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Vegas, Baby

A brief history with some modern photographs

By Michael ButorovichPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Itsugar Candy Store (3615 S Las Vegas Blvd #100, Las Vegas, NV 89109)

All Photos by Author

In the earlier centuries native tribes inhabited the area that is present day Las Vegas, Nevada, one of them being the Paiute, a nomadic sort who migrated with the seasons tracking game and vegetation. They took shelter in the canyons and mountains. Abandoned huts made their presence evident.

In 1821, a Mexican scout named Rafael Rivera discovered the area while looking for points along the “Old Spanish Trail’ and named it Las Vegas which translates to “The Meadows” from Spanish. With a near-by lake providing water the area became an ideal supply point for merchants making way from Salt Lake City, Utah to Los Angeles.

Las Vegas is in the state of Nevada. Nevada was under the territorial control of Mexico until the US-Mexican war where the United States won California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. After the war Nevada was mostly desert for many years until diligent Mormons were sent to convert natives to Mormonism. William Bringhurst and a band of 30 missionaries built a fort in Las Vegas that would later be abandoned, renamed as Fort Baker and used by the Army.

Military occupation at Fort Baker offered a sense of security in the area and more people began to settle. The first and oldest building in Vegas was an adobe ranch house constructed by soldiers. Once the Army left the fort it was taken over by Octavius Gass who set up a ranch in what is now downtown, more known as Freemont Street.

Senator William Clark purchased this ranch to use as a stop on the train line he planned to build. The establishment of the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad (now the Union Pacific Railroad used as a shipment route) brought more tourists and settlers. Clark auctioned off sections of the ranch to entrepreneurs who built the first hotels and casinos on Freemont Street.

When the Hoover Dam near Bullhead City was under construction in 1930 the neighboring Las Vegas was known as the place where you could gamble, get women, and find liquor. This was during prohibition so gambling and alcohol was illegal. However, the state of Nevada realized how lucrative gambling was and legalized it in 1931 under strict regulations.

The completion of the Hoover Damn supplied the city with more water and electricity. Las Vegas was one of the first cities that was powered in the evening, making it more of a spectacle. Tourism increased with the population and more developments took place.

In the 1940’s Nevada made it easier for spouses to file for divorce. It was also easier to get married immediately and with rapid licensing people flocked there to tie the knot with ease. That is how Vegas became the marriage capital of the world.

Caesars Palace (3570 S Las Vegas Blvd, Paradise, NV 89109)

In 1966, Jay Sarno changed the face of Las Vegas when he developed Caesars Palace. Ancient Rome was resurrected with soldiers who greeted guests at the entrance resembling St.Peters square. Toga clad women served drinks and one could swim in a pool modeled after a public pool in Pompeii. Sarno wanted guests to feel as if they were leaving the real world and into a fantasy where they were as royal as Caesar himself.

A few years later when Sarno and a business partner constructed Circus Circus It was only a casino. Much like Caesars with its literal theme, Circus Circus was nearly an actual carnival. While a trapeze act was going on over the playing floor there would be costumed dealers, a monkey who awarded players when they won a jackpot and an elephant named Tanya who roamed around pulling levers on slot machines. Circus was also the first family-oriented casino with the second floor providing carnival games for kids.

Circus Circus (2880 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109)

Due to legal troubles Sarno had to sell Circus Circus. The next owners added a hotel.

Caesars and Circus were innovative and highly influential on the themed hotels we have today.

Flamingo Las Vegas (3555 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109)

Treasure Island - TI Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (3300 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89109)

The Venetian (3355 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109)


About the Creator

Michael Butorovich

Asphalt poetry and other works.

Thank you for rolling up and checking out my portfolio. You can call my writing neo-realism, gonzo or dogshit; whatever moves you most. I appreciate your support. Much love.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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