Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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Don’t mourn what is gone; celebrate what has survived

In a city where the past is continually being wiped out, Historic Preservation Month could be a sour time for exhausted preservationists constantly spinning the same old record.

But local groups are setting aside heartaches over buildings lost and stories vanished, and banding together to celebrate what is left.

To offer a better look at exactly what has happened here over the decades and the magnitude of change, the Las Vegas News Bureau has put together a photo exhibit aptly titled “Re-invention.” The exhibit, on display through May 30 at the Bridge Gallery on the second floor of City Hall, shows downtown landmarks as photographed over time from the same vantage points.

In the older photographs, taken in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Las Vegas looks manageable. There is nothing dazzling, over the top, outlandish, electronic, technological or supernatural. It’s just bricks and mortar and tidy city blocks.

A 1965 photograph shows Fremont Street looking west to the Union Pacific Railroad station and the open sky of a vast desert. In a 1985 photo the station is the Union Plaza hotel and the downtown landscape is filling out. But in 2005 the city is electric. The sky and horizon line have been completely swallowed by signage, buildings and the Fremont Street canopy blazing with fluorescent color.

The transition over the 40 years is almost more mind-blowing than the contemporary photo of Fremont Street at night.

“The beauty of it is the dramatic change over such a short period of time, of looking at where Las Vegas has been and where it’s going,” says Brian “Paco” Alvarez, curator of the Las Vegas News Bureau, who will discuss the reinvention of Las Vegas at the exhibit’s reception from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday.

“And then some of those images, after 50 years, never changed.”

Other photos include Binion’s Horseshoe back when it was a simple three-story brick building; El Cortez; the Las Vegas Grammar School (now known as the Fifth Street School); and the recently relocated La Concha and Morelli House.

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