Las Vegas is celebrating its 100th Birthday this year.
What would it take to entice people to an arid, dusty, brown spot of country? A land auction started it off, in May of 1905 you could buy a parcel of Clark's Las Vegas Town site for $200.00, these were exceptionally far-sighted people if you ask me. First of all can you imagine being in Las Vegas in early 1900's without air conditioning? This was not a deterrent to these "hardy" pioneers. Just one-year later Miller's Hotel was built and rush was on, because after all now people had a place to stay. Miller's was on corner of Fremont and Main. Today, renamed The Golden Gate Hotel, in deference to earthquake that nearly destroyed San Francisco in 1906 still stands on corner of Fremont and Main and they still serve their signature "99 cent shrimp cocktail", which is a much better bet that it was in those days.
Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911, gambling, drinking and prostitution were declared illegal...but divorce was not and in 1920's dude ranches started popping up around Reno, rich and famous could establish residency for six weeks and get "unhitched" from whatever mate they may have had. This was publicity that started to put Nevada into limelight.
Another big attraction occurred when gambling was legalized in early 1930s. The government started work on Hoover Dan and brought thousands of workers to area. Just think about being stuck in middle of desert with nothing to do with your money, so bars and casinos were thoughtfully provided.
In early 1940s, what would become know as "The Strip" was a 3 mile stretch of Highway 91, on new road to and from California. El Rancho was very first casino to open in 1941 on what would later become know as "The Strip". Their address was Highway 91, Las Vegas Nevada with their "Opera House" theater restaurant, and "Monte Carlo" casino...and also in 1941, El Cortez opened in what is today downtown Las Vegas. El Cortez advertised that they were "Big enough to serve you - Small enough to want to". How's that for an advertising slogan? They also touted a Coffee Shop, Casino, Cocktail Lounge and Bar, and Complete Dinners from $2.95 In meantime, back on "The Strip", New Frontier opened in 1942 and The Flamingo, Bugsy Siegel's dream opened in 1946. Las Vegas was on its way.
The next major milestone for Nevada was Atom Bomb Testing, this brought scads of tourists to Vegas in 1950s, they also discovered Las Vegas, along with mushroom clouds. Vegas Vic, neon cowboy on Fremont Street would just wave them on in.
The 1960s were glamour days in Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis and Rat Pack ruled supreme. The days of cigarettes and martinis (not glorified watered down ones of today) but real stuff, where even a drop of vermouth might be too much! Everybody dressed in beautiful clothes; it was order of day, no jeans, no shorts, just elegance and sophistication. No kids either! Sinning was in full gear, maybe not out and out, as it was to become in 1970s, but perhaps more exciting than even today. The lounge lizards were out in force as well, nothing could top sitting in lounges after last headliner show and watching likes of Louis Prima, Keeley Smith or Sam Buterra. It was truly a special time in Las Vegas history. Before mega hotels or resorts, before corporations. Great deals on food and rooms.