Las Vegas History

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Vegas Interactive Map

Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

Founder of the Flamingo

Billy Wilkerson - The Flamingo Founder

The myth that Bugsy Seigel was the great visionary who single-handedly created modern day Las Vegas is anything but accurate. Contrary to popular belief, the Flamingo wasn't the first casino on the Strip - though it was the first casino that used a Beverly Hill's style, instead of the western themes of the downtown casinos and the El Rancho and Last Frontier.

The Hollywood influence on Las Vegas came from Billy Wilkerson and his long-time architect George Russel, who later designed the Desert Inn. Wilkerson, from the Jazz Age to Swing Age, began as a powerful force in American nightclub operations. New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker chose Billy Wilkerson to operate his 1930's nightclubs. Then during the 1940s-50s' Wilkerson became one of Hollywood's most influential and powerful people, being the founder and publisher of the renowned 'Hollywood Reporter' daily newspaper.

During the 1940's Wilkerson owned & operated LA's (Sunset Strip) Trocadero and Ciro's nightclubs, later taking his Hollywood inspired concept to Las Vegas. Modern California styling, on the Vegas Strip, started at the Flamingo in 1946, then at the Desert Inn and the Sands and Sahara in 1952.

The Great Vegas Debate

Bugsy Siegel vs. Billy Wilkerson

There is a popular, mainstream belief out there that Bugsy Siegel is responsible for for what Las Vegas has become, but that is not true at all.

Billy Wilkerson's huge Hollywood influence on popular nightlife and on Las Vegas should never be under-valued. Bugsy Siegel was actually a very minor figure compared to Wilkerson, who was in the top league of media publishers with the likes of William Randolph Hearst. Siegel was simply a short-lived hood who over-stepped his limits.<./p>

Seigel's only importance - in the history of Las Vegas - is that he was a colorful personality. To give sole credit to an assassinated gangster for single-handedly envisioning modern day Las Vegas is stupid. Yet, for 50 years, writers with vested interests to protect, have turned historical facts into fairy tales. Credit can be given to Seigel for somehow being the person that Tony Cornero turned his S.S. Rex Club over to in 1945. Seigel also took over Wilkerson's earlier Trocadero Club in 1938. Then he took over the Flamingo in 1946. So, in that regard, Seigel was an excellent 'take-over artist'. But to call Bugsy the 'great visionary who invented modern Las Vegas'? That story is pure myth.

Who Really Made Vegas

Who Really Made Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the 100 year result and culmination of thousands of experts in various fields ranging from inventive casino owners, visionary architects, interior designers, hotel managers, entertainment directors, headline entertainers, hospitality experts, choreographers, showgirls and a variety of lounge acts.

Add in the exceptional work of culinary pros, restaurateurs, neon sign designers, publicity staffs, civil engineers, transportation workers, junket planners, news reporters, postcard makers, photographers, billboard makers, wedding chapel operators, friendly bartenders, desk clerks, bell-hops, cab drivers, waitresses, dealers, keno runners, change girls, dime-a-dance clubs, as well as over 200,000 burlesque dancers, strippers, hookers and glamor girls; and you'll better understand all the necessary components that formed 'modern-day Las Vegas'.

If credit, for the development of Las Vegas, is to be handed out properly - it should first go to those at the very top - the casino owners, architects and sign designers.

Early Vegas Travel Info
  Hotel Info Nightly Rate*
1.

Region: South Strip, Strip

Mandalay Bay
4

The impressive Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino offers a world of possibilities in one of the most all-inclusive, luxurious resorts in Las Vegas. The giant complex truly offers something for everybody, from the 11-acre pool...

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Rates starting at
$160 you pay $160*



2.

Region: Off-Strip

Palms
4

The Palms Resort is one of the best party hotels in Las Vegas. Droves of trend-setters set out to stay at the hotel and experience upscale dining, nightlife and entertainment that is ammassed at the Palms. If you want to...

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Rates starting at
$69*



3.

Region: Strip

ARIA
5

One of the freshest faces on the Strip belongs to the Aria, a curvillinear wonder in the heart of CityCenter. With state-of-the-art guest rooms and an earth friendly philosophy, the Aria Resort and Casino stands alone in...

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Rates starting at
$139 you pay $139*



4.

