Sin City rarely holds on to the past but that doesn’t mean we don’t have history.
Las Vegas isn’t a city known for its nostalgia and historic places. In fact, many iconic hotels and casinos have been torn down over the years making way for newer, bigger and more modern accommodations. However, there have been efforts made to keep history alive here in Sin City and even a few buildings and businesses have escaped inevitable demolition, retaining its glory and charm from days gone by. Yes, it seems that Las Vegas has been holding on to history.
The Little Church That Withstood
Recently, The Little Church of the West made news for being the oldest chapel (and building) on the Las Vegas Strip. Opened in 1942, The Little Church, with its Gothic revival architecture, has relocated three times but still possesses its quaint-like style and appeal. Many celebrities, such as Angelina Jolie and Cindy Crawford, have taken vows in this chapel and if you’ve seen Viva Las Vegas starring Elvis Presley, well The Little Church of the West made an appearance.
Where Locals Still Come to Play
The El Cortez Hotel & Casino was just added to the National Register of Historic Places this past February. Located Downtown, the El Cortez first opened its doors in 1941 making it one of the oldest operating casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard. This historic hotel and casino once had ties to the mob, changed owners numerous times and had several renovations and additions over the years, however its iconic sign has remained a perpetual beacon attracting tourists from all over the world.
Memories of the Mob
One cannot delve into the history of Las Vegas without learning about the mob since they did have a major part in its development. The former Las Vegas Post Office and Federal Courthouse located near Downtown was built in the early 30’s. Declared an official historic site in 1983, the building was eventually turned into the Mob Museum. It seemed apropos considering that organized crime trials were held in one of the building’s courtrooms. Inside the museum, visitors can see artifacts, exhibits and recreations of the trials.
The Graveyard of Signs
One of the memories I distinctly have as a child visiting Las Vegas (I grew up in Los Angeles) was looking for the brightly lit woman’s high heel shoe suspended up high. I love shoes, even as a little girl, so this was perhaps my favorite sign. The high heel shoe I was looking for belonged to the Silver Slipper which would finally close its doors in 1988, just a year after I became an official resident. It made me wonder whatever happened to that shoe? And where did old signs go?
The Neon Museum was established in 1996 and can be found north on Las Vegas Boulevard. Visitors can tour the Neon Boneyard where over 150 signs have found their final resting place. Other signs can be found along the Urban Gallery which is the stretch of road between Sahara and Washington Avenues. These iconic signs include Binion’s Horseshoe and the Hacienda Horse and Rider.
And just exactly where is the Silver Slipper now? It’s back on Las Vegas Boulevard near the Neon Museum, sitting proudly and still looking classically sassy, just how I like my high heel shoes.
More Than Just a Theater
The Huntridge Theatre opened in 1944 and was designed by Hollywood architect S. Charles Lee which is why the building has a unique look to it. Rumored to have been the first non-segregated theater in Las Vegas, the Huntridge has failed to withstand the test of time and has fallen into ruin and disrepair over the years. Despite being on the registry for historic sites, the Huntridge has not been as fortunate as the El Cortez or The Little Church of the West. Initially the theater was set to be demolished in 2017 but the owners may sell to buyers who are looking to renovate the Huntridge.
Personally, I remember the Huntridge as one of the few teenage “hangouts”. I admit, I wasn’t one of the cool kids but I do remember going there a few times and just being seen there was some kind of rite of passage. In the 90’s, the Huntridge was a place for obscure bands to play but unfortunately a collapsed roof put those gigs to an end. So will the new owners turn it back into a punk rock haven or refurbished theater? Well, that remains to be seen. I just hope they are able to save that piece of Las Vegas history.
Click here to visit the National Registry of Historic Places. What is your favorite historic place in Las Vegas? Is there a place here in Sin City that holds special meaning for you? Tell us your thoughts.