We love what the city has done with the old Downtown post office and courthouse. With May being Historic Preservation Month, we thought we’d highlight a few other vintage gems that have stood for decades, keeping history alive in a landscape that’s always changing its look. Here’s a mini tour to sample Las Vegas through the years:
A mid-century modern marvel with the most insane A-Frame design sits just off the Strip in the shadow of Encore at 302 Cathedral Way. Guardian Angel Cathedral’s sloping roof triangulates a large religious mosaic above the front entrance, and stained glass windows feature images of the then-Hilton and Landmark casinos, as well as nuclear-era imagery. Designed by Paul Revere Williams, architect of the famous La Concha lobby, it was constructed in 1963.
Commonly referred to as Nevada’s first minority-built subdivision, the fabulous Berkley Square was constructed in 1954 and ’55 near Owens Avenue and D Street to improve housing conditions for black residents in segregated Las Vegas. Also designed by Revere Williams, the neighborhood of ranch homes was a Federal Housing Administration Project, still relevant for both its cultural significance and its design.
A run-down mission revival structure that is probably often overlooked, Victory Hotel, at 307 S. Main St., is one of the oldest buildings in Las Vegas. Opened in 1910 just five years after the land auction that established Clark’s Las Vegas Townsite, this hotel served “notoriously rowdy railroad workers and miners,” says Courtney Mooney, historic preservation officer for the City of Las Vegas. Though eligible for historic designation in the 1980s, the owners weren’t interested and the building remains threatened.
While the Fifth Street School (401 S. Fourth St.) and Las Vegas Academy (315 S. Seventh St.) get all the attention for their historic stature and current prominence, the Westside School (330 W. Washington Ave.) was built in the early 1920s and remains the oldest schoolhouse in town. Originally constructed as a mission-style two-room schoolhouse, its history includes early integration before it went on to serve the mostly black community. Today the building is home to KCEP, a public nonprofit radio station.
The fact that the El Cortez, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, stands as a Downtown centerpiece and has remained true to its architectural integrity, helps make up for the heartache of losing so much. The Spanish Colonial Revival at Sixth and Fremont Streets was built in 1941 and today looks as much as it did then, renovated and at the heart of Downtown revitalization.
And as long as we’re on the Revere Williams theme, we thought we’d finish up at his most famous building—the thin, undulating concrete shell (conch) built in 1961. The La Concha hotel lobby once stood on the Strip, but was sliced and trucked north on the Boulevard to serve as the Neon Museum’s entrance and gift shop.