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Las Vegas.

Las Vegas History

Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, Bugsy Siegal didn’t just randomly start building the Flamingo in the middle of the desert. Hunters and traders had settled in Las Vegas hundreds of years before Bugsy Siegal came to town. Prior to that various Indian tribes roamed the lands. Though, since Las Vegas’ glittery history is what most impresses, that’s where we’ll begin.

The Hoover Dam
If one event could be credited with changing the course of history for the small frontier town, it would be the building of the Hoover Dam. In 1928, congress authorized the creation of the Hoover Dam (originally called the Boulder Dam). The government funded project brought thousands of workers to the area. Then in 1931, gambling was legalized in Nevada. Meanwhile hoards of tourists were visiting the Hoover Dam, which was called the eight wonder of the world. Officials saw the opportunities for tourism and began promotion the nearby casinos n Las Vegas. The stage was set for Las Vegas to become the entertainment capital of the world.

Las Vegas promoted itself as a friendly wild west frontier town with glamour and excitement. Las Vegas became a playground for celebrities. This along with the city’s glitter image attracted hordes of tourist. The casinos all worked to out do one another. Even in the early days, Las Vegas presented its audiences with a steady stream of top performers. It wasn’t long before Fremont Street earned its nickname “Glitter Gulch” for its radiant neon lights.

By the 1950’s, Las Vegas’ population had grown to 50,000. Luxury golf courses, all you can eat buffets, nationally televised sporting events, round the clock gambling, and the wedding industry all came to the Strip. In 1955, Las Vegas’ first high-rise casino, the Riviera, was built. On different note, nuclear testing was also brought to Nevada. Mushroom clouds could be seen from the Strip, which strangely attracted even more tourists.

Howard Hughes
Things slowed down a bit during the 1960’s. The building of the Aladdin in 1966 was the first new casino in 9 years. There was a lot of talk about mob ties in Las Vegas, which negatively affect the area. The majority of casinos were believed to be financed by the mob. In 1967, Howard Hughes built the Desert Inn. Hughes’ sparkling reputation brought respectability back to Las Vegas. Las Vegas became a popular family vacation destination in 1968 when the Circus Circus opened its doors offering dozens of carnival games in addition to its casino. Broadway shows were lured to Las Vegas therefore raising the bar for entertainment.

Merv Griffin
In 1971 the 500-room Union Plaza opened its doors boasting the world’s largest casino. Taking advantage of the stream of high profile celebrity performers, Merv Griffin began taping at Caesars Palace, which brought Las Vegas into the homes of TV viewers and increase the city’s popularity even more, Then in 1974 a flash flood causing $1 million in damage devastated the Strip. The legalization of gambling in Atlantic City didn’t help matters as tourist began checking out the new East Coast gaming town, drawing attention away from Las Vegas.

Siegfried & Roy
The 1980s brought a slew of new state of the art casinos and Las Vegas boomed once again. World-renowned illusionists Siegfried & Roy who had gained fame in the 1970’s continued to dazzle audiences. Their show, Beyond Belief, ran for 6 straight years at the Frontier and became one the most successful attractions in Las Vegas history

Las Vegas Strip took on a new look in the 1990’s with the addition of the MGM Grand hotel, the Luxor, Excalibur, and New York-New York. The Stratosphere and its 1,149-foot tower were completed in 1996 making it the highest building west of the Mississippi. To this day new casinos are being built and expanded one after another as Las Vegas continues continues to boom as America’s playground.


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