Region: Strip

MGM Grand
4

Surprises await around every corner for visitors to the massive MGM Grand. Excellent attractions and the hottest pool party in the city, Wet Republic, make for an exciting and unique visit to one of the largest hotels on...

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Rates starting at
$78*



5.

Region: Off-Strip, Strip

The Signature Las Vegas
4

Providing luxury accommodations, The Signature at MGM Grand perfect for families. The rooms feature a fully-equipped kitchen and a spacious bathroom with a jetted tub. While The Signature is a non-gambling, non-smoking...

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Rates starting at
$105 you pay $104*



6.

Region: Henderson, Off-Strip, Southeast

Green Valley Ranch
4

Green Valley Ranch Resort is ideal for a spa weekend getaway. After indulging in a Seaweed Detox Wrap at the on-site spa, guests can retreat to their deluxe rooms with beds featuring highend Frette linens.


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Rates starting at
$135*



7.

Region: North Strip, Strip

Circus Circus
3

For family-friendly fun for your Las Vegas vacation, the Circus Circus offers more entertainment options than any other hotel on the Strip. From the world's largest permanent circus to Adventuredom, a huge indoor theme...

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Rates starting at
$53 you pay $31*



8.

Region: South Strip, Strip

NY NY
4

Transport yourself from the Nevada desert to the heart of Manhattan at the New York New York Hotel and Casino. The unmistakable facade features replicas of the Big Apple's brightest stars including the Statue of Liberty...

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Rates starting at
$65 you pay $65*



9.

Region: Strip

Mirage
4

From the moment you experience your first volcano eruption standing in front of the sprawling resort and casino, you'll know this Las Vegas vacation is sure to be unforgettable. The Mirage Resort and Casino offers...

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Rates starting at
$117 you pay $111*



10.

Region: Strip

Bellagio
5

Besides the world famous fountain show happening in front of the hotel, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino offers a world of possibilites inside its doors as well. From the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to the stunning Cirque...

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Rates starting at
$174 you pay $165*



11.

Region: Strip

Monte Carlo
4

The French-Riviera inspired Monte Carlo Resort and Casino attracts guests looking to escape into a world of class and luxury, with fine dining, a high stakes casino and a strong line-up of Las Vegas headliners. The...

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Rates starting at
$69 you pay $69*



12.

Region: Off-Strip

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
4

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is fast becoming one of the hottest destinations for vacationers looking to party. A meal at their excellent restaurant Nobu is a great starting point for an unforgettable even in their...

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Rates starting at
$82 you pay $66*



Las Vegas History

Old Flamingo Las Vegas Picture
The Original 1946 Flamingo, before its 1953 remodeling.
1962 view of the Flamingo's Champagne Tower Roadsign. A popular Las Vegas landmark from 1953-67.


Billy Wilkerson editorializing for his 'Hollywood Reporter' newspaper on his 1940's linotype word-processor.


Flamingo Founder, Billy Wilkerson (a major Hollywood starmaker for 3 decades) seen being visited, in his Trocadero Nightclub, by Carole Lombard and Cary Grant in the thirties. Also shown giving life advice to Frank Sinatra, in the fifties, at the Sands Casino (which was modeled after his Club La Rue Nightclub).


Wilkerson grooming protege, Ben Seigel for success - before Seigel's hostile take-over of the Flamingo and his inevitable payback from the bosses of Hollywood. Against historical myth and Warren Beatty's movie 'Bugsy', modern day Las Vegas was not the brain-child of the infamous Ben Seigel, who basically strong-armed the hotel away from Wilkerson and only operated the Flamingo for a total of 5 months.


'King of the Sunset Strip'


The Southern California Influence on the Las Vegas Strip


The So-Cal 'Miracle Mile / Sunset Strip / Beverly Hills Hotel' Influence on Las Vegas Design
The influence of Hollywood's 'Miracle Mile' and the 'Sunset Strip' played a large role in Las Vegas Design in the 1940s and 50s. The Hollywood Brown Derby was an early example of the Roadside Art of Gigantism. Las Vegas architecture and signage adopted the use of car inspired design, using super-signs meant to catch a motorist's eye while driving 40 miles-per-hour down the highway.

Californians were long familiar with 'mimetic architecture'...the exaggerated, novelty, kitsch stylings which included buildings shaped like giant oranges, hot dogs, donuts and coffee pots (now popularly known as Roadside Architcture). The1950s brought the futuristic modernism of (what is now labled as) Googie and Populuxe Design.

