The History of Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas as a city was founded back in 1905 as just a small piece of land right off the tracks of the Union Pacific railroad about mid-way from Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. The following year the first hotel is built downtown called the Hotel Nevada and later it became what we know as the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino on Freemont. Even though it was in the middle of the desert people were still able to thrive due to the fact that the train tracks ran right through town. By 1907 they were installing telephone lines on Freemont street and Downtown Vegas was starting to take form.
Oddly in 1909 Las Vegas actually banned gambling which was obviously unexpected even though in those days Vegas wasn’t quite the gambling hot spot it is today. In 1911 the city itself became incorporated and also that year there was very interesting law passed called the “quickie” divorce law for people that have lived in Vegas for at least 6 weeks, which ill be honest i was a little confused on that. If I am understanding it correctly that means that if you are trying to get a quick divorce go on a six week vacation to Vegas and you will then qualify for the “quickie” divorce.
1919 brought the beginning of prohibition making it illegal to buy, sell or consume alcoholic beverages in the state of Nevada which made Vegas a pretty boring place for the next 10 to 15 years. But in 1931 things took a drastic change for the better when Nevada removed its gambling ban in Casinos, and maybe more importantly construction started on the Hoover Dam which is not far from Vegas. With all of the construction workers coming into Vegas on the weekends to blow all of their money it was one of the very few Cities that wasn’t heavily affected from the Great Depression. Over the next 5 years this continued to happen and this played a major factor in Vegas becoming the desert hot spot that it is today. Also in 1931 the Pair-O-Dice club opens on highway 91 that will later become “the Strip”.
Once prohibition was repealed in 1933 things started to really change around Vegas. Later in 1939 California cracked down on gambling forcing people to cross the state line into nevada so they didn’t have the same restrictions.
The 40’s brought all kinds of interesting things to Vegas, in 1941 a gunnery range set up by the U.S. Army just outside the city limits of Vegas would later become the famous Air Force base. Also in 41 the very first Resort Hotel was opened up on Hwy 91 called the El Rancho Vegas. Liberace made his Vegas debut in 1944 and within a year he was already packing showrooms at all the major hotels. The Golden Nugget and Flamingo Hotels both open in 1946 making downtown the place to be in Vegas.
The 1950’s were very big in Vegas, Frank Sinatra makes his debut at the Desert Inn in 1951 which is also the year that “Vegas Vic” the iconic 40ft tall Neon Light Cowboy was put up in front of the Pioneer Club. The government decided to start testing nuclear bombs at a Nevada test Site just 65 miles away from Vegas. Residents were able to watch the mushroom clouds from thier front porches clear until 1963 when the test site was required to do the testing underground from now on. In 1956 the 12-story tall Fremont Hotel opens up downtown becoming the tallest building in the area. Liberace becomes highest paid entertainer in Vegas making $50,000 a week.
In 1960 the famous Rat Pack performs in Vegas for the first time and then later that year they starred in the film “Oceans 11”. The Beatles and Wayne Newton both make their debut performances during the 1960’s. Howard Hughes came into town in 1966 taking over the top 2 floors of the Desert Inn and later to avoid getting kicked out he ended up just buying the entire hotel. Evel Knievel attempted to jump the fountains at the Ceasers palace that had also opened during the 60’s
In 1970 Howard Hughes left Vegas after purchasing many hotels and was Nevada’s largest private employer, largest casino owner as well as being that largest land owner before he died in 1976. Elvis Presley plays his last show at the Hilton in 1976, just one year before he died in Memphis. gambling gets legalized in Atlantic City so there is now major competition coming from the East Coast. In 1974 Vegas receives record snowfall getting almost 9 inches in just one night. Hunter S Thompson wrote the famous “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and publishes it in Rolling Stone Magazine.
In 1989 Steve Wynn built the first Mega Resort, Hotel and Casino and that went on to start a major trend making these enormous resort hotels that make Vegas what it is today