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Westside Timeline


Pioneer rancher Helen J. Stewart hires surveyor J. T. McWilliams to map out 1,800 acres of ranch land she owns in the Las Vegas valley to make way for the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City Railroad. While surveying the Stewart Ranch site, McWilliams identifies 80 unclaimed acres bordering the intended route of the railroad.

image of las vegas on 1904

McWilliams acquires the tract of land and lays out a townsite, envisioning it as the new downtown area to serve and be served by the new railroad.

(Photo courtesy of UNLV University Libraries)

image of las vegas on 1905

The railroad completes its connection to Las Vegas and the McWilliams Townsite becomes the first business district in the valley, serving as an important supply point. The town of Las Vegas is founded as a city on May 15, 1905, when 110 acres of land to the east of the railroad tracks are auctioned off by the railroad company.

The railroad land auction of 1905 changes the trajectory of the McWilliams Townsite when the railroad partners decide that downtown Las Vegas will be on the east side, ensuring they could own downtown for themselves. McWilliams Townsite settlers largely move to the east of the tracks.

(Photo courtesy of the Ferron and Bracken Photograph Collection, UNLV University Libraries)

image of las vegas on 1911

On June 1, 1911 Las Vegas incorporates as a city. Walter Bracken, who has overseen the town’s development on behalf of the railroad, continues to act as town agent for the railroad. The McWilliams Townsite becomes known as West Las Vegas or the Westside. Bracken gives free lots to any denomination that agrees to establish a church.

(Photo courtesy of the Ferron and Bracken Photograph Collection, UNLV University Libraries)


Zion Methodist Church opens in 1917 and is noted as the oldest African American church in Las Vegas.

image of las vegas on 1923

The Las Vegas Grammar School, Branch #1, opens on the Westside (today, known as the Historic Westside School) on land donated to the school district by Helen J. Stewart. The two-room school becomes the first school on the Westside, welcoming Native American students from the Paiute Indian Colony alongside White and Latino children.

(Photo courtesy of Clark County School District Archive Committee)


There is a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. This time, they seek a national presence spewing hatred against immigrants, Catholics, Jews and Blacks. In 1925, local KKK members march down Fremont Street in full regalia.


The first African American children begin attending the Westside School in racially integrated classes.


Nevada receives federal approval to build the Hoover Dam, giving way to a population boom. The NAACP Las Vegas Branch 1111 is started by Arthur McCants, Zimmy Turner, Mary Nettles, Bill Jones and Clarence Ray. Arthur McCants is the first branch president.


The city of Las Vegas asks African Americans to move out of the downtown into the Westside to make way for population growth and to bring more business downtown. African Americans are told the city will not renew their business licenses if they do not move. As African Americans move west, Whites move eastward, solidifying a racial divide.


African Americans begin purchasing land in the Westside to start their own thriving businesses. The longtime existing Jim Crow Laws continue to encourage segregation during this new prosperity.

image of las vegas on 1931

Construction begins on the Hoover Dam, gambling is legalized, and building plans start on the federal post office/courthouse on Stewart Street. The number of African American residents grows during the early years of the Great Depression as people pour into the area seeking work on the Hoover Dam. African Americans, however, are denied jobs there, leading to the formation of the Colored Citizens Labor and Protective Association of Las Vegas.

(Photo courtesy of the Burrell C. Lawton Photograph Collection on the Hoover Dam, UNLV University Libraries)


Although the African American population in Las Vegas has nearly doubled with the promise of work, only an estimated 44 African Americans (out of some 20,000 workers hired) find jobs on the Hoover Dam during its 1931-1935 construction. None of the African American workers are allowed to live in Boulder City, a federal town built to house Hoover Dam workers. Consequently, African Americans come to the Westside, setting up tent housing for themselves and their families, and a larger community begins.


