Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

A guide to Las Vegas Historic Preservation Month

Despite its frantic immediacy, Las Vegas has a story. In celebration of Historic Preservation Month, local groups and organizations are offering to piece it together through tours and advocacy. People wishing to dabble can choose from among several events. Here’s a look at what’s happening via neon, religion, prehistory and community pride.

Neon Museum

This lovely collection of clunky, dusty and nostalgic signs from the 1940s to present-day Las Vegas sits fenced in on the 3-acre lot at 777 Las Vegas Blvd. North. Themed fonts, broken bulbs and structural motifs are all that’s left from some of the motels, hotels and other businesses of Las Vegas past, making the Boneyard a cherished landmark.

A recent addition is the conch-shaped Googie motel lobby of La Concha, which was relocated from the Strip and will serve as the entrance to the Neon Boneyard. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday the Boneyard will be open to the public and staff will offer tours at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Admission is $5.

The Huntridge Theatre

This brick and concrete World War II-era modernist gem at Charleston Boulevard and Maryland Parkway was designed by theater architect Charles Lee. It opened as a movie house in 1944 and hosted promotional appearances by Abbott and Costello, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich, among others, and later became a performing arts center that would stagger along despite changing of hands, funding issues, structural problems (such as when the ceiling collapsed before a concert) and an uncertain future. Save the Huntridge group is working with the building’s current owner to find a way to save the building, which is on the national and state registers of historic places. Members of the group will give hourly tours Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and discuss the building’s history.

The Springs Preserve

Thousands of years ago, the spring at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve served as a water source for residents. Today it’s a 180-acre cultural attraction recognizing Las Vegas’ past and future with interactive exhibits, walking trails and demonstration gardens. On Saturday it will host a cultural history fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that will include activities and information provided by more than a dozen preservation and history groups, a documentary film festival, performances by Paiute Tribe members and cowboy poets, and a celebration of the New Deal and how it influenced Las Vegas.

Mormon Fort

In 1855 Mormon missionaries built an adobe fort alongside Las Vegas Creek to accommodate travelers moving between Utah and California. After a two-year struggle with the climate, soil and federal authorities, the missionaries abandoned the fort. It later became a ranch. The site at Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue is now known as the Old Las Vegas Mormon State Historic Park. Only a wall of the original structure stands today; the rest was reconstructed. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday the fort will host the “Hands-on History Program.”

Morelli House

This midcentury modern home, built in 1959 on the Desert Inn golf course by Antonio Morelli, orchestra leader of the Sands Hotel, hints at the slick martini lifestyle of Las Vegas during the 1950s and ’60s. Saved from demolition in 2001 by the Junior League of Las Vegas, which took on the home as its pet project, the restored and furnished Morelli House now sits on the corner of Ninth and Bridger streets and serves as the Junior League’s office. On Saturday, members of the organization will give tours of the home and hand out free copies of “A New Architecture for a New City,” a 24-page booklet featuring photos of the home and an essay by architectural critic and midcentury modern expert Alan Hess. Tours will be from 1 to 4 p.m.

Helldorado Parade

What began in 1935 as a way to draw tourists to Las Vegas and celebrate the community’s heritage became a decades-long popular mainstay that raised funds for local charities and hosted weeklong events, complete with Kangaroo Court, a rodeo and a Western village. It eventually fizzled out because of high production costs. In 2005 Las Vegas revived the Helldorado parade as part of a centennial-year event. Tens of thousands attended and the city decided to continue it annually. The parade has since become an evening event. From 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, floats, marching bands, car clubs and local groups will flow down Fourth Street between Gass and Stewart, followed by a fireworks display.

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