Destination: Las Vegas
It has been a while since I have been in Las Vegas. Today with a population of 485,000 and an unemployment rate of around 11% .I don't recognize the place.
Las Vegas which means "the meadows" in Spanish gained its name in the 1800s when this green valley and its desert spring waters offered respite for weary travelers traversing the old Spanish Trail on the way to to California.
In 1904, a construction camp for workers building a railroad from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City was established in the Las Vegas valley. The City's official history began on May 15, 1905 when 110 acres of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned in what became the downtown area. Las Vegas became incorporated as a city in 1911 with a population of 3,000.
An important year for Las Vegas was 1931, when Nevada legalized casino gambling, liberalized the state divorce law by reducing residency requirements to six weeks and construction started on the Boulder Canyon Project, now known as Hoover Dam. These events, in turn, helped this area avoid the economic devastation of the Great Depression.
These changes greatly impacted downtown's Fremont Street. which evolved from a dusty whistle stop into a haven for fun seekers. Its isolated location and natural assets made Las Vegas attractive to the defense industry during World War 2. In 1941, a gunners school for the Army Air Corps was established. It is now known as Nellis Air Force Base and is the home of the Air Force acrobatic team, the Thunderbirds. In 1951, the Nevada Proving Grounds located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas began atomic testing in the middle of what was then the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range, an Air Force training and practice site.
It was also during the middle of the 20th century that Las Vegas continued its triumphant march toward becoming the gambling capital of the world. During this time the use of neon emerged, transforming Fremont Street into "Glitter Gulch".
Gaining fame in Las Vegas during the post-war era were notorious characters such as "Bugsy" Siegel, who, along with others purchased a downtown hotel called El Cortez. He later went on to open the Flamingo Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Both hotels are still in existence.
In the 1960s Las Vegas became home to Howard Hughes, who helped introduce the business world to the riches gained from investing in Las Vegas. It was corporate America's involvement in the gaming industry that eventually forced out the mobsters.
In the late 1980's, Steve Wynn changed the face of the gambling industry by ushering in the era of mega casino resort. The face o0f downtown Las Vegas changed foreve when the Fremont Strreet Experiencce opened in 1995.
I have made many trips to Las Vegas over the years and have witnessed the changes from the late1950suntil now.
On this, my final visit we found an excellent place to stay: the Sienna Suites on the Boulder Highway and a place to eat, the Rum Runner also on the Boulder Highway.