The Clark Avenue Railroad Underpass (now known as the Bonanza Underpass) opens, allowing for trade between the Westside and the eastern parts of Las Vegas, which is virtually cut off by the railroad tracks. Now, this simple underpass with art deco details serves as a symbolic gateway after 32 years of separation between the two areas.

image of las vegas on 1940

The Westside population explodes during World War II as many African Americans are hired from the South to fill jobs at Basic Magnesium Incorporated (BMI) in nearby Henderson and the Las Vegas Army Air Gunnery Range (now Nellis Air Force Base).

(Photo courtesy of the Henderson Public Library Photograph Collection on Henderson, Nevada, UNLV University Libraries)


Genevieve Harrison, an African American woman from Texas, opens Harrison’s Guest House, a boarding house on F Street catering to African Americans. Several others in the Black community will open similar boarding houses. After a show in Strip resorts, entertainers including Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole and Pearl Bailey, are not allowed to lodge in those same resorts, so they stay in the Westside. The Harrison House (as it is currently named) is the only known surviving example of an African American boarding house in Las Vegas. It is historically designated in 2014.


Some 3,000 African Americans now live in Southern Nevada and only have access to the most menial jobs. African Americans remain separated from White patrons in movie theaters and excluded from most restaurants. Restrictive segregation practices provide an opportunity for African American entrepreneurship to thrive on the Westside. Community members create their own business core on Jackson Avenue, including casinos, restaurants and services. While growth comes quickly, housing fails to keep up, increasing the number of tent encampments. City officials do little to address the housing shortage, thinking that African Americans will leave just as quickly as they came once the war is over; but they stay. Simple amenities such as sewage lines, electricity and paved streets, commonplace in the rest of Las Vegas, come slowly to the Westside; it takes petitioning by residents to receive access to these services.


Jefferson Recreation Center, the first such facility accessible to African Americans in West Las Vegas, names James Gay as director.


Sarann Knight Preddy becomes the first African American woman in Nevada to receive a gaming license for the Tonga Club in Hawthorne, Nevada. She and her family will launch an effort to reopen the Moulin Rouge more than 30 years later.

The Westside is booming. Political activism and women’s clubs sprout up throughout the Westside throughout the 1950s. African American professionals, who first moved into the area from the 1930s onward, begin moving into the Westside in increasing numbers in the 1950s. Leaders and long-term residents fight for improved economic and civil rights.

image of las vegas on 1954

Berkley Square (named for African American financier, Thomas Berkley), is the Westside’s first housing development, featuring homes designed by African American architect, Paul Revere Williams. The development still stands and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.

(Photo courtesy of Karen E. Hudson)

image of las vegas on 1955

The Moulin Rouge Hotel Casino at 900 W. Bonanza Road becomes the first integrated gaming establishment in the Westside that rivals those on the Strip, opening its doors May 24. It takes $3.5 million to build, and quickly becomes a national sensation. In addition, to being the first racially integrated hotel-casino, the Moulin Rouge affords African Americans work in more visible, well-paying jobs, such as dealers, cocktail servers, bartenders, security guards and managers.

The Moulin Rouge closes in November, just as quickly as it opened. The hotel and casino re-open almost immediately, but never to the same standards.

(Photo courtesy of UNLV University Libraries)


Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer appoints James Gay to the Nevada Athletic Commission; he is the first African American member of this commission.

image of las vegas on 1959

Nevada gains its first African American member of the legal community. Charles L. Kellar arrives in Las Vegas from New York, sent by Thurgood Marshall, a member of the legal division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Kellar comes to Las Vegas in 1959 to establish residency to fulfill the one-year requirement before receiving a passing score for the Nevada bar examination in 1960 (though Kellar is not admitted to the Nevada bar until 1965, following lengthy legal challenges).

