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Link - article by Avi Abrams and Erik Wunstell

Yet Another Design and Architecture Boom in a Desert

No-one needs to be reminded that Las Vegas had stayed in a continuous construction and demolition frenzy for the past fifty years. Perhaps not at such maddening pace as Dubai, but yes, it's been built very quickly, and for the most part, ingeniously. It is safe to say that Las Vegas' existence is a modern wonder in itself, a riddle and a paradox, worthy of a significant cultural and artistic investigation.

How can such a lush compendium of design kitsch, mutating popular culture, otherworldly architecture and "let's live for today" attitudes can flourish in the middle of a desert, survive the boom-and-bust cycles of economy and ignore revelations about its Mafia-originated money and a shady past? Well, the answer is obvious: gambling, gambling, more gambling and now some family attractions (an ersatz-Disney of sorts. And Disney is an ersatz version of... oh, never mind).

In this article we are going to look at some incredibly garish (and possibly glamorous) visions of Old Vegas and mention some fascinating attractions of Las Vegas today.

(images credit: Nat Farbman, VintageVegas)

Vintage Vegas is nothing less than a depository of dreams

Nowhere else on Earth, we daresay, can the "new" become the "old hat", "retro" and "gone" quite as quickly as in Vegas. In fact, you might not recognize some parts of the city if you did not visit for only a couple of years.

Just look at those "before and after" photographs of Las Vegas Strip, from 1952 and 2009 - I'm sure you'll amazed and wonder what may become of this place in another fifty years, say, in 2059?



(images credit: Vintage Vegas)

The old gives way to the new with a typical Las Vegas flourish: witness this photo of November 5, 1995 implosion of the Landmark tower:

(image credit: Vintage Vegas)

Here is how Las Vegas started (you all know the gangster angle of this story, so we are not going to repeat it here). Shown below is the first casino-motel complex built on the Las Vegas strip - the 1941 El Rancho Vegas:

(images via Erik Wunstell, In Old Las Vegas)

There was hardly anything around this resort at the time, too - just miles and miles of empty, scorched desert. Well, there was a "downtown" area, consisting of a standard train station, and a street of some saloons (see the photo below, taken in 1905) -

Most of the images in this section were graciously provided by Erik Wunstell, of the site In Old Las Vegas. Visit his pages devoted to Downtown Vegas and The Strip to see the development of every casino that was ever built in Las Vegas.

Imagine arriving into town on the 1957 "City of Las Vegas" Aerotrain:

(images credit: Vieilles Annonces)

Downtown looks stylish (like a setting for a "noir" novel) in this early 1950s photo:

A rapidly-spreading sea of neon and cheesy hotel fronts:

Going down the Strip reveals some enduring monuments of "kitsch" and weird architecture:

Here is a mid-sixties view of the 1952 Sands Casino and the hotel tower (where the Venetian resort stands now):

The Stardust was looking somewhat futuristic, in a Telstar way:

Behind these Caesar's Palace and The Flamingo signs is an empty space - nothing - back in 1977. Eventually these empty areas will be filled with Caesar's Forum Shops, Harrah's, The Mirage, Treasure Island and the Venetian:

(image credit: Erik Wunstell)

Some vintage sunshine and joy seeps from these pictures, through your monitor, spoiling your desk:

(The Desert Inn pool, 1950)

Some other activities in vintage Vegas... some are glamorous, others less so:

The show-girls of Las Vegas vs. Girls of Paris:

(images via 1, 2)

I don't know why this idea was abandoned... maybe it's time to revive it. Why gamble inside in a dark cavernous room, when you can do it outside, and even INSIDE the pool?

Some vintage gaming machines:

(1906 Mills Company's 'Liberty Bell' and streamlined Jennings 'Sun-Chief' model, among others)

By the way, here is a camera that captures the image and atmosphere of the Old Vegas in more ways than one: "Stardust" camera, by Lockwasher Designs:

(image credit: Lockwasher)

The map of Las Vegas from 1958 - again, compare it with modern maps (click to enlarge):

(images via Erik Wunstell, In Old Las Vegas)

For those willing to dig further into Las Vegas' history and development, we recommend the In Old Las Vegas site mentioned above - and also the huge depository of retro Vegas imagery in this Flickr link - Vintage Vegas, by Damien.

All these photos of garish and fake looking signs and "motel monuments" only date from 20 to 50 years back. Compare them with the recent developments in Las Vegas: often predictable, but sometimes also interesting and even brilliant examples of lavish interior design and flamboyant architecture (continue to Part 2 of this series).


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Category: Travel,Vintage


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Blogger Jack said...

There's a reason why all of Vegas is photographed at night. The build "quality" of these structures is mediocre. Walk around during the day and look. Vegas is a visual dump by day.

Blogger Patti Shock said...

Your first black and white photo from 1952 is the Flamingo. You can see Bugsy Siegel's suite to the far left of the circle. I stayed there when I was a kid, in 1955, and that is just what is was like, surrounded by desert. You can see the Flamingo today in the next photo - it is right behind the Eiffel Tower.

Another time we stayed at an old hotel downtown called the Sal Sagev (Las Vegas spelled backwards). It is still there, but called the Golden Gate Hotel, to match the name of the attached casino.


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