Wednesday, June 27, 2007

North Las Vegas and its Mid-Century Enclaves…

North Las Vegas had its humble beginnings when in 1917 Thomas Williams of Eureka, Utah purchased 160 acres a mile North from Downtown Las Vegas. He purchased the land for 8 dollars an acre. He subdivided the land, dug wells, graded roads, built irrigation ditches, ran power lines and eventually sold lots for a 10 dollar down payment. Williams also offered free land to churches to help maintain the peace since he wanted little government interference. Interestingly enough the first people to purchase land in North Las Vegas went to moon-shiners and bootleggers. (Moehring, Green 2005)

North Las Vegas begins at Las Vegas Boulevard North and Lake Mead Boulevard and stretches far north to the Sheep Range Mountains in an area recently named Aliante. Though North Las Vegas has always been the stepchild of its more famous neighbor to the South it has maintained itself relatively static over the years. It was not until recently that the city began to feel the economic boom and growth that has overtaken much of the valley. Most of the growth in North Las Vegas started in the fringes of the city leaving Downtown along Civic Center and Lake Mead Boulevards relatively unchanged.

The city has a wonderful collection of mid-century buildings that have survived and surprisingly are in good condition. The North Las Vegas Civic Center, City Hall and Library are beautifully maintained and large mature trees grace the grounds. Many of the shopping centers are done in the mid-century style as are many neon signs.

As you drive along Las Vegas Boulevard past Washington Avenue you will run across the Bunkers Eden Vale Memorial Park on the right. In 1972 Helen Jane Stewart, the Mother of Las Vegas and her family were exhumed from the family plot near the Mormon Fort and were re-interred at the new Eden Vale mausoleum. The mausoleum is completed in the traditional mid-century style. Helen Stewart is famous for selling her Las Vegas Rancho to the Salt Lake, San Pedro & Los Angeles Railroad in 1903 thus giving birth to Las Vegas.

Immediately past Eden Vale Memorial Park is the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery. This fabulous cemetery is the closest to a traditional cemetery in Las Vegas with large headstones, mature trees and greenery rarely found in Las Vegas. Woodlawn is on the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery opened in 1914 and was designed by land surveyor J.T. McWilliams. McWilliams was the father of West Las Vegas.

As you continue down Las Vegas Boulevard North past Woodlawn Cemetery you will pass Gabbs Bar on the right. The Gabbs Bar neon sign could possibly be one of the oldest in the city; it may date as far back as the mid 1920’s. Continuing down Las Vegas Boulevard North on the right you will see the Knotty Pine Motel and on the left, just past Jerry’s Nugget Casino, the Starlite Motel. The Starlite Motel and its vintage sign are in excellent condition and it appears they have been restored.

Once you reach the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard North and Lake Mead make a right onto Lake Mead; this area is Downtown North Las Vegas. Follow Lake Mead until you reach Bruce and make a right. At the corner of Bruce and Tonopah you will see a beautiful mid-century church with a faux bell tower on the left. A drive through any of the neighborhoods in this area you will see the fingerprints of mid-century. This neighborhood is probably one of the last places you could buy an affordable mid-century home.

Before you get to North Las Vegas remember to stop by the Cultural Corridor (Bonanza & Las Vegas Boulevard North), home too several museums. The Reed Whipple Cultural Center was once a Mormon Stake Center and later served as a temporary City Hall for Las Vegas in the 1960’s. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum housed in a beautifully preserved mid-century building that once was home to the Elks Lodge; The building was built in 1962. The Natural History Museum is located immediately South of the Mormon Fort, the oldest building in Nevada. If you look across the street from the Natural History Museum, Bunkers Mortuary is housed in a classic “A” Frame building. And don’t forget the Neon Museum and all of its fabulous signs.

Happy Trails!



Anonymous said...

Paco, North Las Vegas begins at the north side of Owens, not Lake Mead (which used to be College). Rancho High which was built as the North Las Vegas High School back in the 50's is actually in Las Vegas since it is on the south side of Owens. I have been here all my life (since the 40's) and used to live in north town as it was called then. MJ

Brian Paco Alvarez said...

Hi MJ,
You are correct I always forget Owens. A simple mistake. I too was born and raised in Las Vegas, Womens Hospital to be exact.

Ah yes Northtown how could we forget. We rarely ventured there we knew what was best for us. Besides we were Eastside folks...


Anonymous said...

Pace,I started on the Eastside, went to Sunrise Acres Elementary. Then my folks got divorced and Mom and us kids lived on Glider Ave. in Northtown. I went to J D Smith and then Rancho. We moved west after that and I graduated first class of Western High in 1963. Then I got married and moved back to the Eastside and have been here ever since. LOVE my downtown! MJ

Anonymous said...

Paco, please correct my typing of your name on the above blog before printing it if possible and then do not bother to publish this one. THANK YOU. MJ

Shannon said...

Inspired by this post, I took a picture of the Gabe's Bar sign on my way to work...
Click here to see