Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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Golden Gate turns 90

The Golden Gate Hotel, which opened the same year as the devastating San Francisco earthquake, turns 90 this week.

Mayor Jan Laverty Jones will mark the occasion by proclaiming the Golden Gate "Las Vegas' Most Historic Hotel" in ceremonies starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday. At 8 p.m., the hotel will sponsor a free public concert by the Nevada Chamber Symphony at the Fremont Street Experience.

The celebration will continue through May 31, with giveaways including trips to San Francisco, $1,906 in cash and pieces of the former street. Anyone born in 1906 will receive a free dinner for two.

Las Vegas was a bustling railroad junction in 1905 when three lots at the dusty corner of Fremont and Main Streets sold at auction for $1,750. The next year, the Hotel Nevada -- the first made of concrete in Southern Nevada -- opened on the site at One Fremont Street.

The hotel offered "first-class" rooms complete with electric lighting, ventilation and steam-heat radiators -- but no air conditioning -- for $1 a day, according to newspaper reports. In 1907, Las Vegas' first telephone was installed at the hotel, boasting the number "1."

Two years later, gambling was outlawed in Nevada, and Las Vegas remained a small desert crossroads for years. Fremont Street wasn't paved until 1925, and gambling wasn't re-legalized until 1931.

The first of two expansions and name changes occurred in 1931, when the hotel was named "Sal Sagev," or Las Vegas backwards. The second name change occurred in 1955, when a group of Bay Area residents moved to Las Vegas and renamed the property the Golden Gate Casino.

Four years later, the Golden Gate started a tradition when it introduced shrimp cocktails to the Las Vegas casino scene. In 1964, the hotel grew to its current size of 106 rooms.

Craig and Mark Ghelfi bought out their former partners in 1990 and announced plans to restore the building's historical appearance. By 1994, the Fremont Street Experience -- a revitalization partnership between the city and 11 area hotel-casinos -- began transforming the downtown area into an urban theater with landscaped paths, performers and a light-and-sound show.