Las Vegas History | From a Small Oasis to Entertainment Mecca

by VJ Team

Early Years of Las Vegas

The completion of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake railroad line in 1905 played a key role in the development of Las Vegas. Connecting California, Utah and Nevada, this major route sparked rapid growth in the American Southwest. The rail company that operated the lines sold just more than 100 acres in a real estate auction that had bids from local businessmen. Official incorporation of Las Vegas was done in 1911, just six years after the community was established. The city was integrated into the newly formed Clark County.

In the early 1930’s, the Hoover Dam project attracted a large population of temporary workers to the Las Vegas area. Funded by the federal government, this dam was built on the southern outskirts of Las Vegas. However, Boulder City was created specifically to accommodate workers involved in the construction and management of the facility.

The completion of the Hoover Dam greatly boosted the struggling economy of southern Nevada during the Great Depression. World War II broke out a few years after the dam opened. Situated just outside of the city, the Las Vegas Army Airfield was heavily used for training operations by the United States Air Force. Such military operations dominated the regional economy during the war.

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History of Gaming and Casinos

Nevada had a relatively weak economy in the early 20th century. In an effort to boost the economy and attract more visitors, the state government legalized gambling in the early 1930’s. Located in the downtown district, the Northern Club officially became the first venue in Las Vegas to receive a license for gambling operations. Standing on Fremont Street, this property was later renamed to the Turf Club, Monte Carlo Club, Coin Castle and La Bayou.

Also situated on this famous street, the Las Vegas Club was another casino that took advantage of the new legislation that legalized gambling. However, the regulated casinos quickly attracted elements of criminal activity. Some of America’s most infamous mobsters heavily invested into the growing gaming industry of the city. For example, the notorious Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel were involved with some of the largest real estate deals in Las Vegas during World War II.

After the war, numerous other casinos popped up along the heavily commercialized Fremont Street. Still in business today, the historic Golden Nugget stands as one of the most recognized casinos in Las Vegas.

Built in 1946, the Flamingo Hotel was the most luxurious property on the relatively undeveloped Las Vegas Strip. By the 1950’s, real estate developers nationwide were interested in developing this piece of land just south of the downtown district. Featuring 1,600 guest rooms and more than 80,000 sq feet of casino space, the Sahara Hotel opened in 1952. The Tropicana and Flamingo Capri Motel are some other properties that lined the Strip in the 1950’s. Click for more on the history of Las Vegas.

Today, the Strip solidifies the city’s status as the gambling capital of the world. The MGM Grand, Venetian, Luxor and Caesars Palace are some of the famous properties in this part of Sin City.

Transportation History

Since World War II, McCarran International Airport has been renovated and expanded multiple times to accommodate the increased traffic into Las Vegas. Conveniently located near the Strip, this airport offers direct flights to more than 100 cities.

Opened in 1995, the Las Vegas Monorail was designed to facilitate movement on the busy Strip. This above-ground rail service stops near major resorts and landmarks. Some of the hotels are also directly connected to each other by pedestrian bridges above Las Vegas Boulevard. Additionally, the ARIA Express tram connects several properties on the southern tip of the Strip.

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