Googie design used upswept roofs, bold use of glass, steel and neon along with 'science inspired andspace age' geometric shapes (amoebas, boomerangs, sputniks, etc) The influence of the 1949 Motorama and 1954 Disneyland also set trends for Las Vegas motel and hotel cartoon-like design.

'Disneyland in the Desert' is still the predominant proto-theme for all Las Vegas Design. This website's intent is to show the assorted influences at work that lead to today's use of Pyramids, Castles, Gondolas, and even the Brooklyn Bridge. Early Vegas' intent is to show the origins and logic of Roadside Architecture in Southern Nevada.

Las Vegas has always been a city of recreation and re-creation, whether using the prototypes of Seattle's Space Needle for the design of the Landmark Hotel or the Stratosphere. Whether rebuilding new versions of the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas Design always brings an unusual twist of its own. A look through this website will show the many examples of the unique history of 'Las Vegas Style'.

Who Really Made Las Vegas
Las Vegas is the, 100 year, result and culmination of thousands of experts in various fields ranging from inventive casino owners, visionary architects, interior designers, hotel managers, entertainment directors, headline entertainers, hospitality experts, choreographers, showgirls and a variety of lounge acts.

Add in the exceptional work of culinary pros, restaurateurs, neon sign designers, publicity staffs, civil engineers, transportation workers, junket planners, news reporters, postcard makers, photographers, billboard makers, wedding chapel operators, friendly bartenders, desk clerks, bell-hops, cab drivers, waitresses, dealers, keno runners, change girls, dime-a-dance clubs, as well as over 200,000 burlesque dancers, strippers, hookers and glamor girls; and you'll better understand all the necessary components that formed 'modern-day Las Vegas'.

If credit, for the development of Las Vegas, is to be handed out properly - it should first go to those at the very top - the casino owners, architects and sign designers.


The Sahara. Opened in 1952.


1962 view of the nine-story Riviera - Las Vegas' first, high-rise hotel-casino (opened in 1955). The Riviera's production of 'Bye, Bye Birdie' was the show of the season.

This 'Early Vegas' list, of those most influential Las Vegans, includes the following:

Casino Owners:

* Tony Cornero - Meadows (1931) S.S. Rex Club (1945) Stardust (1958).
* Guy Mc Afee - Club 91 (1939) Pioneer (1942) Golden Nugget (1946) New Frontier (1955).
* Thomas Hull & Morris & Jake Katelman - El Rancho (1941).

* R.E. Griffith & Bill Moore - Last Frontier (1942).
* Joe W. Brown & Benny Binion - Horseshoe (1950).
* Wilbur Clark - Desert Inn (1950).
* Milton Prell - Sahara (1952) Aladdin (1966).
* Jake Friedman & Jack Entratter - Sands (1952).

* Major Riddle - Dunes (circa 1955-64+) Silverbird (1977).
* Ben Jaffee - Tropicana (1957) (Formerly of Miami's Fountainbleau Hotel).
* Del Web - Sahara (1952) Mint (1957) Thunderbird (1964).
* Jay Sarno - Caesars Palace (1966) Circus Circus (1968)
* Bob Stupack - Million Dollar Casino (circa 1970) Vegas World (1974) Stratosphere (1996).
* Kirk Kerkorian - Flamingo- (1967) Bonanza (1969) International (1969) MGM-1 (1973) MGM-2 (1993).

* Bill Bennett & Pennington - Caesars & Circus Circus (1974) Excalibur (1990) Luxor (1993) Mandalay Bay (1999).

* Steve Wynn - Golden Nugget (circa 1975-80) Mirage (1989) Treasure Island (1993) Bellagio (1998) Wynn Las Vegas (2005).

* George Maloof - Palms (2001).

Sands Las Vegas
The Sands. Opened in 1952. Now the site of the Venetian.
Architects of Las Vegas Casino-Hotels:

* Wayne Mc Alister - El Rancho (1941) Sands (1952) Fremont (1956) Horseshoe Re-Modeling (1962).
* William Moore - Last Frontier (1942).
* George Russel - Flamingo (1946) Desert Inn (1950).

