The random allure of Boulder Highway: A story in photos

An abandoned slide where Boulder Highway turns into Fremont in Las Vegas on Jan. 29, 2015.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

It’s Thursday afternoon, and a grocery cart hauling a dirty swimming-pool slide has come to a halt, possibly mid-push. Someone’s great idea interrupted. A master plan hijacked. Potential exhausted. Nothing to see here, and everything to see here.

This is near where Fremont Street becomes Boulder Highway—the road that bootleggers found, the road that hosted workers on their way to the Dam, the road considered the other Strip, the Boulder Strip, with its newer hotels and local casinos contrasting the storied history on either side.

Boulder Highway Photo Essay

Stoplights dictate the rhythm of cars breezing past the old fiberglass pool. Clocking somewhere above the speed limit, anonymous and determined, they move quickly from point A to point B. Down the road, the spotty neon of the tiny motels and their vintage signs mingles with vacant lots, abandoned buildings, topped palm trees, RV and car sales, bars and small businesses. Eventually new stucco subdivisions echo the distant suburbs.

Resting like an easy chair on wheels, the pool slide has been abandoned like so much else here, an abrupt artifact on the landscape. Destination unknown. It’ll be gone by morning.

The Valley’s other older areas get all the attention, relishing in the fame of yesteryear and revitalization. But so many stories live along this road, historian Mark Hall-Patton has given historic tours, touting the Prohibition-era hangouts, the Green Shack family restaurant, the flooding that wiped out part of the highway and Roxie’s legendary brothel and bar. He talks about the townsite of Whitney and its founder ranching the land, about the speakeasies and their raids. There’s Carver Park, which housed black workers at Basic Magnesium, and the Veterans Triangle, where streets are named for soldiers who died in WWII.

Pieces of the past are still visible, mixing oddly with the present. It’s a landscape of jumbled architecture, where stunning mid-mod marvels neighbor contemporary strip malls, trailer parks, hot tubs on stilts, thriving casinos and empty car lots. And then there’s the whatever else that happens to show up out of nowhere.

Photo of Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson

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