A meeting of black Las Vegas leaders: Charles Kellar, Woodrow Wilson, Clarence Ray, Jim Anderson and Reverend Davis (identified from left to right, photo courtesy of Collections and Archives, University Libraries, UNLV)

image of las vegas on 1960

On March 26, 1960, in order to avoid a NAACP planned protest and march on the Las Vegas Strip, the Governor of the State and elected officials from the city of Las Vegas meet with African American community leaders, the NAACP (led by NAACP President, Dr. James B. McMillan) and others at the Moulin Rouge to work out the desegregation agreement to integrate Las Vegas. The Moulin Rouge agreement allows the integration of public accommodations so that African Americans are given access to dining, gaming and strip shows but not to front-of-house jobs at strip casinos.

(Photo courtesy of the of the Marie and James B. McMillan Photograph Collection, UNLV University Libraries)


On April 26, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives a speech at the Las Vegas NAACP Chapter Freedom Fund Banquet and at a public rally the next day to drum up support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This was Dr. King’s only visit to Las Vegas. “Old Man Segregation is on his death bed,” Dr. King said in his speech. “The only thing I’m concerned with is how costly the segregationists are going to make the funeral.” Notably, Bob Bailey is a former schoolmate of Dr. King’s at Morehouse College in Atlanta and is among those greeting him at McCarran Field (later, McCarran International Airport and now, Harry Reid International Airport).

In September, the Economic Opportunity Board (EOB) is incorporated in the State of Nevada, and becomes the largest nonprofit agency in Nevada. The first office is opened on the Westside on April 5, 1965. EOB begins with a program development grant of $25,000 under the Economic Opportunity Act, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty Program.


Las Vegas NAACP President Charles L. Kellar leads the efforts of the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and other civil rights leaders, to file suit in the U.S. District Court against the Clark County School District for intentionally maintaining racially segregated elementary schools (Kelly v. Mason, later Kelly v. Guinn when the superintendent changed from Dr. James Mason to Kenny Guinn).


In October, the city faces several days of race riots. The explosion of racial tension due to lack of equality leads to a community in turmoil– police barricade entrances to confine the riot within the Westside neighborhood and a curfew imposed by Mayor Oran K. Gragson and enforced by the National Guard lasts for four days. It is reported by the media on October 9, 1969, that “everything was back to normal.”

image of las vegas on 1971

Charles L. Kellar of the NAACP files complaint of employment discrimination against unions and hotels in Las Vegas, culminating in the United States District Court Consent Decree. The decree stipulates that African Americans can begin to work in quality (front-of-the-house) positions at upscale gambling locations.

Under threat of federal court action, the Nevada State Legislature approves legislation effectively ending housing segregation in Las Vegas and Reno.

(Photo courtesy of Clinton Wright Photographic Negatives Collection, UNLV University Libraries)


KCEP Power 88, known as “The People’s Station,” launches in Nucleus Plaza (formerly the Golden West Shopping Center) in 1972 with just 10 watts (now 10,000 watts). KCEP radio later relocates to the Historic Westside School in the early 1980s.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upholds the lower court’s ruling for the Clark County School District to develop a mandatory desegregation plan. The Sixth Grade Center Plan of integration is adopted by Clark County School District; White children are bused to African American schools on the Westside for sixth grade only, and African American children are bused to White schools for 11 grades out of the 12 (excluding the sixth grade).

Clark County schools integrate following the court decision in Kelly v. Guinn.


Bob Bailey establishes the Nevada Economic Development Company and attempts to revitalize Jackson Avenue with a plan to transform the street into a pedestrian mall from C Street to G Street. His plan never obtains enough support to move forward.

image of las vegas on 1990

Sarann Knight Preddy (in 1950, the first Black woman in Nevada to hold a full gaming license), buys the Moulin Rouge with her husband, Joe Preddy. They are unable to secure the financing required to renovate the hotel and eventually are forced to sell the Moulin Rouge to a developer. However, the Moulin Rouge’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places is secured by Preddy, her friends and family.

(Photo courtesy of Clinton Wright Photographic Negatives Collection, UNLV University Libraries)

image of las vegas on 1992

On April 30, the West Las Vegas Riots – sparked by the Rodney King verdicts – result in property damage and violence in the Westside that lasts for several days. The worst damage occurs around Nucleus Plaza, home of the offices of the local NAACP and a number of African American-owned businesses.

(Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fair Use image)


In the 1992-93 academic year, the 1972 Sixth Grade Center Plan of Integration ends after African American families in West Las Vegas organize a boycott in favor of neighborhood schools. Clark County School District is again defending racially charged lawsuits from parents and African American educators.

Under threat of boycott, the Clark County school board adopts its desegregation plan, called the Prime Six plan in 1992, which the board amends in 1994. It is geared to stop the busing of White sixth graders, minimize the busing of African American elementary students and improve educational opportunities for all students.


On March 2, the West Las Vegas Plan is adopted by the Las Vegas City Council as a guide for proposed capital improvements and subsequent distributions of public and private funds.


In December, the city of Las Vegas restricts alcohol sales within 400 feet of a church and prohibits taverns from locating within 1,500 feet of a church. These restrictions create even more challenges for potential restaurant or club owners looking to invest, given the large number of churches in the neighborhood.


The Las Vegas 2020 Master Plan is released. It places West Las Vegas in a Neighborhood Revitalization Area, creating a pathway for broader investment of government funds.


The West Las Vegas Neighborhood Plan, a community plan that reflects the visions and aspirations of the neighborhood, is created.

Local and federal agents investigate a fire that gutted the historic Moulin Rouge Casino, the first integrated gambling spot in Las Vegas. Over the years, other major fires cause significant damage at the Moulin Rouge.


Sarann Knight Preddy sells the Moulin Rouge site for $12.1 million to the Moulin Rouge Development Corporation, and the neon sign is turned back on with much excitement. A $200 million renovation is announced, but never materializes.


The updated West Las Vegas Plan, a land use plan integrating previous plans and guiding activities to generate private investment, commercial projects and housing units in the area, is completed.


A contentious Interstate-15 freeway-widening project by the Nevada Department of Transportation blocks F Street with a concrete wall, severing the Westside from downtown Las Vegas and echoing a tumultuous history of segregation.


A second fire occurs at the Moulin Rouge site in May – a day after it fails to sell at a foreclosure auction.


The Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission approves demolition of the front facade and iconic tower of the Moulin Rouge due to safety concerns.


After six years of protest, the F Street underpass reopens in December – a $13.6 million project that is shared by the city of Las Vegas and the Nevada Department of Transportation. The underpass today bears the Historic Westside name and is decorated with a series of murals depicting scenes of historic significance to the West Las Vegas neighborhood, as well as two decorative towers resembling the architecture of the historic Moulin Rouge.


The Historic Urban Neighborhood Design Redevelopment (HUNDRED) Plan for the Historic Westside Community is completed in May as a partnership between Historic Westside community members and the UNLV Downtown Design Center. The HUNDRED Plan represents the desires of community members from the Historic Westside to see appropriate reinvestment. The Plan is formally adopted by the Las Vegas City Council.

In late 2016, renovation work is completed on the Historic Westside School, and the building reopens after a $12.5 million, seven-year restoration project by the city of Las Vegas. KME Architects design the master plan for the restoration of the five-acre site, restoring it to its original state.


Las Vegas Fire and Rescue extinguishes a two-alarm fire that damages three buildings at the old Moulin Rouge Hotel site in July. Another two-alarm fire swallows the building in October and the historic building is totally destroyed. While the hope is to save the historic building’s skeleton, it is gutted by fire, and city officials agree that demolition is the safest course of action.

Clark County makes a bid on the Moulin Rouge site – which is in receivership – but rescinds amid public backlash for its plans to build a government building. Multiple offers to buy the site from the court appointed receiver come in over the next several years, but none are realized.


After several years of identifying how best to align resources to advance the community’s vision for revitalization set forth in the HUNDRED Plan, including 2019 stakeholder meetings with the community and subject matter experts, the city identifies catalytic investment areas on the Historic Westside, based on city assets. The city releases the HUNDRED Plan in Action – a phased implementation strategy that establishes dates, budgets and priorities.

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