* Max Meltzman - Sahara (1952).
* Roy France - Riviera (1956).
* Walter Zick & Harris Sharp - Mint (1957) Stardust (1958).
* Martin Stern - Sahara Tower (1959) Sand's Tower (1964) Flamingo Re-modeling (1967) International (1969) MGM 1 (1973).

* Milton Schwartz - Dunes Tower & Dome of the Sea (1964).
* Melvis Grossman - Caesars Palace (1966).


The Dunes Casino and Sultan - opened 1955. Now the site of the Bellagio.
Las Vegas Signmakers:
Electricity, provided by Hoover Dam (1935) brought two major elements to Las Vegas. Air-conditioning and neon, changing the city from a sleepy railroad stop to a tourist oasis in the desert. The Hotel Apache's neon Indian was among the first neon signs in Las Vegas. Later, Jack and Thomas Young's YESCO was responsible for the most memorable neon signs in the city:

* Flamingo pylon (1946).
* Boulder Club's marquee & moderne pylon (1946).
* Golden Nugget's skeleton frame sign (1946).
* Desert Inn's sheet metal 'cloud & cactus' sign (1950).

* Sand's egg-crate grill with script letters (1952).
* Flamingo's cylindrical, bubbling, Champagne Tower (1953).
* Mint's organic swoop and vertical pink pylon(1957).
* Golden Nugget's baroque bull-nose sign (1957).
* Stardust's astro-planetary sign (1958).
* Sahara's vertical blue, black & white sign (1959).

* Lucky Casino's towering, red, outdated 'War of the Worlds' sign (1961).
* Horseshoe's concave grill and spike, facade sign (1962).
* Dune's fiberglass Arabian sultan (1964).
* Caesars Palace's ionic Roman columns and fiberglass centurions (1966).
* Aladdin's golden, magic lamp (1966).

Some of YESCO's designers include Herman Beornge, Dick Porter and Kermit Wayne. Other neon sign companies include 'Local Neon', 'Western Neon', the 'Federal Sign Company' and 'Ad Art'. 'Federal Sign' created the world's largest roadsign at the Dunes (1964) which was later topped by 'Ad Art's' Stardust sign (1965) and the Frontier's sign (1967). Popular sign designers include Bill Clarke, Lee Klay, Ben Mitchum, Jack Larsen and Ray Larsen. Other memorable neon-signs were the Najavo-like Thunderbirds, the Pioneer's talking and arm waving 'Vegas Vic' cowboy, El Rancho's neon windmill, Lucky's miner and mule, the New Frontier's futuristic triangular pylon and the boot-kicking Sassy Sally.

The Mirage Motel opened in 1952 - a half-mile south of where the Tropicana would be built 5 years later. Located on the original Los Angeles Highway, this motel had 46 room units and featured this above ground (9 feet deep) pool, with its seven porthole windows.

This pool was one of the first Las Vegas landmarks seen by tourists driving in from California. Being in existence, six years before the 'Welcome to Las Vegas sign' was erected, this roadside sight gave visitors their first impression of Las Vegas style. Located about 500 yards north of the old, stone, Mc Carran Airport Arch it sat on the east side of the road just south of the current Mandalay Bay location.

The 'Mirage' name was purchased in 1988 by Steve Wynn (for $350,000) to use for his new Mirage Hotel which would open in 1989. The motel's name was changed to the Glass Pool Inn and continued operating until 2002 - providing 50 years of head-turning amazement to in-coming motorists.

The Las Vegas 'Art of Gigantism' was exemplified by the 30 foot tall fiberglass Sultan, which sat above the top of the 1955 Dunes (now the site of the Bellagio). Other uses of Gigantic Art were the Last Frontier's Silver Slipper, Pioneer's Vegas Vic and Aladdin's Magic Lamp. The Dunes' Arabian Sultan was removed in 1964 (replaced by the Dunes' Tower) and was placed near the new freeway off ramp - behind the Dunes' golf course. It later burned in a mysterious fire.

1962 view of the Landmark Hotel being built. Modeled after the Seattle World's Fair Space-Needle, the Landmark faced many construction delays. It was finally opened (by Howard Hughes) on July 2nd 1969 across from Kirk Kerkorian's International Hotel Casino, which also opened that same day.

1962 view from the Dunes parking lot (now the Bellagio Lake) looking north towards the Flamingo. Caesars Palace, Bally's and Barbary Coast had yet to be built.