History Lesson: The Haute 5 Historical Landmarks in Las Vegas

The running joke in Vegas is that we have no history because everything has been imploded. The Aladdin, Sands, Dunes, Stardust, Hacienda, El Rancho, Landmark and Desert Inn all met their fate at the hands of dynamite. If implosions didn’t do the job, we flooded them with the waters of Lake Mead, as was the case with The Lost City, an ancient pueblo village. Or fire ravaged through, as happened with the Moulin Rouge, the first racially integrated casino in Vegas.

Vegas’ love of destroying its landmarks doesn’t mean the city has nothing remaining. Here’s a look at the Haute 5 historical landmarks in Las Vegas.

Mormon Fort (1855)
Long before Las Vegas became known as a gambling town, the dusty stop on the westward trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles provided respite for settlers, who stopped at a series of natural springs for water. Ironically, those springs gave the city its name, Las Vegas, for the meadows within the valley. In 1855, the Mormon Church created a settlement at the springs. The adobe buildings of the Old Mormon Fort are the oldest non-Indian structures still standing in the city.

Golden Gate Casino (1906)

With an address like 1 Fremont St., the Golden Gate Casino has the honor of being the oldest hotel and casino still operating. When the hotel opened Jan. 13, 1906, it was called the Hotel Nevada and rented rooms for $1 a day. Over the years, it would become the site of the first telephone in the city, and the first shrimp cocktail, still sold for $1.99 to this day.

Hoover Dam (1936)
When a structure gets a nickname like the Eighth Wonder of the World, you know it’s pretty big. The Hoover Dam, originally called the Boulder Dam, changed the whole dynamic of Las Vegas. In 1931 when Congress authorized construction, thousands of workers flocked to the area. That same year gambling became legal again and those workers flocked to Fremont Street. Once completed, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lured hordes of tourists to see the engineering marvel, dubbed “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The concrete arch-gravity dam sits in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River straddling the border of Arizona and Nevada. Once completed two years ahead of schedule in 1936, it was both the world’s largest hydroelectric power generating station and the world’s largest concrete structure. In 1981, it landed on the the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.

Las Vegas High School (1930)
Yes, a high school makes the list of the most-lauded architectural masterpieces of Las Vegas. The old Las Vegas High School, now known as the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts, opened in 1930 at 315 S. Seventh St. and holds the title of best Art Deco architecture in the city. The façade features concrete cast and stucco friezes depicting animals, vegetation and medallions. The building is listed on both the National Register of Historical Places and the state Register of Historic Places. The school was the only institution for upper grades until the 1950s. Now Clark County has 39 and the Clark County School District is the fifth largest in the country.

Little Church of the West (1942)
What’s a list of historical treasures without lauding one of Vegas’ biggest industries? The wedding capital of the world (we like our monikers here) is home to the Little Church of the West, where more than 100,000 couples have tied the knot in its nearly 70 year history. The chapel was designed to look like an old mining town church, built of cedar and California redwood. It originally sat on the north side of the Last Frontier until it was moved to the south side in 1954, then to the grounds of the Hacienda in 1978 to make way for construction of Fashion Show mall. In 1996, the chapel was moved again to its current location on the corner of Russell Road and Las Vegas Boulevard to accommodate construction of Mandalay Bay.

Oh, but the celebrities who have been married there: Betty Grable and Harry James; Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Saunders; Judy Garland; Mickey Rooney; Dudley Moore; Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford; even Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. Well, technically Elvis and Ann-Margret got married in “Viva Las Vegas” at the chapel. The chapel is listed in the National Register of Historical Places.