
2012

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement opened inside in the former U.S. Post Office and Courthouse located at 300 Stewart Ave.

The new City Hall, located at 495 S. Main Street, opened for business in downtown Las Vegas, leaving the previous City Hall available for development by Zappos.com.

 

 

Sources:
City of Las Vegas
Clark County
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
State of Nevada
U.S. Census Bureau
Las Vegas Age - June 3, 1911
Ainley, Thomas “Taj” Jr. and Gabaldon, Judy Dixon. Las Vegas: The Fabulous First Century. Arcadia Publishing, 2003.
Moehring, Eugene P. and Green, Michael S. Las Vegas: A Centennial History. University of Nevada Press, 2005.
Land, Barbara and Land, Myrick. A Short History of Las Vegas. University of Nevada Press, 2004.
Peters, Jonathan Ph.D. Springs In The Desert: A Kid's History Of Las Vegas. Stephens Press, 2007.
http://www.inoldlasvegas.com/downtown.html
http://www.a2zlasvegas.com/fse/fse09.html
https://www.umcsn.com/Footer/Serving-the-Las-Vegas-Community-Since-1931.aspx?intMenuID=305&intPageID=309



 

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